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How to install VMware on Linux and create your first virtual machine

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A virtual machine allows you to run a second fully functional system in your existing environment. Your computer becomes what is called a host system. Then any virtual machine you configure will be a guest system.

One of the best software solutions for creating virtual machines on Linux is VMware. It’s free for non-commercial use and surprisingly easy to install and configure. Here is a quick walkthrough that will show you how to install VMware Player on your Linux workstation and create your first virtual machine.


Download VMware Workstation Player

The free version of VMware virtualization software is VMware Workstation Player. You can download the installer by simply clicking on the Free download on the VMware Workstation Player product page.

To download: VMware Desktop Reader



VMWare Linux download page

From the options available, you should choose the latest version, unless you have a specific reason to use an older version.

Click on Go to downloads on the right side of the page and finally you will be taken to a page where you can download the latest version for Windows and Linux. Click it Download now next to the Linux version and be sure to note where you save the file.

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Installing VMware Workstation Player on Linux

Unlike other Linux packages, VMware does not create separate packages for different distributions. Once you’ve downloaded the installation bundle, the process is the same on all Linux distributions.

To install VMware, open a terminal and change to the directory where you saved the installer using the cd command. Then enter the following command, replacing the name of the package with the actual name of the file you downloaded:

sudo sh ./VMware-Player-Full-*.bundle

On most systems, the installation process will take a minute or two. When finished, VMware Player should appear in the Applications menu.

Running VMware Player for the first time

The first time you run VMware, it will do one of the following two things. It will either display a dialog stating that it will compile special kernel modules, or an error stating that it cannot find the kernel headers needed to compile the modules.


Some distributions have the kernel headers installed by default, or you may have already installed them as a dependency of other software. If so, you can skip the next step.



VMWare Kernel Header Dialog Box

If you get an error similar to above, click to cancel (using Refresh does not always work), open a terminal and enter the appropriate command depending on the distribution you are using.

For RPM based distributions such as Fedora or CentOS:

sudo dnf install kernel-headers kernel-devel

For Debian based distributions such as Ubuntu or Linux Mint:

sudo apt install linux-headers-$(uname -r)

On Arch Linux and its derivatives:

sudo pacman -S linux-headers

After the installation is complete, run VMware Workstation Player again and it should compile the necessary kernel modules for you without any issues.

Compiling and installing the kernel modules will only take a few moments. VMware will then ask you to accept the terms and conditions. After agreeing to the terms, you will see the VMware main menu. Congratulations, you are now ready to configure your first virtual machine.

Create your first virtual machine with VMware

To create your first virtual machine, you will need installation media for the operating system you want to install. This can be any installation media that you would normally boot from an optical or USB drive.

To demonstrate this, we’ll use the Linux Mint ISO to create a guest VM running on a Fedora Linux host.

To get started, load VMware Workstation Player and select Create a new virtual machine. First, VMware will ask you to select the operating system installation media. You can use an ISO image stored on your hard drive or install it from a real CD / DVD-ROM or USB stick.



VMWare ISO installation selection

Then it will ask you what type of operating system you are going to install. There are options for many different versions of Linux as well as other less common operating systems such as FreeBSD and Solaris. Of course, you can also run Windows and even MacOS in a virtual machine. In our case, Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, so we choose 64-bit Ubuntu.



Selecting the VMWare guest operating system

Related: Top Linux Operating Systems You Should Try In A Virtual Machine

Now select the location where you want to store your guest system’s virtual hard drive and the desired size. You can select any storage location that suits you. It is generally recommended that you allocate at least 20 GB for the virtual hard disk. VMware may recommend different settings depending on the operating system you are installing.



VMware guest configuration

Finally, VMware will display the overall configuration of your new virtual machine. The default settings will generally work fine, but you may be able to achieve better performance by increasing the RAM or the number of processor cores allocated to the guest operating system. However, you should not allocate more than 50% of the actual resources of your computer to the guest system.

If you have difficulty booting your installation media, right-click the virtual machine name in the main menu to change the settings. Usually allocating more RAM or maybe turning off 3D video acceleration will fix the problem. Try to make the virtual hardware settings as “vanilla” as possible.



VMware Linux Mint splash screen

Moments after clicking To finish on the hardware configuration screen, your virtual machine should start.

Your virtual machine is ready to operate

That’s all we can say about it. You have successfully configured your first VMware virtual machine. Simply follow the instructions for the operating system you are installing, and in a matter of minutes you will have a fully functional virtual guest operating system to use as you wish. You can install as many guest systems as you want as long as you have enough free disk space.

Congratulations on setting up your first virtual machine! You will surely find that virtual machines are a useful tool for researching, exploring and experimenting with different types of software.


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