VMWare fusion vs Parallels vs Boot Camp.

Since I absolutely loathe the Dell “Laptop” that I have for testing purposes, and since it has come to me that 1 have 1.2TB free on SSID in this MBP—which I love using—I have bethought me that it would be more sensible to run an instance of Windows 10 on it using VMWare Fusion, or Parallels, or simply Bootcamp. I know that with the latter I have to be in one operating system or the other, but the others allow both to run side-by-side, as it were.

So, advice please. Which option do you think I should take?

Let the arguments begin! :laughing:

Mark/Mr X

So, Mark – I assume you are asking because you want to play games with high resolution graphics – perhaps Call of Duty, or some such? :smiley:

TLDR: unless you want to run other more demanding programs than Scrivener, Parallels or VirtualBox are a lot more convenient than Bootcamp and are more than powerful enough to run the ScrivWinBeta without problems. (I’ve never used VMFusion, but I imagine the same considerations apply to it as to VirtualBox.)


It depends how often you want to run the Windows version. If you’re going to be using it for hours at a time, the Bootcamp offers the most performance, but at the expense of the faff of having to boot in and out of it. If it’s more occasional (or if you don’t mind a slightly —almost unnoticeably so for Scrivener — lower experience), then VirtualBox and Parallels work well IME. Scrivener’s requirements aren’t huge, so I doubt it you’ll notice a difference between the Bootcamp and Parallels version (I have both and I’ve never noticed any problem with the Scrivener Windows Beta).

The other point to consider is that when you use Bootcamp you make it harder to interact with cloud files — for example, you have to (or it’s much easier) to have a duplicate copy of Dropbox / Box etc.

With Parallels/Dropbox you can run Scrivener as a Mac Window (i.e. you don’t see the Start Menu etc) and you can copy/paste between the two systems, see all the files etc. It’s really quite seamless.

Unless you’ve got a positive reason for Bootcamp, I’d go with Parallels/VirtualBox.

Parallels or VirtualBox? Parallels costs £40-ish and you tend to have to update once a year for the same cost, but it’s a lot more polished and things tend to ‘just work’ more often. VirtualBox is free, but there’s more setting up involved and you may need to get more hands-on with the configuration. Of course, you need a valid Windows 10 licence for all three solutions.

I use all three (on the iMac I have Bootcamp for a graphics intensive game and Parallels for Windows 10 and the Scrivener Beta. On the laptop I use VirtualBox because I don’t want to pay for two Parallels licences — they’re per-device, not per-OS.). I wouldn’t boot into Bootcamp just for the Scrivener Beta.

Hope that helps…

Just run virtual box.

  1. More options for VM OS support due to wider adoption.
  2. Uninstall much cleaner than Parallels
  3. Support from oracle is actually existent vs my experiance (somewhat dated) with parallels
  4. Cost… box is free.

You’ve no need for bootcamp. abandon that idea unless you want to play games at native hardware speeds.

Hi xiamenese

my two pennies worth - have only used VMWare and I loved it because things ran smoothly.
I used it for several years, on a MBP when I wanted to run some Windows-based s/w (e.g. SPSS and Excel -yes, I know there’s a Mac version but the native Windows version is superior IMO).

Bootcamp was free but I didn’t want the faff of having to reboot my Mac whenever I wanted to run my windows software. So I had a Mac desktop running my Windows virtual machine nearly all the time - I just flicked from one desktop (Mac) to another (Windows virtual machine) without interruptions or hiccups.
Assuming you have sufficient RAM to run both OSs and applications I imagine things are still just as good as they used to be (haven’t used VMWare for a few years but thinking of getting again).

The only time I contacted VMWare support they were prompt to respond and very helpful - I returned my new MBP to Apple within a few weeks and got a new one…I didn’t want to buy a new copy of VMWare, explained the situation to their support, and they made it possible for me to download again without charge.

From what I hear though (apart from boot camp which is just annoying to me), the others are good competitors to VMWare.


Thanks all for your very useful responses.

I decided to download Windows 10 and start with BootCamp, but then read all your advice first.

I’ve downloaded VirtualBox to have a go at setting that up, so expect to hear cries for help along the way! If it’s too much of a hassle, I’ll think again. I’m actually trying to save up to get a new 16" MBP — I want one with separate graphics processor and plenty of independent GRAM—and when I’ve got it, I’ll set this 17" MBP up to run Windows.

And no, Martin, it’s not for playing games! :laughing: It is to run Scrivener so I can help my collaborator more easily—Crossover is fine, but I have encountered limitations—and to use for testing our Talking of Food website. Mind you, as the chap who’s helping with the development of the new site said early on in the process “It’s best to develop using a crappy windows screen, because if it looks good on that, it’ll look good on anything!” But this MBP has a really good screen, even though it’s pre-Retina!



Addendum: With 16GB RAM, 2TB SSID—1.25TB currently free!—i7 CPU with separate GPU, though only 1.5GB GRAM when I need at least 2—it should meet the necessary specs! :laughing:

Don’t over think VirtualBox. There are many full install descriptions on line, but here is the “Jaysen remembers it this way” list that should get you up an running. You may need to check menu names as I’ve not had need of VBox on my new Air yet.

  1. Download
  2. Run installer
  3. Reboot
  4. start virtual box (I use spotlight) and check for updates.
  5. go to File–> new machine
  6. Use the wizard, making sure you pick windows 10, and accept the defaults for mem, drive, etc (it can all be changed)
  7. when asked, provide the win10 install image. VB will attach it to the VM for boot up.
  8. make a sandwich
  9. when the vm starts with win10 follow the MS installation instruction.
  10. once the install is complete and the VM is up and running (may look like crap) go to VBox menu “virtual machine” and select “install virtual box tools”. This should start an auto install on the via and result in a couple reboots.
  11. Start using windows.

Once you do it you will find it to be trivial for the next install. I promise.

Thank you Jaysen my friend!

I’ve been looking at the online user manual—something I don’t ordinarily do … I now see why new Scrivener users who start by trying to read the manual panic!—as the computer’s been busy thinking about something else, so I’ve been wondering if I’d bitten off more than I wanted to chew. You reassure me, so I’ll print out your list and have it by me as I set it up.


Mr X

Well, I got it up and running, and somehow managed to increase the Window size from 640 x 480 to 1600 by whatever, running in full-screen.

But at point 10, I cant find a “virtual machine” menu anywhere in the VBox interface, and nowhere allowing me to “install virtual box tools” other than the ones in the manager screen …

Screen Shot 2020-09-10 at 15.48.03.png
At the moment I have no way of accessing the Mac’s file system, unless I install an instance of Sync under windows in VBox, I can’t access any Scrivener projects except by setting up a OneDrive account and copying Zipped versions back and forth. If I can’t access the Mac file system, I might as well be using BootCamp.


  1. Start the win10 VM
  2. Switch focus to the Mac to select the Mac menu
  3. I believe it is in the MACHINE menu.

If you have the ability to see a larger screen and you can just mouse out of the VM window and click on Mac icons, then you may have been lucky and had the tools automatically installed.

Here’s the VB chapter on the tools: virtualbox.org/manual/ch04.html
Here’s the exact steps: virtualbox.org/manual/ch04. … ns-windows

As you can see, my memory is failing… devices menu, select “insert guest additions cd image”. Getting old is not as much fun as I imagined… and I imagined it would suck donkey.


There’s a reason I said Virtual Box was a bit more fiddly than Parallels :wink: But the settings you want are fairly easy to get to once you know where they are.

The first thing is to install the extras, because this makes things like copy and paste across sytems possible:

Virtual Box Guest Additions

Otherwise known as Virtual Box Extensions — these are the additional commands which allow you to scale displays and do other clever stuff like cross system copying etc.

  1. Download the Virtual Box Extensions from VirtualBox.org (https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads) – you want the file under the heading VirtualBox 6.1.14 Oracle VM VirtualBox Extension Pack (the actual link is All Supported Platforms). When it’s downloaded, double click on it in the Mac and it will install itself into VirtualBox (make sure there are no virtual machines running when you do this.

  2. With Windows as the main window, go the VB menu Devices > Insert Guest Additions as CD Image. This should put the VB Extensions into your ‘virtual’ CD drive — you can then navigate to it inside Windows and install the additions. You want to double click on the file which looks like VBoxWindowsAdditions (or something similar).

For access to your Mac folders, do this:

  • In Virtual Box, with the Windows Machine highlighted, go to Settings, and then the Shared Folders tab. You’ll see an icon with a plus sign superimposed on a folder – click this, and in the Folder Path dropdown box, choose ‘Other’. This opens up your standard Mac Finder dialogue. Navigate to the folder you want to be accessible, then tick the AutoMount box (so it’s always available for you.)

Copying and Pasting / Dragging and Dropping (both ways):

  • Back in Settings, choose the General tab, and then Advanced. There are two dropdowns for Shared Clipboard and Drag’n’drop. Choose ‘Bidirectional’ for both of them.

(I don’t have windows on this laptop, so the screenshots are for a FreeBSD VM I have, but the process should be the same.)

Both the file-system access and copying probably won’t take effect until you’re restarted the Windows Machine. If you find that they are greyed out while you’re running the Windows VM, just close it down and in the VBox main dialogue, right click on the Windows entry and choose Settings, and then you can make the changes. After that you can restart Windows.


they are exactly the same.

The think about VBox, and why I think it is the better option for folks like Mr X (not a tech slouch even though he is not a tech expert) is that the “fiddly” bits give force them to consider the options a bit more directly. Yes, “share folders” is easier to find in P, but Mark is more likely to think “do I really want to expose my Mac to the windows threat potential this way”. The extra 30secs it take to get to the option is enough time for most people to have the internal dialog and decide.

The real kicker for me is the uninstall issues with P and VMware. VBox is clear about exactly how to remove all traces from the OS. Not so much with other vendors. That’s way more tech than most folks care about. I recall Mr X liking to know it can be done though. Hence my recommendation.

Current state of affairs:

I have followed your various instructions and got as far as downloading the guest additions and up to this point

I’ve done the first part, but …

It seems to automatically give me access to the Mac file system, but not to the Windows file system, and the file manager says I have no “Guest session”. When I try to create one, I get:

Catch 22 … I can’t have a guest session as the additions are not running, but I cant run the additions installer as I can’t get at the Windows file system to locate the “virtual CD” to install them! On Windows, I have the default icons for the Recycle Bin and Microsoft Edge and for Scriv Beta 3 and Opera, which I have installed … and that’s it, no Task Bar, no Start Menu, nothing, just a big blue desktop with an image of a window and a white bar where the task bar should be.


Mark/Mr X

Addendum: I installed Chinese and UK English, but now it seems the Windows system thought it was Chinese! But I have managed to change that.


I’m sorry, but I’ve not seen that window before in that situation, so I’m not sure what’s going on. You should just be able to see your Windows drives within Windows, including the cd drive with the Additions, but clearly something is different.

I don’t have VBox on this computer (I have Parallels on this one, VBox on the laptop), but I’ll download it and give it a go to see if I can reproduce what’s going on.

Thanks Brookter, I solved it in the end; it was due to the Window size I had set. The Task Bar was out the bottom of the window. I worked out how to reset the window to a much smaller size and the task bar appeared and I was able to get at the additions. Of course, I’ve had to buy a licence for Windows 10—though I had to go through the Mac side to do it as Edge failed to log me in to PayPal, so I’ve been able to set a reasonable desktop, and dragging the window to enlarge it is working. I still need to investigate further in terms of interaction between the two OSes, but I’m there.



That’s good news, Mark — glad you’ve got it sorted.

(I’ve sent you a PM, BTW.)

Just a note for consideration:

I’ve never used VMware; have used VBox with Mac and Windows as hosts, Linux guests.

VMware’s latest release, v12, has a “free” personal, non-commercial use version of VMware Fusion Player. As I understand it, you have to register at their site before downloading. It appears that macOS Catalina and newer is a requirement.

See subheading “What’s New” in v12 release notes:
docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-Fusio … Notes.html

Interesting! That would have been a viable alternative for $0. Fusion is a solid product. The only real downside could be less helpful to the non-technonerd. By that I mean that there are a lot more people learning on a budget with VBox so the community tends to provide very complete support at all levels (compared to VMWare that tends to provide a tech answer and you should already know how to implement).

I’m glad the OP got it worked out and was able to get VBox working. I myself prefer Parallels to any other virtual machine desktop software I’ve ever used and that is coming from a software developer :slight_smile: I always used VBox in the past (and still do on non-mac hosts) but paralles seems much faster with a GUI because of the ability to dedicate more VRAM than 128 (or 256 in some vbox vms - must be set from command line). I haven’t ever tried VMWare fusion for desktop but we use VMWare for our vms in our cloud infrastructure at work and it seems to work fantastic there.

That said, parallels is a paid product and for basic needs, VBox will suit someone just fine. Perhaps my needs justify the price premium…

Thanks all for the extra input.

That was the problem with the free version of VMware; I need to run it on this MBP which has plenty of SSID space, unlike the iMac—which is also unstable!—and the MBP can’t upgrade beyond High Sierra!

Anyway, I’m up and running, and the upgrade to went smoothly and quickly.

Mark/Mr X