Would you like to try Linux but don't want to install it on your PC? If you've heard bad things about dual booting, the answer might be to use a virtual machine.
Installing Linux on Windows in a virtual machine is straightforward. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to install Linux on VMware Workstation.
Use a PC that supports virtualization
You tried Linux from a live CD. Now you want to install it but you are not sure about dual booting. The sensible option is to install your chosen Linux operating system in a virtual machine (VM).
A virtual machine is a software environment that simulates the conditions of a hardware environment: a personal computer. The environment is based on the hardware of your physical PC and is only limited by the components it contains. For example, you might not have a quad-core virtual CPU on a two-core processor.
While virtualization can be achieved on many systems, the results are far superior on computers equipped with a CPU that supports it.
Several VM tools make Linux operating system installation easy. VMware produces the most successful applications for virtual machines. Let's find out how to install Linux on Windows using VMware Workstation Player.
Install VMware Workstation Player
First, visit the VMware website and download the latest version of the Workstation Player tool. We are using VMware Workstation 15 Player, which is around 150MB in size for download.
Download: VMware Workstation 15 Player (Free)
VMware Workstation Player is free and available for non-commercial, personal, and home use. Students and nonprofits can also benefit from the free version. In terms of functionality, VMware Workstation Player includes everything you need for standard virtual machine tasks.
However, VMware offers a wide range of virtualization solutions for companies of all levels. For more information on their solutions, see the product page on the website.
After downloading VMware Workstation Player, launch the installer and follow the installation wizard. You'll see the option to install an advanced keyboard driver – although you won't need this one initially, it's worth having.
Continue through the installation wizard and restart Windows when prompted.
Choose your preferred Linux operating system
You probably know which Linux operating system to try out. Some Linux distributions are particularly suitable for running in a VM, but others are not. All 32-bit and 64-bit distributions work in a virtual machine. However, you cannot run Linux distributions for the ARM architecture (like the Raspberry Pi) in VMware.
If you want to emulate an ARM environment in Windows, try QEMU.
However, if you don't know which operating system to choose, here is our regularly updated list of the best Linux distributions.
Create your Linux virtual machine
While your Linux is downloading ISO, it's a good time to start configuring your VM. First start VMware Workstation Player. When you're ready to create a VM:
- click Create a new virtual machine
- Select the default option. Installer Disc Image File (ISO)
- click Search to find the ISO file
- With the "Guest" operating system selected, click Next
- Choose Linux as the guest operating system type
- Under executionScroll through the list and select the operating system
- click Next to continue and enter a if necessary Name of the virtual machine
- Confirm the saving place and change if necessary
With the operating system selected and configured, it is time to create the virtual machine.
- Under Specify the hard drive capacity to adjust Maximum hard drive size if necessary (the standard should be sufficient)
- Choose Split the virtual hard disk into multiple files This makes it easier to move the VM to a new PC
- click Next Then confirm the details on the next screen
- If something seems wrong, click Back, otherwise click Finished
Your Linux virtual machine is added to VMware Workstation Player.
Customize your virtual hardware
In some cases, you may need to customize the virtual machine before installing Linux. Alternatively, you can install the operating system and find that something is missing.
To fix this, right click on your virtual machine in VMware Workstation Player and select the settings.
Here you can optimize the virtual machine's hardware in other ways beyond the hard drive. You have options for that memory, Processors, Network adapter Configuration and much more.
Well worth a look at that Processors Screen. In the right area you will find a reference to a Virtualization engine. By default, this works automatically, but for troubleshooting, set Intel VT-x or AMD-V, depending on your CPU.
You can see performance issues in the memory Screen. Here is an illustration of the suggested RAM size and recommended options for your virtual machine. It is a good idea to follow these recommendations. Getting too small creates a problem. Setting the RAM too high will affect the performance of your PC and slow down everything from standard system tasks to running the VM software!
Finally, take a moment to check that out display the settings. The default settings should be fine. However, if there is a problem with the display, you can toggle the 3D acceleration. Multiple monitors can be used and a custom resolution can be set. Be aware, however, that some modes will conflict with some desktops.
click okay To confirm changes, select the virtual machine and click play Button to begin.
Download and install VMware Tools
You will be prompted to do so the first time you start your virtual machine Download and install VMware Tools for Linux. Agree to that and wait for it to download.
VMware Tools improve virtual machine performance and enable shared folders between host and guest machines.
How to install Linux in VMware
When the ISO starts in the virtual machine, it starts in the live environment. This is a temporary Linux that is only present on the boot media and in system memory. Use the option to make sure the environment persists To install Option on the desktop.
At this point, the installation will continue as if you were installing an operating system on a physical computer. Continue through the installation wizard, creating a user account and setting other options when prompted.
Once the installation is complete, you can log into the Linux virtual machine and use the guest operating system. As simple as that!
How to run Linux in a virtual machine
Now you can start the Linux virtual machine at any time with the play VMware Workstation Player button.
Are you looking for software to install?
Linux often ships with a number of pre-installed applications. However, if you want something different, check out the best Linux apps.
By the way, if all you want to do is get into the Linux terminal, things are a lot easier than installing VMware. Read how to access the bash shell on Windows.
Install any Linux distribution in a Windows virtual machine!
If you want easy access to Linux, the best way to do it is to install it in a virtual machine on Windows. VMware Workstation Player has the best tools for that.
Installing Linux on VMware is easy. Let's go over the steps again:
- Download the free VMware Workstation Player
- Install Windows and restart it
- Create and configure your virtual machine
- Install Linux in the virtual machine
- Reboot the virtual machine and use Linux
It really is that simple. You don't even have to limit your choices to one operating system. Choose from hundreds (if not thousands) of Linux distributions to install in a VMware-based virtual machine.
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About the author
(1395 articles published)
Deputy Editor for Security, Linux, DIY, Programming and Technology explains. He also produces The Really Useful Podcast and has extensive desktop and software support experience.
Christian is an employee of Linux Format Magazine and a Raspberry Pi hobbyist, Lego lover and retro gaming fan.
More from Christian Cawley
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