Windows 8 Hyper-V vs VMWare Workstation 9

I recently upgraded my main desktop PC at home to the RTM version of Windows 8 and re-installed VMWare Workstation. All seemed well until I fired up a 4th VM and I began getting strange errors “the operation on file ****.vmdk failed”. After looking this error up it seems that it can occur not just with disk corruption but also when the host PC is running low on memory. My machine has 8GB RAM, VMWare was configured to use a maximum of 6GB and each VM had only 1GB assigned each, so I shouldn’t have been getting any issues there! Luckily, VMWare Workstation 9 was released a few hours after I got this problem, and installing that seemed to fix it!

Anyway, after all this I remembered that Windows 8 now comes with Hyper-V, so I decided to give it a try to see if it could replace VMWare Workstation for my needs. After just installing a basic copy of Windows 7 inside a Hyper-V a virtual machine, I noticed that it was ridiculously quick to start up and shutdown. I timed it at 9s to restart the machine from the login screen and back again, compared with around 18 seconds in VMWare Workstation! Intrigued by this, I decided to delve a little deeper using the PassMark peformance testing tool.

In the summary below, Hyper-V RDC is where I connected to the VM via remote desktop, and VMC is where I used the Virtual Machine Connection window from the main Hyper-V management console. The test machine has a Core i7 860 with 8GB RAM and a 256GB Crucial M4 SATA-III SSD. Each virtual machine was set to use one processor, 1GB RAM, with a screen resolution of 1024×768.


  • CPU results don’t vary much, with VMWare Workstation having a slight edge, but bear in mind I didn’t perform multiple tests and average the results here so it could be insignificant.
  • Hyper-V has better 2D graphics performance, except of course when using remote desktop which is to be expected.
  • VMWare Workstation outperforms Hyper-V on the memory tests.
  • Hyper-V slays VMWare Workstation when it comes to disk performance!

Here are the results in more detail:

This extra disk speed really comes in useful for the kinds of tasks I use a VM for – i.e. repackaging and sequencing applications, and building test environments.

Hyper-V is what’s known as a Type 1 Hypervisor, whilst VMWare Workstation is Type 2.  Therefore Hyper-V should in theory have better performance when it comes to interfacing with the hardware.  However, they are both writing to virtual disks via the host OS, so I wouldn’t have thought that would explain the massive difference in disk performance.  Perhaps VMWare just have a bit of catching up to do when it comes to optimising for the latest generation of SATA-III SSDs.  Also it should be noted that I was using the brand new VHDX format for the virtual disk in Hyper-V.

Well that’s performance out of the way, but what about usability and features?  I’ll summarise them here:

  • VMWare Workstation
    • Pros
      • The most popular desktop virtualisation software (in my experience) – good for sharing images with others.
      • All in-one window with tabs for each VM.
      • Guest VMs can automatically change resolution when resizing application window.
      • Drag & Drop, shared clipboard and USB device pass-through support between host and VM (although it’s a bit iffy at times).
      • Better networking features – built in DHCP servers, NAT, etc
      • 3D hardware acceleration support.
      • Ability to create linked clones to preserve disk space.
      • Runs on machines that do not have SLAT capable CPUs.
    • Cons
      • Is not free (£169.50 in the UK).
      • Inferior disk performance.
      • If you want to share a VM so that another machine can connect directly to it through their copy of VMWare Workstation, you have to convert it to a shared machine first.  However you cannot convert machines that have powered on snapshots or have linked clones created from them.
  • Windows 8 Hyper-V
    • Pros
      • Comes free with Windows 8 Pro!
      • Superior disk performance (and 2D graphics as long as not using remote desktop).
      • Any other machine with the Hyper-V console installed (you can install it on Windows 7 also) can connect and manage the VMs (although this can be tricky to set up in non-domain environments, especially on Windows 8 as we’ll see later).
      • Dynamic memory allocation – specify a min and max memory limit and Hyper-V will adjust each VM on the fly depending on workload. This will potentially allow you to run more VMs simultaneously than you could in VMWare.
      • Live Migration – you can move a VM from one disk to another whilst it is still running. For example, you could fire up a machine from a network share or external drive, then start copying it to your local drive, allowing you to get to work quicker.
    • Cons
      • Requires a CPU that supports SLAT.  This includes most modern CPUs such as the Intel Core series (e.g. i3, i5, i7), but older processors will not be supported.
      • No 3D hardware acceleration.  The PassMark 3D tests would not even run.  Hyper-V on Windows Server 2012 includes RemoteFX to share the GPU with the VMs, but it seems Microsoft decided not to include it in the client OS.
      • No drag & drop, shared clipboard functionality, or USB device pass-through from the Hyper-V console.  You can however get the clipboard and USB functionality back if you connect via remote desktop, at the cost of graphics performance.
      • No automatic desktop resizing or tabbed interface.  However, you can connect via remote desktop and use RDCMan to get this functionality (although you have to disconnect/reconnect for the resolution to adjust).
      • Although you can use differencing disks to create multiple VMs with minimal disk space, it’s not as good as the linked clone functionality in VMWare, which lets you quickly create clones and still be able to use the original machine afterwards.
      • Virtual switch editor not as good as VMWare’s virtual networking – you only have the choice of internal/external/private.  Unlike VMWare, internal and private have no built in DHCP so you’ll have to create your own DHCP server.  There is no NAT option which allows VMs to be isolated from the outside network yet still get internet access.

Another point worthy of mention is that you cannot run VMWare Workstation when you have the Hyper-V Platform feature installed on Windows 8 (the Hyper-V Management Tools are allowed though).  If you have both installed and want to fire up VMWare, you’ll have to disable the Hyper-V feature and reboot the machine first.

Back to something I mentioned earlier – remote access.  I tried to configure my laptop with just the Hyper-V management tools installed to connect to the Hyper-V service on my desktop PC – both machines are ein a Workgroup and using the new Microsoft accounts, a typical home setup.  This should be a simple task, but unfortunately there’s lots of configuration required, and I still had to resort to a bit of a hack to get it to work in Windows 8.  You can use the tool HVRemote to configure the client and server, although it has not been updated for Windows 8.  I followed the instructions on that page, but still had to manually add my user account to the Hyper-V Administrators group.  Also, even though I am using the same Microsoft account and password on both Windows 8 machines, it would not authenticate when trying to connect.  I had to create a local user on each machine, and run the Hyper-V console via the RunAs command on my client to get this to work.  If anybody else can get it to work without this workaround please let me know!

In summary, If you already have a VMWare Workstation license, you may wish to continue using it – but it you don’t, and you don’t require 3D graphics acceleration, there is a compelling case to just use the Hyper-V instance that comes bundled with your shiny new OS instead!


UPDATE: Real-world usage test

I decided to run a quick real-word usage scenario to compare how the two performed before making a decision which one to stick with.  I tested how long it would take to copy the installation files for Office 2010 x86 to the desktop and install it:

  • VMWare Workstation
    • Copy to desktop via drag’n’drop: 15s
    • Install: 4m15s
  • Windows 8 Hyper-V
    • Copy to desktop via copy’n’paste in remote desktop: 1m33s
    • Copy to desktop by accessing network share to local host: 8s
    • Install: 4m45s

Some more interesting results here then:

  • Using copy’n’paste to transfer files via remote desktop (host and VM running on the same machine) is painfully slow.
  • VMWare installed the application quicker than Hyper-V, despite Hyper-V outperforming it on the disk benchmarks.

These tests have proved that for me, it is not worth the hassle switching to Hyper-V.  If it supported 3D acceleration, automatic desktop resizing, drag’n’drop, shared clipboard, NAT and DHCP support in virtual networking, them Microsoft will have a contender, but I will be sticking with VMWare Workstation for now.

56 responses on “Windows 8 Hyper-V vs VMWare Workstation 9

  1. Pingback: VMware Workstation v9.0 Released

  2. Adrian

    Interesting comparison, thanks for taking the time. Only additional comment I would make is the autostart of VMs is still a pain in Workstation, cant imagine why they make such a meal of it.

  3. I agree with your updated summary. Thanks for your comparison – I wanted to check I was using the right one (for me).

  4. Spent 2 days with Windows 8/Hyper-v. After much cursing and sweating, Ive just bought the VMware 9.0 update. 😉 Happy days ….

  5. Brandon Rock

    Thank you very much for taking the time to do this. I was about to do the same thing until ran into your blog. It is great to see that others are trying the same crazy experiments I would 🙂

  6. Michael McShane

    Great work. I had just bought a new notebook with an i5 processor and was debating the merits of VMware vs hyper-v. This decides that. Now to get to the secure boot snafu. Other than disabling it entirely, I think I might have to look into creating certificates to reside in the uefi boot loader.

  7. A mi punto de vista, no podemos comprar un sistema de virtualizacion pionero como es VMWARE, pero para los que inician en ese ambiente es una exelente solucion HYPERV, mucho mejor que el virtual pc emvevido que se usava en windows 7, ni hablemos que es parte del SO o sea un componente opcional, ideal para hacer laboratorio y/o probar aplicaciones, Microsoft esta muy verde en el ambiente de virtualizacion si lo comparamos con VMWARE, pero no obstante el sistema funciona de maravillas y para productos de MS los virtualiza de primera, para el mas avanzado sin dudas VMWARE yo lo vengo usando de la version 4 y la verdad no hubo distro ni so que no pueda ser virtualizado en este software. ni hablemos de las herramientas adicionales esta mas que claro!

  8. Hubert Trzewik

    Good work. But still I cannot decide if to migrate to Windows 8 (for HyperV), buy VMware Workstation, use free VMware Player or build another PC to handle free Hyper-V or VMware Hypervisor.

  9. Jack

    Thanks for sharing. The information helps me a lot. I’ll continue using vmware workstation.

  10. Dan

    Useful information, thanks!

  11. Tony

    Hyper-V also has virtual fibre channel adapters and switches. Workstation has nothing similar.
    Also, Hyper-V has bandwidth control on network adapters.

  12. anestis

    Really nice post! Thanks for the time to share!
    I was under the impression that publishing vmware workstation benchmarks wasn’t even allowed.
    Really nice work. Maybe next time you could add some more benchmarks like pcmark. Also I found it so interesting that workstation still feels faster even though hyper-v had better disk scores.

  13. Were VMware guest tools installed? And which type of hard disk was added to the VMware virtual machine? (Options between SCSI and IDE…) I imagine that the optimized drivers bundled with guest tools would improve disk I/O.

    1. VMWare Tools and Hyper-V integration services were both installed, disk was set to SCSI in VMWare.

  14. Pingback: Workstation Virtualization Fails « Gautier Talks Technology

  15. I try the both as you regard and now the PC it make the grinding noises all the time. ALL THE TIME. Please advise.

    1. Have you tried turning it off and turning it on again?

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  17. Mathieu Poussin

    I use Hyper-V for many reasons:
    I do some Windows Phone development and the emulator require Hyper-V.
    When Hyper-V is installed, it “vampirize” the virtualization intructions so you cannot run any other virtualization system like Vmware or Virtualbox on the same computer (it will says that virtualization is not available)

  18. SHawn MacArthur

    Great article. As a Microsoft trainer we are pretty much force to use Hyper-V. I do like VMware Workstation more. Having just upgraded to Windows 8 I will play with them both.

    One thing I have never understood about Hyper V, especially on Windows 8 is that they call it a type 1 Hypervisor. However type 1 hypervisors are installed directly on the hardware. Type 2 hypervisors are installed on top of an OS. From what I can see from both Windows 2008/2012 and especially Windows 8, Hyper V installs on top of the OS. Which to me makes it a type 2 hypervisor.

    1. I though exactly the same thing, but apparently what’s going on is that the hypervisor loads first at boot time then your main OS actually sits on top of this as a guest VM. This is why you can’t run VMWare Workstation when Hyper-V is enabled, as there is a background process that had already claimed ownership of the Intel VT of the CPU.

      This did worry me that gaming performance might be impacted if all access to the hardware has to go through a layer of Hyper-V beforehand, but I didn’t see any reduction in frame rates with Hyper-V enabled.

      1. len

        In Workstation, you can set the processor to “binary translation” mode, meaning it does not require Intel-VT to work. Have you tried this on Win8?

        1. No I haven’t, I must give that a try, thanks. I imagine performance might suffer as a result however?

  19. firefoxfresher

    it’s really helpful for client user. thanks.

  20. Nice review of the 2. I was wondering about much of this and appreciate your efforts in writing it up. Cheers.

  21. I use both Hyper-V and VMWare Workstation. I’ve been using Workstation since about 2001 or so and Hyper-V for awhile. While Workstation is certainly more mature in terms of its toolset and features on the desktop (they basically took what is in Windows Server 2012 with the basic tools and put it in Windows 8 Pro), it’s not the clear winner all the time.

    Dynamic memory for the VMs is a huge advantage for Hyper-V. I can run more with Hyper-V than VMWare Workstation. Even if I set a VM to, say, 4GB, if it’s not using it, it won’t take it. Workstation has no such feature. In fact, it’s not a 1:1 ratio from memory to what the system is using. Last night I was running 4 x 1GB VMs on Workstation, and it was using 5.6 GB of memory. VMWare adds quite a bit of overhead on top of the VM. Your speed tests in-VM may run quicker in some cases, but that’s not the whole story. For this reason alone I tend to prefer Hyper-V in more cases than not.

    Workstation can virtualize Hyper-V and the VT-x extensions; Hyper-V can’t. If you want to demo things like Live Migration, Workstation is your only choice.

    I dual boot my machines (Windows Server/Windows 8) since that’s the only way to run both; you can’t have Hyper-V and Workstation installed at the same time under Windows 8.

    They’re both good, but you have to know what you need. I switch between the two.

    1. Try a Failover Cluster on hyper-v with nested VM’s GOOD LUCK 🙂 however on VMware 9 no problems, as mach as I want to switch to Hyper-V for testing veriability of environments, this little thing is holding me back.

      1. Well, clearly you can’t do that. You can run H-V under VMware, but you can’t run H-V under H-V. I would never run WSFC under H-V in a VM anyway. If I virtualize H-V (or ESX), I’d be doing things like Live Migration or vMotion to demonstrate. I’ve been building WSFCs with virtualization since 2001 when you had to hack the config files for Workstation to get shared storage.

        So I question why this hold you back. Wanting to run H-V under H-V? That I can see. But wanting to run a WSFC under H-V running under H-V? That’s just plain silly.

  22. Great post, thank you for taking the time.

    Like yourself, I have “tested” and used both, at work and at home. In my office PC, I use Hyper-V, but at home, I’m using Workstation 9.

    As you mentioned – Workstation 9 is smoother with the graphics display and has a lot more options than Windows 8’s Hyper-V Client. Not only that, but it also works flawlessly with many Linux distros, and installing the client tools is pretty straightforward. Although I’ve run a few Linux distros on Hyper-V – both on the server and client versions of Windows – I’m not convinced about its compatibility and integration.

    I really wish Hyper-V on Windows 8 was a bit more like Workstation, as far as compatibility and 3D performance. I also wish that it was easier clone images and do snapshots. I’m not very convinced of the snapshot ability on Hyper-V.

    So, for now, I will continue to use the Hyper-V client on Windows 8 for “work” stuff, where the only operating systems installed are Windows-based, except for a “test” Linux machine here and there. The ability of installing a Windows OS, sysprepping the image, and just archiving the VHDX is a HUGE time saver, and is compatible with our production Hyper-V servers. VMware lets me do this, I know, but I feel that Hyper-V is a bit cleaner on this aspect with one file: the VHDX.

    Workstation will continue to be my go-to hypervisor for all-around testing and playing with until Hyper-V for Windows catches up a bit more.

  23. halfluke

    And we can’t really say the fact that VMWare Workstation comes at a price, is actually a real issue 🙂

  24. Gabor

    It seems to me that Hyper-V doesn’t support 24/32 bit color depth so that Aero Glass isn’t working on a Windows 7 guest. I have to use Windows 7 Basic Theme which isn’t very nice. 🙁

    1. I don’t have it set up any longer, but from what I recall, connecting via remote desktop allowed aero glass to work.

      1. Gabor

        Unfortunately it won’t. I already noticed it in Windows 8 Consumer Preview that Aero Glass is not working through RDP and at all.

        See here:

        I read somewhere that MS not only disabled Aero Glass but dropped it from the source code. I hope they will bring it back with Windows Blue.

  25. PaulJM

    One more thing in VMWare Workstation PRO list or should that be in Hyper-V’s CON.

    Hyper-V will not allow me to select my Wireless connection as the external Network (either a PCI Wirelees, or a Fritz! USB wireless N adaptor)
    VMWare Workstation 9.x DOES allow me to select my wireless to connect to the external network ie real world

    1. True – but you can workaround that by bridging your connections!

    2. Christopher Estep

      Actually, you can select a wireless connection in Hyper-V; simply build a separate virtual switch for it and connect the desired VM to that. The only requirement is that the host OS support the wireless adapter. My desktop (no SLAT support) dual-boots 8 and Server 2012, and I have both a wired gigabit and wireless adapter connected – the wireless portion is wireless-G. Both are connected (in Server 2012) to separate virtual switches – I can select the preferred virtual switch at VM creation time or later. To the poster that said that you can’t use a wireless adapter, the question begs – is your wireless adapter supported by the host OS? Some wireless adapters are NOT supported directly by Windows Server until you add the Wireless LAN Package (like Hyper-V in Windows Server, this is in Roles and Features – in Windows Server, this is a Feature; my SMC Wireless-G adapter, commonly used in portables of yore, IS supported, but requires this feature to be installed in Windows Server).

  26. dhanesh

    how many virtual machine we can run in vmware workstation 9

  27. BradS

    Thanks for sharing, great article. Since enabling Hyper-V converts your installed OS to a VM (it still has more access to hardware than the other guest VM’s) it will impact performance of the OS some. I think you should mention that in the pros/cons. Some don’t find it to be a problem, but many report that it lowers FPS by 50% or so. And that is even with no VM’s running.

    1. I had the same suspicions myself, but found no difference in frame rate in the 3D Mark test or the Windows Experience Index tests with Hyper-V enabled or disabled. I didn’t try any games though!

  28. I have been using Hyper-V for servers on Server 2012 for quite some time and was very excited to have a fully functional version on Windows 8 for running various virtualized machines.

    It seemed to work very well, however not being able to run in full screen without RDP was a bit of a pain. Remote desktop worked well enough, but it is nowhere near as fast as just running the VM in Workstation (in full screen).

    That has more or less been the breaking point for me. Apparently, you can run 1920×1080 if you run Windows 8 in Hyper-V, but that’s it. No other operating systems support that resolution. It also doesn’t help when I have 2560×1440.

    I suppose lack of USB support is also a downside, but not a major deal breaker. It was primarily not being able to work fluidly in full screen that made me make the switch.

    I might mention however that I am extremely happy with it as a platform for my server environment on Server 2012 now that Linux support has finally caught up!

    Anyhow, thanks for the write up, it was an interesting read.


  29. Michael McShane

    I revisited using hyper v and here are my thoughts:
    – as a poster noted, if you do wp8 dev, you can only use hyper v for the emulator.(even though visual studio has a menu option for VMware.)
    – it does offer Linux support but only red hat and centos has integration iso’s.
    – the virtual switch is pretty wonky and getting your wifi to work can be a challenge.
    – on one hand, since I really want to make hyper v work, I will keep working at it but from a customer demo standpoint, (unless you are demoing to a room of Microsoft exec’s) it really is a kludge.
    – on the plus side, all my VMware vm’s work in hyper v (after converting to vhd, and then importing to a vhdx.)
    – I think the performance from a disk standpoint blows VMware away and if the win 8.1 fixes the virtual network manager, then hyper v will be in good shape.

  30. Jason

    Thank you for this post. I have been looking for a good comparison to help me decide if I should use Hyper-V or VMware for Michael about hopes for fixes in Win 8.1, as I would prefer to use a Microsoft product to manage Windows VMs.

  31. Johnqhu

    It’s great post. It make me decide to use with one. Because I need run linux system. I decided to still use VM workstation.

  32. Marty

    Thanks for the great post. I am glad the Microsoft gave use the option of Hyper-v with Windows 8 Pro. I am sure it will continue to impove on Windows 8. Having options is always great for us so we can pick the best tool that meets our needs.

  33. By the way folks, you can also now enable de-duplication in Hyper-V on Windows 8 (although it is not officially supported), which is great for saving disk space:

  34. Excellent article, still quite relevant, given Workstation 9 is still the latest major release and it seems to support Windows 8.1 Preview quite well.
    Thank you, Dan!

  35. garegin

    Does vmware workstation have synthetic guest drivers like in hyper-v or KVM? The synthetic drivers are what gives hyper-v its performance edge over emulated drivers.

    1. VMWare Tools were installed which provides drivers in a similar way to Hyper-V integration services (which were also installed), if that’s what you are referring to.

      1. garegin

        As far as I understand, the synthetic drivers are more than just integration services. They are “enlightened” in the sense that the driver does not emulate the

        Now, installing Integration Services is similar to adding VMware Tools or Virtual Server Additions, but it does a lot more, modifying the OS’s kernel and adding new virtual devices that speed VM-to-hardware communication. Such modified OSs are called “enlightened” OSs (as in Zen enlightenment, get it?). The upside to enlightenment is that you get better VM performance, but there’s a downside: Microsoft offers enlightenment software for only four Windows versions: Server 2008 RTM/SP1, Windows Vista SP1, Windows 2003 SP2, and Windows XP SP3. (I’m told that there’s also code to enlighten SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP1, but I haven’t had time to try it out.) It troubled me, then, to read about a set of benchmarks that purported to show that Hyper-V was quite a bit slower than ESX. What troubled me wasn’t the conclusion that Hyper-V is slower than ESX, but rather the fact that, as far as I can see, the testers never bothered to enlighten the VMs that they were using for their benchmarks. (As a wise man once paraphrased, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and benchmarks.”) ”

        1. That article is from 2008, so either Windows 7 comes ‘pre-enlightened’ or the Hyper-V Integration Services have since been updated to support it. VMWare Tools also adds virtual devices so I’m not entirely sure what the differences are, but it still remains that both platforms had the latest helper components installed at the time of writing.

  36. garegin

    The enlightenment is built in to the guest OSes that MS supports. Both Windows and the linux kernel post-3.0 have the modules built in. The question is whether VMware Tools gives you better performance through paravirt nic and disk drivers or they are simply integration components- not whether the components are built in or have to be installed.
    My point is not academic. The enlightened drivers is what gives Hyper-V or KVM (virtio) its main edge.

  37. Pingback: Performance Comparison Vmware Workstation vs Windows 8 |

  38. Pingback: My experience on Hyper-V vs. VMware Fusion for Test Machines: Battle royal | Gokan Ozcifci

  39. Hugoski

    My Stonegate VPN client doesn’t work with Windows 8.1 Update 1 at all. So, I can’t access the TFS server of the company I work for. That’s the reason because I’m using Hyper-V for Windows 8.1 to virtualize a Windows 7 Visual Studio environment. I’ll share with you the results after a few days.

  40. M

    Thanks for this article. It really help me decided. HyperV is better suited for my needs.

  41. It would be interesting to have an up to date test with current versions of VMware Workstation and Hyper-V on Win 8.1 🙂

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