Running Linux under VMWare Workstation


Bill Giannikos


In this guide we will be going through the steps of installing Linux under Microsoft Windows using VMware Workstation.


The following table will give you a comparison of running Linux in a virtual machine compared to running it natively.


  • Works on computers which aren't supported properly natively
  • Ability to switch between Windows and Linux quickly
  • Windows is running natively and therefore at full speed
  • Can move guest from one system to another quite easily
  • Easier installation (no partitioning needed)
  • Run multiple versions of Linux simultaneously


  • Extra overhead of running Windows as well as Linux at the same time
  • Reduced performance of Linux
  • No 3D support in Linux (no compiz)


  • Guest - Refers to the operating system which is running within VMware
  • Host - Refers to the operating system which is running natively

Other Virtualization Software

In a future guide we will also be providing details on using VirtualBox instead of VMware. VirtualBox has the advantage of being a free and open-source project, however VMware is currently the more polished program. Other alternatives are Microsoft VirutalPC and Parallels Desktop, however personally I don't feel these two are as good as VMware or VirtualBox in supporting a Linux guest.

Installing VMware Workstation

Obtaining the VMware software

VMware Workation is not a free program and will require purchasing the software for continued use. However VMware do offer an evaluation version which you can use to see if running Linux in a virtual machine is an acceptable solution for you. To obtain VMware Workstation head over to and download the evaluation version. You will need to register to the VMware site before being able to download the software.

After you have evaluated VMware, you are able to convert the trial version into a fully licensed version by just entering a serial number VMware provide. There will be no need to install VMware again.

Also, if you are unable to download VMware Workstation, VMware offer a boxed version of their software which you can purchase online or from some stores.

Running the installer

You should now have downloaded the VMware installer packages. If you are not running as a user with administrator privileges you will need to switch to that user now. Double-click on the downloaded file to begin the installation process.

You will now have the installer program opened. For a typical install all you will need to do is press “Next” a few times and then “Install” to begin the installation. The default installation options are typically all you need. After the installation is complete you will be asked to enter the serial number which VMware provided, you should do this now.

Finally you will likely be asked to restart your computer, do this now and the VMware Workstation installation will be complete.

Creating a new Linux guest

Now come time to create a new Linux guest. These steps are almost exactly the same for any Linux distribution you install.

First, of course, load VMware Workstation. Then click on the “New Virtual Machine” button.

You will now be presented with the “New Virtual Machine Wizard”. To start with, the “typical” configuration option is fine. The “custom” option allows you to fine tune your guest a bit more but normally isn't needed. Click “Next”.

We now select the installation media of where our Linux distribution of choice resides. Pop your Linux install CD/DVD into your optical drive, select the “installer disc” option and then select your optical drive from the dropdown list. Alternatively if you have a ISO file on your computer with your Linux distribution you may select the “Installer disc image file” option and then browse and select the ISO file on your computer. In some instances VMware may not correctly determine which Linux distribution you have selected, this can be ignored. Click “Next”.

If VMware did not detect your Linux distribution you can select it from this list. First select the “Linux” option and then select your Linux distribution from the dropdown list. If your distribution is not on this list select the “Other Linux 2.6.x kernel” option. Click “Next”.

Here you may choose to change the name of your guest or change the location of where the data files are stored. Make any changes you like and then click “Next”.

You now need to specify how much hard drive space you would like to allocate to the Linux guest. This is completely up to you but keep in mind that increasing the size of the guest at a later stage is quite a difficult task. After selecting the size you would like click “Next”.

On this final screen we have a run down on what is going to be done. You may like to click on “Customize Hardware” and change some of the option here (such as memory size or processor options). Apart from the HDD size, most of these options can be changed at a later stage (for example you can increase the RAM size of your guest if you require it). Click the “Finish” button and your guest will be created.

You are now ready to install your Linux distribution. Previously you would have already inserted your Linux distribution into your optical drive (or selected your iso file) so now all you need to do is click on the “Power on this virtual machine” option.

If you are new to virtualization you will notice that what you are seeing is basically a normal machine booting. This is basically how a virtual machine functions so you can now treat the guest as a separate machine. From here all you need to do is install your Linux distribution as you would on a normal machine.

Installation VMware Tools

After you have your Linux guest up and running you will need to install VMware Tools. This is a set of tools which VMware provide to get the most out of your system. The steps in doing this vary depending on your Linux distribution so I have created separate guides on how to achieve this.

Installing VMware Tools on Debian 4.0
Installing VMware Tools on Fedora 10
Installing VMware Tools on RHEL 5 or CentOS 5
Installing VMware Tools on Mandriva 2009.0
Installing VMware Tools on openSUSE 11.1
Installing VMware Tools on Ubuntu 8.10


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running_linux_under_vmware.txt · Last modified: 2009/01/25 06:52 (external edit)
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