TL;DR: I'm looking for a Windows version of Parallels Headless Mode, to run Windows.

I'm looking for virtual machine software that can run different programs that aren't confined by the limits of the virtual desktop, the way that you can use parallels on Mac, each program has it's own free moving window, and it's own icon in the taskbar.

I'm running Windows 10 x64, and am wanting to run Windows on the VM. While free is prefered, it is not necessary.

  • The so called "XP mode" does exactly that. And in effect, it's just a prepackaged VirtualPC image with an installed and configured Windows XP inside. So at least, VirtualPC is able to do this too.
    – Alejandro
    Dec 19, 2018 at 13:08

2 Answers 2


So it turns out both Virtual Box and VMware have solutions like Parallels, they just aren't as good or well known.

Virtual Box has "Seamless Mode"

VirtualBox will hide the guest operating system’s desktop background, making it seem as if the guest operating system’s programs are running on the host operating system’s desktop. However, the running applications won’t appear on your operating system’s standard taskbar.

VMware has "Unity Mode"

Unlike with VirtualBox, programs running in the virtual machine will appear on your taskbar as if they were running in your host operating system. You will have access to a Start or Applications menu that allows you to launch applications in the virtual machine.

Quotes taken from https://www.howtogeek.com/171145/use-virtualboxs-seamless-mode-or-vmwares-unity-mode-to-seamlessly-run-programs-from-a-virtual-machine/

  • Thanks very much for posting an answer. This will help others in future.
    – Mawg
    Dec 19, 2018 at 11:14

I like VirtualBox because there is a well-documented command line API (vboxmanage) that is available for Windows and Linux. There is a vboxheadless command you can use to run VM's in the background.

You'll have to install VirtualBox yourself on Windows first, and make VBoxManage executable from the windows command line or powershell

You can use

vboxheadless startvm $name

after you run the following commands (without the commented parts).

# Use VBoxManage to create a VirtualBox VM from an evaluation copy of Windows 10
# Enterprise ISO. 

# Follow the download instructions for your region at
# https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/download-windows-10-enterprise

# Create a virtual machine named "windows-10-enterprise-bob" from and ISO


vboxmanage createvm --name $name --ostype Windows10_64 --register --basefolder `pwd`

# Turn on IO APIC
vboxmanage modifyvm $name --ioapic on

# Designate RAM size and video RAM size
vboxmanage modifyvm $name --memory 4096 --vram 128

# Create an internal network interface connected to the internal network named
# RedTeamLab
vboxmanage modifyvm $name --nic1 intnet --intnet1 RedTeamLab

# Put the network interface in promiscuous mode
vboxmanage modifyvm $name --nicpromisc1 allow-all

vboxmanage createhd --filename `pwd`/$name/$name_DISK.vdi --size 60000 --format VDI
vboxmanage storagectl $name --name 'SATA Controller' --add sata --controller IntelAhci 
vboxmanage storageattach $name --storagectl 'SATA Controller' --port 0 --device 0 --type hdd --medium `pwd`/$name/$name_DISK.vdi
vboxmanage storagectl $name --name 'IDE Controller' --add ide --controller PIIX4
vboxmanage storageattach $name --storagectl 'IDE Controller' --port 1 --device 0 --type dvddrive --medium `pwd`/windows-10-enterprise.iso
vboxmanage modifyvm $name --boot1 dvd --boot2 disk --boot3 none --boot4 none

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