Installing a hypervisor like VMware can seem intimidating if you’ve never done it before, but in truth, the process isn’t very different from installing any other application. Much like program installation, you must first ensure that certain requirements are met, both in terms of specs and compatibility.
The rest of the process is fairly straightforward, but there are a few minor errors users often run into along the way. As such, we’ve detailed the full steps for installing VMware on various Linux distributions and troubleshooting common issues that you may encounter in the process.
Table of Contents
Prerequisites For Installing VMware
First of all, VMware support is only limited to the latest few versions of certain Linux distros. If you’re on a recent version of a popular distro like Ubuntu or Fedora, you needn’t worry about this. But on more niche distros, you should first confirm that VMware is actually compatible with them as host operating systems.
Second, you’ll want to ensure Virtualization is enabled in the BIOS. Here’s how you can do this:
- Power on your computer and press the BIOS key shown on the screen (Fn keys or Del).
- An alternative method is to bring up the GNU GRUB menu first. With BIOS, press and hold Shift. With UEFI, press Esc a few times when booting. Either way, in the GRUB menu, select the Firmware Settings option.
- In the BIOS, go to the Advanced or CPU Configuration tabs and locate the Virtualization option. (AMD-V, SVM, Intel VT-x, VT-d, etc.)
- Enable Virtualization and press the key shown on the screen (usually F10) to save the changes and exit.
How to Install VMware on Linux
Installing a hypervisor like VMware can seem intimidating if you’ve never done it before, but in truth, the process is the same as installing any other application. Here are the full steps applicable to various distros:
- First, download the VMware bundle from the official site.
- Go to the directory where the bundle was downloaded, right-click the file, and select Properties.
- Copy or note down the full name.
- Right-click anywhere and select Open In Terminal.
- Now, type
sudo sh ./VMware.bundle.
- Replace <VMware.bundle> with the full name from Step 3 and execute the command.
- After the installation is complete, enter
vmplayerto run Workstation Pro and Player, respectively.
- Depending on the system, VMware might not open, and you might instead receive a message about missing kernel headers or a similar issue. In such cases, you can check the troubleshooting section further below. But if you don’t get any such prompts, you can just continue with the steps listed directly below.
- Launch VMware, accept the license agreement terms, and press Next.
- Specify the update and CEIP preferences and press Next.
- Specify whether you’re using VMware for commercial or non-commercial use, and press Finish.
- If you’re new to VMware, we recommend checking out our detailed guide on using VMware at this point. It covers a number of useful topics, including how to create your first virtual machine and install a guest OS.
If you ever want to uninstall VMware, you can use the following commands for Workstation Player and Pro, respectively:
sudo vmware-installer -u vmware-player
sudo vmware-installer -u vmware-workstation
In some cases, you might have to use the full path for
vmware-installer as such:
Troubleshooting Installation Issues
Users commonly face problems with the installation due to missing kernel headers, packages, or an incompatible kernel version. If you’re prompted to update the kernel headers, cancel the prompt and use the following commands as appropriate to update them:
- On Debian-derivatives:
sudo apt install linux-headers-$(uname -r)
- On Fedora-based distros:
sudo dnf install kernel-headers kernel-devel
- On Arch-based distros:
sudo pacman -S linux-headers
Similarly, you may also need to install a build-essential or similar set of packages. Here’s how you can do this:
- On Debian-derivatives:
sudo apt install -y build-essential
- On Fedora or RHEL-based distros:
sudo dnf group install "Development Tools"
sudo yum groupinstall "Development tools"
- On Arch-based distros:
sudo pacman -Sy base-devel
Although rare, on rolling distros like Kali, the setup file may not support the latest kernels, leading to errors. In such cases, you can check if the devs have provided a patch, or you can try reverting the kernel. For instance, on Ubuntu, you can hold Shift when booting to enter GRUB, select Advanced Options for Ubuntu, and select the kernel version to use.
Finally, there are countless distribution-specific issues that you could encounter aside from the ones we’ve already discussed. We recommend checking the distro wiki for the VMware section in such cases, as you’ll find the most common ones already resolved and documented.
Install VMware Tools on Linux Guest
Most Linux guests include Open VM Tools by default, which is an open-source implementation of VMware Tools for Linux distributions. The
open-vm-tools package is generally installed out-of-the-box, but you can also install it manually with either of the following commands:
- On Debian-based distros:
sudo apt-get install open-vm-tools-desktop
sudo apt-get install open-vm-tools
- On RPM-based distros:
sudo yum install open-vm-tools-desktop
sudo yum install open-vm-tools
- On Arch and its derivatives, use
sudo pacman -S open-vm-toolsand start or enable
You can also manually install VMware Tools if you want, but do note that every time the Linux kernel is updated, VMware tools must be reinstalled. Also, VMware Tools requires that some dependencies be available on the Linux guest before it can be installed. These include gcc, binutils, make, and kernel sources. You should refer to the distro-specific documentation for further details on this. But with all that said, here are the necessary steps:
- Power on the VM and ensure the guest OS is running.
- Select VM > Install VMware Tools or Player > Manage > Install VMware Tools.
- Create a mount point with
sudo mkdir /mnt/cdrom.
- Now mount the CD-ROM with either of the following:
sudo mount /dev/cdrom /mnt/cdrom
sudo mount /dev/sr0 /mnt/cdrom
- Check the file name of the VMware Tools bundle with
- Type one of the following commands depending on which format the bundle is in:
tar zxpf /mnt/cdrom/VMwareTools-version.tar.gz -C
tar zxpf /mnt/cdrom/VmwareTools-version.tgz -C
- Replace <version> with the actual version from Step 6 and execute the command.
- Use the following commands to cd to VMware Tools distribution and install VMware tools:
- Alternatively, to install using RPM, copy the following command, replace <version> as done earlier, and execute the command:
rpm -ivh /mnt/cdrom/VMwareTools-version.rpm
- You can press Enter to accept the default configurations or enter your own values as you prefer. You can also follow the on-screen instructions to finish the installation or use
sudo rebootto take care of the final touches automatically.
- Also, the config file generally autoruns after the installation. But at a later point, you can also use the
/usr/bin/vmware-config-tools.plcommand to configure VMware Tools for your running kernel.
- Finally, if necessary, you can use
umount /mnt/cdromto unmount the CD-ROM and select VM > Guest > End VMware Tools Install.