Many of you will undoubtedly have heard of VMware, but for those who have not, here is a little introduction:
VMware is powerful desktop virtualization software for software developers/testers and enterprise IT professionals that runs multiple operating systems simultaneously on a single PC.
But you can erase that bit about it being for "software developers/testers" and "enterprise IT professionals", because I'm going to show you just how simple running another x86 Operating System on your PC is.

VMware Workstation has always been (and still is) a commercial product, and you have to pay a fairly large sum to get your hands on it, but VMware have now released a free application dubbed "VMware Player", which can run virtual machines produced by VMware and a few other companies. Yet, with some simple hacks, we can use VMware Player to run any x86 Operating System we like - and the best part is that this is in compliance with the EULA!


  1. VMware Player, which can be downloaded from
  2., which we will use to install the Operating System.
  3. Either the .iso of the install CD for the Operating System you would like to run, or its CD.

With these, you can be running a second OS in no time (hint: no dual-booting required :P)

Getting the OS up and running

First of all, install VMware Player onto your computer - it is available for both Windows and Linux.

Then, once you have done that, expand the file you downloaded. A directory called "OS" should be created, and inside it there will be two files: OS.vmdk and OS.vmx. Switch to that directory and open up OS.vmx in your favourite text editor.

The third line in that file is: memsize = "512". Here you can set how many MBs of your RAM you would like VMware Player to take up when running your Operating System. I have set it to 512MB, which is at my disposal, yet you really only need about 128-256MB for the average Linux distribution. As my Operating System, I have decided to install Mandriva Linux 2006 (which I have the DVD .iso of).

So, having put the .iso for it (Mandriva-Linux-Free-DVD.i586.iso) in my C:\ directory, I reopen the OS.vmx file. Here, in the line that reads:
ide1:0.fileName = "c:\image.iso" I would change it to:
ide1:0.fileName = "c:\Mandriva-Linux-Free-DVD.i586.iso"
If you have, for example, the Ubuntu install CD .iso (let's call it Ubuntu-5.10.iso), place it in your C:\ directory. Then, alter the line in OS.vmx from
ide1:0.fileName = "c:\image.iso" to
ide1:0.fileName = "c:\Ubuntu-5.10.iso".
Note: If you would like to install an Operating System via your CD-ROM drive, then edit the OS.vmx file, replacing the following lines:

ide1:0.present = "TRUE"
ide1:0.fileName = "c:\image.iso"
ide1:0.deviceType = "cdrom-image"

with these:

ide1:0.present = "TRUE"
ide1:0.fileName = "auto detect"
ide1:0.deviceType = "cdrom-raw"
Ok, now that you've configured how much of your RAM you would like to dedicate to this process and pointed it to the correct .iso/CD drive, it's time for some action.

Open up the OS.vmx file in VMware Player, and you should see something like this to begin with:

Vm-startup screenshot

Make sure the CD-ROM button along the top bar is pressed, and as soon as the above screen (Vm-startup) appears press Esc. That will take to you a list of bootable devices, and on this list go down to "CD-ROM" and hit Enter.

Now, VMware Player will go to the "CD-ROM drive" (which you have pointed to either a .iso or the drive itself), and so the installation of the Operating System will begin. A hint: do not be afraid to let the OS format the "hard drive" and automatically partition it within the virtual machine, because all it will be affecting is the OS.vmdk file - which will expand as you go storing more information on it (and is a maximum of 107GB).
Here's a screenshot of mine in progress:

Vm-install screenshot

And, the finished result:

Vm-mandriva screenshot

Excellent - now you can make your own virtual machines! There are also a few prebuilt ones available for download on VMware's Virtual Machine Centre.

So, a simple way to use Linux at work when your boss isn't looking!



Extra Note:

Some Operating Systems require more than one CD to be installed (example: FreeBSD). This is not a problem when you have the actual CDs, but when you plan to install the OS from a group of ISOs, the situation becomes slightly more problematic. Here is what you can do (FreeBSD is being used as an example):

Change the .vmx file to read:

ide1:0.present = "TRUE"
ide1:0.fileName = "c:\FreeBSD.iso"
ide1:0.deviceType = "cdrom-image"

Then do the following:

Move the first FreeBSD ISO to your C:\ directory (or /home/user/ for Linux users), and rename it from "6.0-RELEASE-i386-disc1.iso" to "FreeBSD.iso". Good, now boot up VMware Player and install it as you would any other OS; but, when the installer asks you to insert the second CD, remove FreeBSD.iso from the C:\ directory and copy the second ISO there. Then, rename the second ISO ("6.0-RELEASE-i386-disc2.iso") to FreeBSD.iso, and press Enter to continue the installation. Voilą!

View my original article