How to install VMware Tools - Tutorial


Updated: December 27, 2008

In this article, I will teach you how to install VMware Tools in your virtual machines, so that you can increase the performance of your guest operating systems and use advanced features that VMware products offer.

Unfortunately, it turns out that this seemingly trivial procedure is not as simple as it sounds and has caused quite a bit of pain for many users. Having received a few emails from troubled readers, I decided to write this tutorial.

This article applies to VMware Server and Workstation products. The choice of the host is not important. We'll demonstrate the installation of the VMware Tools both for Linux and Windows guests.

In the next article, we'll talk about VirtualBox and Guest Addons. For much more information about virtualization, I most warmly recommend you read my entire Virtualization section. Let's rock.

Install VMware Tools for Windows guest

This means you have already successfully installed and configured VMware Server or VMware Workstation. This also means you have successfully installed a Windows guest operating system. Now, it's time to enhance it. It's very simple. In the main menu of the VMware (Server) Console, click VM > Install VMware Tools.

Install tools

This will popup an installation wizard inside the guest. This is identical to any other Windows installation. Click Install, follow the menu and that's it. After the installation is complete, reboot.

Wizard

After the reboot, check the system tray. It should have a VMware icon in it, signifying that the VMware Tools are running. Bob's your uncle.

Icon

Install VMware Tools for Linux guest

The below guide is taken from my article Installing Linux Mint - Full tutorial. The procedure is documented in absolute detail on pages 3 and 4 of the tutorial. It covers not only the installation of the tools, it also explains what you need BEFORE you can install the Tools, because some compilation is involved (entirely automatically) and what you can do AFTER the installation, namely add the VMware Tools to the startup of your session, so they start when you login. Now, please note that although the functionality here is demonstrated using Linux Mint, it is perfectly valid for all distributions.

Install VMware Tools

In the File Menu of the VMware Server, choose VM > Install VMware Tools, OK the warning message. This will mount a virtual CD-ROM drive containing the VMware Tools binaries.

Linux Mint install vmware tools

The virtual CD-ROM contains two files - one with the extension .rpm and the other one with .tar.gz. The .rpm stands for RedHat Package Manager and is suitable for RedHat-based distributions. Since Linux Mint is Debian-based, this type of file is not suitable for us (instantly). Nevertheless, even if it were, we want to use the archive (.tar.gz.).

First, we need to extract it. This can be done via command line, as I have demonstrated in my Highly useful Linux commands & configurations article, but we'll do it using the GUI.

Right-click on the file > Extract-To...

Linux Mint vmware tools extract

Choose a destination.

Linux Mint vmware tools destination

After the archive has been extracted, we need to actually install the Tools. This must be done using the command line. First, we need to open a Terminal. The shortcut to Terminal can be easily found in the Menu, under System.

Linux Mint vmware tools terminal

Once we hit the command line, we need to navigate to the directory containing the VMware Tools files. In the relevant directory, we need to locally execute the installation script (wizard). This can be done using the following command.

sudo ./vmware-install.pl

See below in the image; notice the geeky fortune.

Linux Mint vmware tools install

The script is very simple and friendly. It asks questions, with default answers already selected. You will merely need to hit Enter several times - although you should read each step carefully.

After several steps, you'll hit a snag. But don't worry, I led you there deliberately. The purpose of this step is to show you that even when your installation supposedly fails, the workaround is simple and fast.

The reason you see the error below is because the default Linux Mint installation, like most Linux distributions, does not come with all the packages needed for compilation of sources. We will install the missing packages and then repeat the installation of VMware Tools.

If you read carefully, you'll notice that the installer even tells you which packages are missing - gcc, binutils, make, and kernel sources - and where to find them, on the installation CD. This means that even if you don't have a working Internet connection, you'll be able to obtain them.

Linux Mint vmware tools no build essential

This is extremely important because in a real life situation, the missing modules might be the network adapters, for example. Luckily, you would have the sources on the CDs that came with your hardware. But your compilation would fail, for the same reason the installation of VMware Tools failed. Without a working Internet connection, you would not be able to find the sources using the Synaptic Package Manager. If they were not included on the CD, you would have been stuck.

The missing tools can be found and installed using either the command line or the GUI. I'll show you both ways.

Install packages necessary for compilation

First, we will launch Synaptic (System > Package Manager).

Linux Mint Synaptic

Next, we will search for the missing packages and mark them for installation. After you find the right packages, right-click > Mark for installation.

Linux Mint gcc

Linux Mint binutils

Linux Mint select binutils

After all the packages are installed successfully, start the installation of VMware Tools again. This time, you should get no error messages and it should work.

Linux Mint vmware tools done

You can simply restart the X session (Ctrl + Alt + Backspace) and the network service (sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart) for the relevant changes to take effect. Or if you feel uncomfortable, you can simply reboot the machine.

It is important to remember that the VMware Tools offer you to change the resolution. This is what we aimed for, among other things. Indeed, after you restart, you should enjoy the normal-sized desktop. Don't mind the lack of the bottom panel, I took the screenshot while the desktop was loading.

Linux Mint normal-sized desktop

Now, we could have also installed all of the missing packages (gcc, binutils, make, kernel sources) with one simple command in the Terminal:

sudo apt-get install build-essential

See in the image below:

Linux Mint apt-get built essential

This comes to show that the command line is often simpler and faster - and should not be feared!

Setup VMware Tools to start with your session

Lastly, you might want to setup the VMware Toolbox. This toolbox allows you to synchronize time, the clipboard and the mouse movement between the host and the guest. It will not run by default. You can manually invoke it - or add it to auto-start with the session. Manually, just type in Terminal:

vmware-toolbox

Alternatively, add the VMware Toolbox to your session. Click on Menu > Preferences > Sessions.

Linux Mint sessions

Under Startup Programs tab, you can see all the programs currently listed and enabled for all sessions. This is what we need. You can also configure your Current Session and general Session Options, but that's another subject.

Click Add to create a new Startup Program.

Linux Mint sessions add new

Now, give the new entry a Name (e.g. VMware Toolbox), the Command (path to command) and an optional Comment, which can help you (or others) understand what the program does.

The path to VMware Toolbox is /usr/bin/vmware-toolbox - unless you specified a different path during the installation. If you're unsure, you can always look for the vmware-toolbox binary in several ways:

First, start typing vmware in the Terminal and tap the Tab key twice. This will suggest all possible commands starting with vmware, located in your PATH. The path is a list of all directories where the system expects to find programs.

Once you've found the command you like (vmware-toolbox), you can use the which command to see where it's installed.

which vmware-toolbox

You can also use the find and locate commands to look for vmware-toolbox.

cd /
find . -name vmware-toolbox

For locate:

sudo updatedb <-- this will update the database
locate vmware-toolbox

Once satisfied, type in the path to the vmware-toolbox binary (executable).

Linux Mint sessions vmware toolbox

Now, once you restart the machine or manually run the Toolbox, you will see the VMware Tools Properties window come up, with all the relevant options that can be setup. In order to enjoy the extras, you must keep the VMware Toolbox running (most likely minimized).

Scripts and Shrink require root permissions.

Linux Mint vmware toolbox

Conclusion

Installing VMware Tools is a trivial task on Windows. On Linux, it takes quite a bit of work. But if you're familiar with all the steps you need to take, it takes only about 5 minutes.

Linux-wise, this tutorial also teaches you the art of fiddling with archives, running command-line scripts, installing build-essential packages, compiling, and configuring the startup sessions. All these are valuable lessons useful in everyday computing.

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial.

Cheers.

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