Monday, July 09, 2007

VMWare Tips & Tricks

I've been using VMWare Workstation for several years now (after dumping VirtualPC when Microsoft bought them and promptly dropped support for Linux guest OS integration). As part of my recent upgrade to Windows Vista, I upgraded to VMWare Workstation 6.0 and had to re-enable all of my tricks to get everything working the way I like within the OS (and I had to find them all again as I hadn't written them down as I discovered them previously).

So, this time, I've decided to document them here so that others could benefit from them (and so I had them lying about for the next time I have to do the same). They are listed here in order of discovery (as opposed to any semblance of an order of importance). I will continue to come back to this and add new things from time to time as I run across them. If there's something of interest you thing should be added, let me know.

My configuration is that I have a Windows Vista host OS and two guest VMs, one running Windows XP Pro (as that is necessary for correct operation of many of our corporate tools), and one running Fedora Linux (where I do some open source development).

  • ctrl-alt-del shuts down guest OS

    I am using a windows host and I always lock the screen when I leave my desk/computer. Sometimes I happen to be in my linux VM at the time and this causes the linux system to log me out and/or shutdown, neither of which I appreciate, especially if I have lots of work in progress. I could figure out how to stop this within Linux, but I really just want VMWare to ignore the ctrl-alt-del and let me send one explicitly there if I need to.

    I achieved this by adding the line:

    mks.ctlAltDel.ignore = "TRUE"
    to the "C:\Users\All Users\VMware\VMware Workstation\config.ini" file. This tells the VMWare to ignore the ctrl-alt-del and so the client's don't see it. If I want to send a ctrl-alt-del to the client, I use the VMWare defined ctrl-alt-ins combo.

  • Shared Folders are slow in Windows XP Guest

    My Windows XP guest was extremely slow in accessing shared folders (to the point that I didn't want to use them). At first I just thought this was normal, but then after a quick google search, I found this :

    1) Create a text file called 'lmhosts' in the folder 
       C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc - if it doesn't already 
       exist. If it does, simply edit it.
    2) Add the following line:
    3) Save the file. 

    This is done in the Guest OS and it worked like a charm, though I didn't consistently have the slowness problem before implementing this and didn't study it long enough to figure out the specific mixture of circumstances to cause the problem. Implementing this fix got rid of the problem in all situations (so far).

  • Text input cursor icon disappears in Win XP guest

    In my windows XP guest, the standard I-Beam text input mouse cursor icon (the one that is used when the mouse is over a text input field such as a field entry, or an edit box) would not show up. I would be left without an indication of where my cursor was. At first, with just editing some forms, this was just an annoyance, but later, when I went to edit a document or an email message, it was downright painful.

    I first tried fixing this by changing the cursor icon. This worked in some cases, but left the most important (editing docs/emails) still broken. Some more searching (and this took a bit of work) and I found the right article in VMWare's forum which included:

    In the guest, try dropping the display hardware acceleration down a notch.
    Start->Settings->Control Panel->Display
    Settings->Advanced->Troubleshoot->Hardware acceleration

    Note that there's also a "Troubleshoot" button on the Settings Tab. This isn't the one, you want to use the Advanced button and then go to the Troubleshoot tab.

    For me, dropping it down one notch (to turn off some of the acceleration of the cursor operations) was all that was needed.

  • Printing from a Windows XP Guest

    Printing from my Windows XP host was a problem as I would sometimes be connected to the corporate VPN and sometimes not. While on the VPN, the printers on the system's local network were not available from the guest as the connection to the physical network was through a NATed VMNet and thus two levels away from the guest.

    I worked around this by sharing the printer from my host OS and then using the host-host VMNet to access that "network" printer -- which was a local connection and thus allowed under our VPN configuration. This works whether or not the VPN is up and running.

  • Conflict between Communicator and VMNet setup

    In my Windows XP guest, I was unable to connect to our company's Microsoft Office Communicator SIP server. Playing around with this for a while, I was able to determine that the problem was related to my host-only VMNet. Disabling the VMNet allowed Communicator to connect, enable it and Communicator would again fail to connect.

    The problem was that the DHCP server was setting a DNS server in the guest host and the failure of that DNS host was causing the problems (probably timing) for Communicator. So, I disabled DHCP on that connection and hard-coded an IP address for the host and guest OSs manually and did *not* specify DNS servers for that connection (didn't need them) and voila, it all worked fine.

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Gerald Beuchelt said...

Here is one if you should ever need to extend the System drive of your Windows Guests

TShepherd said...

Why don't you try pressing Windows + L to lock your machine? This avoids sending a CTRL+ALT+DEL at all.

Conor P. Cahill said...

It's one of those old dog/new tricks things. I've been doing ctrl-alt-del for so long that it's hard to stop myself.

Jeff Bailey said...

I don't understand why people always recommend using the complicated method of using diskpart etc to extend a vmware drive. For me, I use the Freely available VMware Converter and convert the old VM into a new one with a larger hard drive.

Sushy said...

I installed vmware server on my vista home premium, and used the windows XP guest that i had already setup.

The problem that im facing is, there is no communication between the guest and the host, either ways.

Would be great if you can suggest me where to look at..

Thanks in advance

Conor P. Cahill said...

I guess this depends upon what communications you want between the two.

If you want shared folders and/or copy/paste between the two, you need to install vmware tools in the guest.

If you want to do some form of network communications, you need to use one of the VMNet adaptors in the guest to communicate with the host, but you typically will run into initial problems with firewalls that will require some configuration to get around.

I usually turn off the firewall while setting something up and then turn it back on afterwards and deal with any problems that crop up since you know at that point it's in the firewall.

Sushy said...

thanks for the response. I am using a host-only connection. All i want to do is to share some files. I did not have any problems when my host was windows XP.

Anyways will try to shutdown the firewall and see whether it works.

Thanks again, Conor

Conor P. Cahill said...

If you're just trying to share files, the best way to do that (IMHO) is to use the shared folders capability. I make my HOST OS folders visible in my guest as a mounted filesystem and copy things back/forth using that -- it's much faster and easier than using network based sharing.

gaurav said...


I am using Linux RHEL-4 as guest operating ssystem. I have set up VMWare as host only. I am not able to connect to guest operating system on VPN.

Any ideas ???

Thanks in advance,