★ Parallels 7 destroys VMWare Fusion 4 in Windows and Linux Pen Testing Environments

Posted on October 31, 2011

Parallels 7 vs VMWare Fusion 4

Desktop Virtualization Head to Head for Mac OSX

I started using Parallels 7 to run virtual machine labs to practice my security assessment skills. I've read a ton of reviews comparing Parallels 7 to VMWare Fusion 4, but I wanted to try testing the two myself. I'll save you the time and energy of this article and let you know now that Parallels Desktop 7 smoked VMWare Fusion 4.

Tests Performed

Tools Used

  • BackTrack 5: Linux-based penetration testing arsenal that aids security professionals in the ability to perform assessments in a purely native environment dedicated to hacking.
  • Hackxor: Web app hacking game where players must locate and exploit vulnerabilities to progress through the story
  • Metasploitable – Exploitable VM to test against
  • Windows Vista

Tests Performed

  • Running Backtrack 5 alongside Metasploitable and Hackxor virtual machines
  • Converting pre-made VMWare images to Parallels images

Performance Results

The following machines were using in the performance testing of the two products:

  • 2011 Macbook Pro, 2ghz Core i7
    • 8gb ram, OSX Lion 10.7.2.
    • OSX and Applications running on OWC Mercury Extreme SSD
    • VMs running on 7200 rpm Scorpio Black
  • 2009 Mac Pro, Quad Core Xeon
    • 8gb ram, OSX Lion 10.7.2
    • OS and VMs running on separate 7200 rpm Scorpio Black hard drives
Test 1: Running Backtrack 5
System Details Score
Parallels 7
  • Using only a live instance of Backtrack 5, both virtual machines performed equally.
  • No visible signs of virtual machine lag or OSX performance degradation.
  • Tested with various scanning tools scanning and password brute forcing using John the Ripper.
VMWare 4 10
Test 2: Running a Backtrack 5 alongside Windows Vista
System Details Score
Parallels 7
  • OSX and both VMs performed great.
  • Boot up time for Windows Vista VM significantly faster with Parallels.
VMWare 4
  • Boot time & performance for Backtrack seemed to be about the same
  • Boot time for Vista VM measured at 3x SLOWER than parallels
  • Noticeable performance lag noticed when trying to run multiple VMs
Test 3: Windows Vista Standalone Performance and Lion Integration
System Details Score
Parallels 7
  • Even in a single instance, Parallels 7 performed faster booting Windows Visa
  • Lion Integration performed very well. No complaints or issues.
  • Running heavy applications like Visio booted very quickly. Performance continued as large documents were opened.
  • Startup and Shutdown times seemed normal compared to a normal Windows machine & suspend time only took a few seconds.
VMWare 4
  • Boot time & performance for Backtrack seemed to be about the same
  • Boot time for Vista VM measured at 3x SLOWER than parallels
  • Lion Integration performed well. No complaints or issues. 
  • Startup and Shutdown times seemed normal compared to a normal Windows machine & suspend time only took a few seconds.
  • Running heavy applications like Visio started quickly, but performance quickly degraded as large visio documents were opened.Performance became choppy and sluggish.
  • I really like the idea of having the “Start Menu” present from the task bar (as opposed to having it on the dock)
Test 4: Converting VMWare images to Parallels (and vice versa)
System Details Score
Parallels 7
  • Converting both Backtrack and Metasploitable VMs to Parallels virtual machines was extremely simple. Just select the VMWare file to be opened and Parallels automatically converts it.
  • Total time to convert the Backtrack 5 image (8gb) was about 90 seconds.


VMWare 4
  • Conversion process just as painless with VMWare
  • Conversion time for the Backtrack 5 image was about the same at 100 seconds. 



Final Score – Parallels is the clear winner

Parallels Desktop 7 is the clear winner. VMWare's performance really doesn't even come close. VMWare has some nice features, especially in the department of Windows unity/integration. Unfortunately, VMWare just doesn't cut it when compared to Parallels' overall performance. With Parallels, Bootup and load times are significantly faster. Overall system performance is also better when running virtual machines. In my opinion, Parallels Desktop 7 is the clear winner.

Parallels Giveaway Contest

As a result of the incredible performance tests, I was able to contact Parallels and arrange for a giveaway to our audience. Starting later this week, We will be giving away 4 copies of Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac, 1 per week for the next 4 weeks. Stay tuned for directions and more information on the contest!


  • Prital says:

    I just bought my first MacBook pro about a month ago. I recently purchased Parallels and it’s fantastic. This is a great article. I’m glad I made the right decision. I’ve had no problems running any of my windows applications on my new mac. It’s great.

  • Eames Laurent says:

    I recently upgraded to OS X Lion (actually the first week it was released)
    And I purchased Parallels 6 as well.
    A few weeks later Parallels 7 was released and I was given the option to upgrade for free!

    Since then, Parallels have come out with many updates (large ones) which to me means they
    are continuously trying to improve the program, especially while Apple still iron out the rest
    of the wrinkles in Lion.

    A happy Parallels customer.

  • Bill K says:

    I do a LOT of virtualization work using my iMac and Mac Pro and Parallels consistently locks up under both Windows 2008 Server and Red Hat Linux. Parallels also seems to eat up a lot of memory, no matter how small I make the guest OS’s memory allocation, it always seem sot eat up a lot. VMWare Fusion 4 does not create any of these problems and it seems to be nearly impossible to cause it to fail. With Parallels, sometimes, I have to reboot the guest OS 2 or 3 times before it finally boots up correctly and can access all features of the OS.

    Sorry, but that’s the facts from my length experience with both products.

  • Cookie says:

    I also do a ton of virtualization and own a copy of Parallels (Version 6 actually) and Fusion (Version 4) and have found BOTH products to be continually increasing in quality. That said, I’ve always preferred working in Parallels. It seems much snappier. If I give my VM 2 gigs of ram, it doesn’t suck it up as soon as you launch the VM…parallels seems to dynamically allocate ram (up to the amount you pre-determine). I can “oversell” my Ram. …and you would think this would come at a performance penalty…but nope. Plus, I can susspend…resume…susspend…resume… I hardly EVER shut down my parallels machine. VMware on the other hand seems to get slower and slower with each suspend resume cycle. That’s my experience. VMware is pervasive in my corporate environment…so I keep it arround also.

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