Virtualbox is a free open-source program that allows users to create a ‘virtual machine’ to test programs, set ups, or other configuration changes before applying them to their machine.
There are a number of other programs that provide the same services:
VMware Workstation is a commercial program for creating virtual machines.
Advantages:This is one of the best programs on the market. In addition to being able to create virtual machines, the user is also able to access these machines from anywhere. It is deal for businesses that specialize in software programming and repair.
Disadvantages: This program is designed more for businesses than for the individual. The price runs $249, which seems expensive when there are so many other free options.
Official Site: http://www.vmware.com/products/workstation
VMware Player is a program that allows users to review and edit virtual machines made with VMware Workstation and a variety of other programs.
Advantages: This program is available from VMware, a leader in virtual machine software, for free. It allows users to view and edit many styles of virtual machine.
Disadvantages:While the user can edit existing virtual machines, the program does not allow for creation of new programs, nor does it allow for editing in any language other than English.
Official Site: http://www.vmware.com/products/player/
QEMU, short for Quick Emulator, is a free and open-sourced program for creating virtual machines.
Advantages: It is quick and easy to use, and while it is open sourced, it is constantly updated and maintained, with the latest update being in December of 2013.
Disadvantages: There have been user complaints that the program runs 3 to 4 times slower than other options once a full operating system such as Windows XP is installed. It can also be very confusing, according to user complaints.
Official Site: http://wiki.qemu.org/Main_Page
Parallels Desktop is designed to allow Mac users to run Windows or Linux operating systems on Mac machines.
Advantages:This program gives Mac users access to virtual machines, which can add a large amount of accessibility to a Mac computer. While not ideal, it can allow for gaming and other things that Mac computers are not generally designed for.
Disadvantages:It takes a large amount of RAM to be able to run this program, as running a virtual machine takes a large amount of computer resources.
Official Site: http://www.parallels.com/products/desktop/
VMware Fusion is similar to Parallels, in that it allows Mac users to run virtual machines to host Windows or Linux operating systems.
Advantages: This program again comes from VMware, one of the leaders in virtual machine software. It allows Mac users to create and manage virtual machines that run Windows and Linux operating systems. It also allows users to sync up their Windows-only devices to Mac machines.
Disadvantages: The price tag can be a bit prohibitive when there are other free options. Though VMware creates some of the best software in the industry, many people balk at a $60 price tag.
Official Site: http://www.vmware.com/products/fusion/
The programs listed here can be invaluable tools for everyone, whether or not they practice programming, as it can be used to protect the physical machine from bad installs or damaging programs.