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Why should I buy Workstation when Server or Player is free?

I am certainly not the first to talk about the differences between VMware Workstation, VMware Server and VMware Player. However, this topic of conversation continues to come up. “Why should I buy VMware Workstation when I can download Server or Player for free?” There are some key differences between the products that you should understand before you decide which is right for you.


First of all, VMware Player is an application which runs virtual machines. You can not build new VMs with Player like you can with Workstation or Server. However, if you only had Player and you needed to create a new VM from scratch you could always use http://www.easyvmx.com to create the virtual hardware.So, that leaves us with Workstation versus Server. In the basic VI Jumpstart documentation, VMware has a simple, high level table showing some major features and where the products differ. The following is my exact recreation of the table:

Feature

Workstation

Server

Autostart VMs at host boot; runs as service

No

Yes

Remote Console, remote management, multiple users

No

Yes

Run VMs in background

Yes

Yes

Programming API support

Yes

Yes

Multiple snapshots

Yes

No

The best comparison with the most details that I was able to find was from virtualization.info. virtualization.info: Feature comparison: VMware Workstation 6.0 vs Server 1.0 was created in May of 2007, but is still relevant with the current versions of the products today.

virtualization.info vmware product comparison

You can download the comparison .pdf from the original virtualization.info post.

In summary, Workstation is worth the investment if you are looking for a true development and testing platform on your local desktop. Workstation has more features than Server, and it’s also a fully supported product.

Personally, I run Server on my XP notebook. I know it’s not supported, but it works and it’s free!

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