- Boot Camp support
- Strong graphical performance
- Simplified OS installs
- Migration of an existing PC to Mac
- Windows apps appear in Dock, Launchpad
- Lifetime license per user
- Can't install Windows without a disk
- Lacks energy efficiency settings
Mac users seeking to run multiple desktop operating systems without the need for a new computer have only one option: virtual machines. VMware Fusion 10 is one of the best solutions for this specific purpose on the market, both for home and business users. Its clean and Mac-friendly user interface and great performance make it a great tool for everyday use. Skeptics can try the software for free for 30 days and, if they like it, buy a VMware Fusion license that can be used on multiple Macs for as low as $79.99.
The company behind VMware Fusion for Mac is VMware, Inc., a subsidiary of Dell Technologies, focusing on cloud computing and platform virtualization software and services. VMware, Inc. provides a wide variety of services mainly for enterprise users, such as its data center and cloud infrastructure vSphere, networking and security tools, cloud management platforms, and desktop and application virtualization. VMware Fusion is part of VMware's personal desktop offerings, which includes extra software such as Horizon FLEX and Workstation Player.
VMware Fusion lets you run more than 200 operating systems as virtual machines. Nearly all programs that run natively on these operating systems will run within VMware Fusion. Apps can range from widely used productivity suites (for example Microsoft Office) to graphics-intensive programs such as AutoCAD or SolidWorks, and much more.
Thanks to its 3D-accelerated graphics support, VMware Fusion 10 allows users to play most games that require DirectX 10.0 or OpenGL 3.3 in a virtual Windows environment, covering the whole range between XP Service Pack 3 all the way through to Windows 10. The VMware feature list includes support for NVMe devices, UEFI Secure Boot, UEFI boot, and TPM chips.
When you delete files from your virtual machine, Fusion does not return the space to your Mac. Users can perform a manual or automated cleanup of virtual machines to free up space on the Mac. The cleanup compacts and defragments the virtual machine.
Perhaps the most stand-out feature of VMware is the simplicity of its sharing settings. During setup you'll be prompted to choose between a “seamless” or “more isolated” integration of the operating system. The former means VMware Fusion will share the Mac's documents and apps with Windows, and any files on the Mac that Windows supports can be opened in Windows software if necessary. That, however, will raise some security concerns, so the use of antivirus software is highly recommended.
If shared folders are enabled, then users can either set a custom folder or use any of the preset locations to allow Windows to access files. If isolated mode is chosen – our preference for security reasons – users can then drag and drop files to copy them from one OS to another, though copying and pasting between systems works too.
Guest operating systems can be run either in a separate window or integrated ‘natively’ into macOS. VMware Fusion calls this feature “Unity” and is activated easily with just a click on its dedicated button in the top right corner of the window. If enabled, a VMware Fusion Unity icon will appear in the Dock, alongside the addition of various Windows taskbar icons within the macOS menu bar. But the biggest change is that any apps running in Windows will appear in the Dock as regular macOS apps, only with a Windows label attached. Unity mode with VMware is less annoying and better integrated than its competitors, so if this is your preferred mode of running Windows, then you'll definitely appreciate it.
It’s worth noting that when you delete files from your virtual machine, Fusion does not return the space to your Mac. Users can perform a manual or automated cleanup of virtual machines to free this space on the Mac up by compacting and defragmenting the virtual machine.
In our testing on our MacBook Pro (late 2016) we set Windows 10 to start up alongside the launch of VMware Fusion for Mac. The boot times are somewhat inconsistent, at first taking sub-30 seconds, but later taking almost a minute to launch both VMware Fusion and Windows. However, users can set up VMware to save the state of the virtual machine so that it can be restored to that point if necessary, and in this case the boot up time is reduced significantly – in our tests rebooting took only 17 seconds.
When it comes to data transfer, VMware smartly asks you to select the platform that you want a connected drive to associate itself with. VMware isn’t the quickest when it comes to data transfer, though, with a 4.36GB file transfer between systems from an NTFS-formatted pen drive taking 48 seconds.
Thanks to its Metal support, the graphics capabilities of VMware Fusion Pro are really great. This gives the virtual machine you are using a boost to performance and stability, although it's anything but energy efficient.
Setting up VMware Fusion is less streamlined than it should be, as users need to go through several steps before they can actually use the software and install the desired operating system.
After purchase, users need to register the product by creating a VMware Fusion Account. Only after that hassle are they able to access their license key and start the download process.
From that moment on, getting Windows on a Mac is just a matter of having an install disk/DVD to hand or virtual machine that you want to import. The installation process is straightforward once you’ve decided which custom operating system (guest OS) you want to use with the virtual machine, including a variety of Windows platforms, Apple operating systems, Linux, Novel Netware, and much more. VMware Fusion users can also import previously used virtual machines.
The operating system will use the Mac's internet settings to connect to networks and printers, so getting started is hassle free.
The $79.99 VMware Fusion license price tag includes the virtual machine software license and eligibility for an upgrade to the next major release. Upgrading from an earlier VMware Fusion version is cheaper, though, at $49.99. Fusion Pro, which includes additional features such as the ability to create linked clones, advanced networking, secure VM encryption, and other extras comes with a higher price tag of $159.99. However, before committing to a license users have 30 days to decide whether this virtual machine and its features fit their needs.
For that price the user will get a lifetime VMware Fusion license for the available version. However, compared to its primary competitor, Parallels, VMware offers a per-user license and not per-Mac. This means users can install VMware Fusion on multiple Macs without any extra charge and the number of connected computers will appear in the My VMware account.
The company accepts all major credit card – Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express, JCB – as well as Diner's Club, PayPal, purchase order, and wire transfer.
If you happen to run into issues while using VMware Fusion Pro, then the best way to get support is by visiting the Fusion Support Center. You can use the search field to find a quick answer in the knowledge base, read the guides, or get support by logging into your My VMware account.
Some of the knowledge base articles are accompanied by videos, which are very useful for understanding how things work. In case this doesn't answer your question, VMware provides access to a community forum (registration required) where users can share their information and experiences, as well as user groups (VMUGs) for a group of live, local gatherings of VMware users. Every purchase includes complimentary installation support for up to 18 months following product registration.
Additional phone or web support from a Technical Support Engineer is available for purchase from the VMware store. Pricing depends on the number of incidents you expect to have per year.
If you are looking for a solid, user-friendly virtual machine, VMware Fusion is one of the best solutions you can get. What makes this product outstanding is not only its stability, Mac-friendly user interface and the accessibility of available features, but the graphical performance thanks to its support for Apple's Metal Host Graphics Rendering Engine.
Although it lacks some of the features of its competitors, a major advantage of VMware Fusion is the company's pricing strategy: instead of requiring a subscription you get a lifetime license, which is per-user not per-Mac – an obvious boon for users with multiple Macs. Of course, VMware will charge you for every major upgrade, but the software will still function regardless, so it’s up to the user to decide whether the extra features are appealing enough to shell out the money.