Windows Experience Index – Parallels vs. Fusion: How Do They Stack Up?

Posted on March 18, 2010

Since the release of Parallels 5 I have been a huge fan.  Previous to that, I really liked VMware Fusion as the product was much more mature and seemed more stable.  I really had no means to measure performance other than to gauge it by my perception over regular use.

Earlier this week, VMware announced their VMware Fusion 3.1 beta, which I had to run out and try.  I like to keep tabs on both of these products and am always curious when either of them releases an update.

That being said, I downloaded the beta ad built up a new Windows 7 virtual machine, installed the machine additions and played around a little bit.

In the past I’ve done things like measure the boot time for the operating system on each product and in most cases Parallels topped Fusion.  Especially after Parallels released version 5, the gap between those numbers seemed to grow especially when it came to the amount of time it takes to come back on a resume.

As part of my test I also built a new Parallels virtual machine with Windows 7 installed.  I thought an equal way to measure the differences would be by running the tests that provide the results of the Windows Experience Index.  The scale of the Windows Experience Index ranges from 1.0 to 5.9. A higher base score generally means that your computer will perform better and faster than a computer with a lower base score, especially when performing more advanced and resource-intensive tasks.

This host hardware was an iMac with a Core 2 Duo 2.8 GHz processor and equipped with 4 GB of RAM.  Each virtual machine (although not ran simultaneously) had 1 GB of RAM allocated to it.

So, how did each virtual machine fair?  I was actually very surprised.  As VMware has touted lots of improvements around its graphics driver and performance, it actually seemed slower than the 3.0 release.

Here’s how the numbers stacked up:

VMware Fusion Results:


Parallels Desktop Results:


Interestingly enough, it seems that Parallels does a better job in more of the categories than not.  Parallels implementation and support of Aero in Windows 7 seems to be more solid as well.

What has your experience been with these products?  Have you found the optimal virtual machine configuration on your Mac?

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Bill Giordano

I’m a senior citizen, am not a computer geek (unfortunately), and have a simple problem – for you, not for me! Just purchased an iMAC; have always used a PC prior to this; and can’t seem to get a clear answer re; Parallels Desktop 5.
I’m a realtor here in the Boston area; our MLS (multiple listing service) system was built to interact with PC’s. It can interact with the iMAC, but it’s not flawless.
From what I’ve read, loading Parallels onto my iMAC will allow me to interact with the MLS system as if it’s interacting with a PC.
Is loading Parallels 5 onto my iMAC a relatively simple procedure? I don’t know what else to ask…will understand if you’re too busy to give this any consideration.
Thanks in advance if you can reply with some “simple” suggestions.


Virtualization is what I need instead of Boot Camp — these days — because I’m running dual SSDs in a RAID-0 configuration in my MacBook Pro 6,1. Bootcamp cannot boot Windows7 from a RAID, yet. So Virtualization is where I have to be. Of course, with over 10,000 IOPS and 500+ MB/s transfer R/W nothing Windows7 does is bottlenecked by disk access. Performance compared to an internal standard Mac SATA HDD is about 4 times better.