Some quick tips for VMware Beginners

16 Sep 2008   ::   System Administration   ::   #vmware #virtualization



This guide was originally created to help undergraduates at a university get acquainted with VMware. It provides a very light overview of commands and important concepts for VMware. If you are already familiar with VMware, you may still wish to skim this document quickly.

Getting VMware at home

VMware has totally free versions that will run on Windows, Linux, and Mac.

You will need to register, but it’s free to get (you must register to get your serial key). Download and Register at the VMWARE site.

You can also download the VMware Player, but if you want to make your own VMs, go with VMware Server. I would also recommend using a version 1 release of VMware Server, it is slightly easier to use and still seems to be supported.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Full List at:

Some of the more important keyboard commands

Use this key combination anytime you would normally use Ctrl+Alt+Delete. Ctrl+Alt+Delete always sends the signal to your host machine, not to your VM, VMware will usually catch the signal and tell you to use C+A+Insert instead
When you are "stuck" inside of a VM this will free you. In this case, "stuck" means that your mouse cannot escape from the VMware guest operating system to other windows on your host machine. This will often happen when you are running a Linux VM without VMware Tools installed. To learn more see the manual (, page 113.

Quick Hints

  • When creating a new VM for a Linux Distribution not listed, do not simply select Red Hat or the first option, you should choose one of the generic options, usually Generic 2.6.X Kernel for most current distributions.
  • When you are creating a VM, you usually want to leave it at the default size (usually 8GB), by default VMware uses a disk type that will not occupy the full 8GB on your hard drive or shared drive, the VM only gets as big as it needs, up to the maximum you specified in creation. It is possible to resize a VM, but it’s not really “fun” to do, so overestimate and don’t select a fixed disk size unless you are sure you want this.

How to Save my Virtual Machines: Stopping, Pausing, & Snapshots

A screenshot of the VMWARE Toolbar


When it is time to leave the lab, you can pause your VM. This is very similar to going into sleep mode in Vista. Your entire VM state is saved, your memory is dumped to a file, and you can un-pause the machine later and start right where you were. This is great if you are in the middle of doing something, but have to leave for another class. You can pause the VM at any time, even during OS installations. When you return to your VM, you can un-pause and after a short load period (usually less than one minute) you can start working again). You can pause your VM at any time by hitting the pause button, which is the second icon on the toolbar. In order to un-pause click the play button.


A snapshot is very similar to a System Restore Point in Windows - except better. If you are about to do something that could potentially crash your machine, corrupt files, or may otherwise cause you trouble later, you will want to create a snapshot! You can make multiple snap shots too. For example before you do a major system change you make a snap shot. After successfully getting through the change, you can make another snapshot to save the progress you have made before you go on to try new ways to crash your system. To create a snapshot use the fifth button on the toolbar. To load a saved snapshot, use the sixth button.

Caveat: The free VMware Server you can download at home does not have as robust of a snapshot manager as VMware Workstation.

Related Links * Snapshot Overview * Getting rid of all snapshots

Creating a Linked Clone

Useful Documentation

Non-essential, but may be useful

Learn more about virtualization

If you are new to virtualization, you may want to learn about other virtualization technologies

Each of the above has certain strengths and advantages in terms of cost, popularity, efficiency, and code openness. There are many other OS level virtualization packages you can experiment with, see a list at Wikipedia.