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What is the difference between Workstation, Player and Server?

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Posted: 17 Jan, 2008
by: Huhtinen H.
Updated: 03 Oct, 2011
by: Troen L.
VMware Workstation, VMware Player and VMware Server seem like redundant products. However there are quite a few distinctions, that are quite apparent from their names already.

VMware Workstation is intended for "desktop use", for a user who creates and edits Virtual Machines and uses them on his/hers desktop. It has features useful for product development that no other VMware product has such as integration with MS Visual Studio or VM teams, where the network between virtual machines in the team can be specified, including bandwidth and packet loss. VMware Workstation usually gets the new virtual hardware releases first and supports the widest guest OS range. It is optimized for interactive use and has some Direct3D (DirectX 9) and OpenGL capabilities. Workstation is not free. More information: http://www.vmware.com/products/ws/new.html

VMware Player is a stripped-down version of workstation, so it offers the same virtual hardware as Workstation. VMware Player 2.x and newer is free for non-commercial personal use only while Player 1.x had no such restriction. In the latest version it can both create and edit virtual machines while it earlier could only possible to run pre-built VMs. The performance of VMware Player is very similar to the performance of VMware Workstation. Even though Workstation 8 was released in September 2011, we are still waiting for VMware Player 4 to be released. For more info see here:


VMware Server is meant for creating and editing virtual machines and running server-like loads. It is optimized for IO rather than interactive use on the local terminal. Desktop intensive (graphical) applications will not have too good performance when viewed through the interface provided in VMware Server as all requests go through the network (even when you're working locally). Server usually provides older or same generation of virtual hardware as Workstation or Player. Server is a free product, but note that VMware Server is declared End of General Support at 06/30/2011. More information: http://www.vmware.com/products/server/features.html


VMware Server cannot be installed at the same time with Workstation/Player. This is most likely due to conflicting, different kernel modules and cannot be circumvented.

Note that even if this article says that the intended use is something, this does not mean that the product could not be used for something else. Just don't expect Player to be a good Server or that you can play games on Server.

Feature comparison
Feature/Product Workstation 8.0 Player 2.5 Player 3.0 Server 2.x
Intended use Desktop use, test environments, Q&A, product development Run VMs made elsewhere Personal use: desktop use, testing Host production VMs
Edit VM settings? Yes No Yes Yes
Max RAM / VM 64GB 8GB 32GB 8GB
 VSMP  Yes, 4x
 Yes  Yes  Yes
 Snapshots  Multiple, branchable, linked clone  No  No  Single
 USB 2.0  Yes, and USB 3.0 for linux VMs
 Yes  Yes  Yes
3D acceleration

 DirectX 9 with Shader Model 3.0

OpenGL 2.1

 DirectX 9 with Shader Model 2.0

DirectX 9 with Shader Model 3.0

OpenGL 2.1


-Integrates with MS Visual Studio / Eclipse / SpringSource

- Remote replay debugging
-Allows definition of properties of the virtual networks within VM teams

- Record/replay functionality

-Unity mode

- Shared folders
- Virtual disk encryption

-Remote VMs

-HD audio

- Editing of .vmx settings by hand possible
- Unity mode
- Shared folders

- Create / edit VMs

- Unity mode

- Shared folders 

 VMware Server is being discontinued

"VMware Server was declared End Of Availability on January 2010. Support will be limited to Technical Guidance for the duration of the support term."
 Cost  $199  Free  

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16 Oct, 2011   |   Rafael
Hi all. After 2-3 years on XP my DVD burner dows not work anymore, and some other things stopped working. So I want to install a fresh Win7, and with a VM this time.
Does the above comparison mean I cannot install MSFT Server products like SQL Server and Visual Studio on a VMPLayer VM? I do not need to install several VMs and network them together - just use a single VM to go back to a working version much easier, or even split my develeopment, MS Office and "all-sorts-of-driver-installing-software" VM-s used independent of each other.

Thank you!

14 Oct, 2011   |  Gene C
1) VMware Server 2 can run x64 (I do it)
2) VMware Player 4 is current.
3) I though Player in some versions at least could do single snapshots.

13 Sep, 2011   |   Tom Hasper
Great comparison. One other item to note regarding Server v2.0.2 - inability to run 64-bit operating systems.

19 May, 2011   |  Zakk
Thank you for this simple explanation. Wading through the oceans of bullsh!t-speak on the Vmware site is a nightmare, and I appreciate your info.

10 Feb, 2011   |  Daniel
Thank your very much for the feature comparison table. Very helpful information, which is not nearly detailed enough on VMware's website.

While snapshots would be useful, and record/replay sounds tempting, it seems that if your main use case is running legacy or cross-platform applications, Player has all you need.

Now if only I were able to figure out VMware's awful download system. I have requested about half a dozen VMware Player activation mails by now, and every time the included "download link" only allows me to request another.

12 Jan, 2011   |   Stephane
Thanks for this comparison.
Do you know if there are performance differences between workstation and player?

05 Oct, 2010   |   HTML Forms
last few days our group held a similar discussion about this topic and you illustrate something we have not covered yet, appreciate that.

- Laura

07 Sep, 2010   |   Lars
Fixed the URL and quoted some text from it confirming that VMware Server is scheduled to die soon.

10 Aug, 2010   |   Chris
"VMware Server is being discontinued". This is not true. From the link, VMware vCenter Server 2.x is EOL, which is a completely different product from VMware Server.

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