Best Free Virtual Machine Software for Windows 10 and 11 in 2022

Source: Windows Central

Virtual machines are useful for a whole host of use cases, both personal and professional, and even better, there are great ways to create virtual machines without having to pay for software. Although the best enterprise solutions have associated licensing costs, for the home user there is absolutely no need to spend a penny, but still have a good Windows virtual machine experience. Here are what we consider to be the best free virtual machines.

Best Overall: VMware workstation player

Vmware workstation playerSource: Windows Central

You’ve probably heard of VMware and you’re probably assuming that it comes at a pretty hefty price tag. It’s not completely untrue, but it’s far from true. VMware Workstation Player is a completely free version of its desktop virtual machine software, Workstation Pro. There are differences between the two and some useful features like snapshots are hidden behind the paid version. But for the most part, it’s basically the same thing.

Perhaps surprisingly, VMware Workstation Player doesn’t command running particularly high-end hardware either. Naturally, the more resources you have, the better your VMs will perform, but even on a lower spec machine, you’re not left out. You may run into compatibility issues on some hardware if you try to virtualize Windows (nested virtualization), but it’s still entirely possible alongside any Linux distribution you can think of.

Workstation Player also provides additional tools such as GPU virtualization, USB passthrough, and VMware Tools plugins allow you to seamlessly shut down and suspend virtual machines without having to open them. At its heart, VMware Workstation Player is really easy to use, with some more advanced features if you want to dive a little deeper. Performance is also very good, although one of the limitations of the free version is that you can only run one virtual machine at a time.

Benefits:

  • Free for personal use
  • GPU Virtualization
  • Easy to use
  • Reasonably low hardware requirements

The inconvenients:

  • Unable to run multiple virtual machines in the free version
  • Some useful features hidden behind the paywall

Best overall


vmware player

VMware workstation player

Free and feature-rich

There are a few limitations to the free version, but for most people it’s the king of free VM software.

Finalist: Oracle virtual box

Virtual boxSource: Windows Central

Oracle’s VirtualBox is open-source and even works on older versions of Windows if you hang on to older hardware. In terms of performance in our usage, it’s not quite on par with VMware, which is why it takes a second place, but for many it will definitely be a better choice.

Nothing is hidden behind a paywall and Oracle still supports VirtualBox even to this day. If you run virtual machines often, this is a solid tool to have in your arsenal, supporting both Windows and Linux virtual machines (only Mac users can install a Mac virtual machine in VirtualBox.)

Oracle also provides a range of pre-built virtual machines aimed at developers and there’s an official plugin pack that adds useful extras like USB pass-through, RDP and disk encryption. It’s a shame that it looks a little dated, and sometimes it feels like setting up a virtual machine takes a few too many steps. But you can’t argue with the quality, especially when it will always be completely free.

Benefits:

  • Free and open-source
  • Good performance
  • Supports almost everything
  • Official extension for USB pass-through and RDP

The inconvenients:

  • Dated user interface
  • Virtual machine setup could be cleaner

Finalist


Virtual box

Oracle virtual box

Open source VMs for everyone

Open source and without any paywalling, but overall performance and usability is second only to VMware. Still, it’s great software.

Integrated solution: Microsoft Hyper-V

Hyper-VSource: Windows Central

If you need a simple solution and prefer not to tinker with additional software, there is of course Hyper-V, which is built into Windows 10 and Windows 11. Or if you are using the Pro version or Windows Server . Unfortunately, on Windows 10 Home and Windows 11 Home, you simply cannot use Hyper-V.

This is probably the biggest downside, in that it’s hidden (sort of) behind a paywall. But while Hyper-V is pretty basic, it’s user-friendly and, assuming you’re not looking for advanced features like GPU acceleration, it’s a perfectly fine tool to use.

Guest OS support extends to Windows, Windows Server, and Linux, and while you may experience compatibility issues with some Linux distributions, overall you can expect a good experience. .

Benefits:

  • Built into Windows 10 and 11
  • Easy to use
  • Solid support for Linux virtual machines

The inconvenients:

  • Requires Pro or Windows Server editions
  • Basic feature set

Easy to use

Hyper-V

Microsoft Hyper-V

Basic but built into Windows

It lacks some of the fancy features you’ll find elsewhere, but it’s easy to use and built right into your operating system.

At the end of the line

For the more intensive virtual machine user, opting for VMware Workstation Player is a smart call. Even though there are some limitations in the free version, none of the basic features are hidden behind a paywall, and finally, if you need more, you have the upgrade option available.

VirtualBox isn’t as good overall, but for most people it will be fine, and Oracle’s ongoing support, as well as the open source nature of the product, is admirable. It could definitely use a lick of paint, though.

Hyper-V is arguably the weakest of the bunch, but it’s built into (some versions of) Windows and for quick, basic VM use it’s perfectly fine. Whichever you choose, you can run alternative operating systems easily and at no cost.

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