This means that a software environment replicates the conditions of a hardware environment: a personal computer. The environment is based on the hardware of your physical PC and limited only by the components within. For instance, you couldn’t have a virtual four core CPU on a processor with two cores.
However, while virtualization can be achieved on many systems, the results will be far superior on computers equipped with a CPU that supports it.
Several virtualization tools are available that make it easy to install Linux operating systems (OS) and there are many in Windows.
VMware produces the most accomplished virtual machine applications. Let’s find out how to install Linux in Windows with VMware Workstation Player.
Install VMware Workstation Player
To start, head to the VMware website and download the latest version of their Workstation Player tool. At the time of writing, this is version 12.5 and is around 80 MB for the 64-bit version.
VMware Workstation Player is free and available as an evaluation version non-commercial, personal, and home use. VMware is also happy for students and non-profit organizations to benefit from the free version. In terms of functionality, VMware Workstation Player includes everything you could need for the standard virtual machine tasks. However, VMware offers a wide selection of virtualization solutions aimed at businesses of all levels, which you’ll find information about on the website’s product page.
Once VMware Workstation Player has downloaded, it’s time to install. A standard installation wizard will guide you through, with the option of installing an Enhanced Keyboard Driver. This feature offers better handling of international keyboards. You probably won’t need it initially, but it’s worth installing, just in case. Proceed through the installation wizard, and restart Windows when prompted.
Choose Your Preferred Linux OS
You probably know which Linux OS you want to try. Some Linux distros are particularly suited to running in a VM, but others are not. As a rule of thumb, you cannot run Linux distros for ARM architecture (such as the Raspberry Pi) in VMware.
This is because ARM cannot be virtualized with the x86 and x64. However, it can be emulated. Should you want to emulate an ARM environment in Windows, take a look at QEMU. We’ve previously demonstrated how to emulate the Raspberry Pi OS Raspbian in QEMU.
If you don’t know which OS to choose, however, you’ll find our regularly-updated list of the best Linux distributions here.
Configure Your Virtual Machine
While your Linux ISO downloads, it’s a good time to start configuring your VM. Start by launching VMware Workstation Player and inputting your email address when prompted. This is part of the deal of getting the software for free: you accept addition to the VMware email list.
Once this is done, the main VMware Workstation Player app will load. Click Create a New Virtual Machine to proceed. Select the default option, Installer disc image file (iso). (It is possible to simply create a virtual system with a blank hard disk using the I will install the operating system later option.)
With the OS you plan to install (known as the “guest” OS) selected, click Next. Look out for a message about VMware Easy Install, which will automate the installation of your chosen guest OS.
Create an Account
In the next screen, enter your preferred name, username, and password, click Next, and give the VM a name. Default names often follow the name of the OS you’re installing. You can also select a location for the VM.
Click Next once again and select the VM’s disk capacity. This is a virtual hard disk that will be saved on your computer’s physical disk as a file or series of files. You can choose either option. Meanwhile, a recommended size will be used for your virtual HDD, which you can choose to accept or alter. Increasing is a safer option than shrinking! Whatever your choice, click Next, to see the “Ready to create virtual machine” screen, and the option to Finish. Click on this, and as long as Power on this virtual machine after creation is checked, the VM will start.
Shortly after, you’ll see an alert, suggesting the installation of the VMware Tools for Linux package. This isn’t necessary, but it’s part of the Easy Install procedure. It’s best to agree to this, so click OK.
Customize Your Virtual Hardware
Another option on the “Ready to create…” screen is to Customize Hardware. Here, you can tweak the virtual machine’s hardware in other ways beyond the HDD. You have options for the Memory, Processors, Network Adaptor configuration, and much more.
It’s worth taking a look at the Processors screen. In the right-hand pane, you’ll spot a reference to a Virtualization engine. By default, this is set to Automatic. In most cases, this should be fine (certainly for Linux), but if you run into any problems, try setting this to one of the alternatives (such as Intel VT-x).
Address performance issues in the Memory screen. Here you’ll spot an illustration of the suggested RAM size, as well as a recommended minimum and maximum for your virtual machine. It’s a good idea to stick to these recommendations. Going too small will prove a problem, while setting the RAM too high will impact on your PC’s performance, slowing everything from standard system tasks to running the VM software!
Finally, spare a moment to check the Display settings. Here, you’ll be able to toggle 3D acceleration and decide whether you’re going to use the monitor settings of the host computer or set up multiple monitors in your virtual machine. Graphics memory can also be adjusted — as with system memory for the guest OS, a recommended amount is displayed.
Install and Use Linux in VMware Workstation Player
When the ISO boots in the virtual machine, it will appear as if you’re installing an OS on a physical desktop machine. Using the Easy Install method will completely automate this, using your Windows host OS configuration to apply regional settings in the virtual, guest OS.
Note that if you selected the I will install the operating system later option, you’ll have full control over the OS installation.
With Easy Install, once the installation is complete, you’ll be able to log into the virtual machine and start using the guest OS. It’s that simple!
Subsequently, you can launch the VM using the Open a Virtual Machine menu.
If you’ve never used Linux before, meanwhile, take a look at the many guides to Linux OS here on MakeUseOf. We’ve also produced an in-depth beginners guide to Ubuntu, and if you’re looking software, try our list of the best Linux apps.
Run Any Linux Distro in a Virtual Machine on Windows!
If you want to keep a Linux distro within easy reach, the best option is to install it in a virtual machine in Windows. VMware Workstation Player provides the best tools for doing just that. Better still, the process is straightforward:
- Download the free VMware Workstation Player.
- Install, and restart Windows.
- Create and configure your virtual machine.
- Install Linux in the virtual machine.
- Restart the virtual machine and use Linux.
It really is that simple. You don’t even have to limit your choice to one OS. Choose from hundreds (if not thousands) of Linux distros, which you can install in a VMware-based virtual machine. You don’t have to stop there: Windows and macOS can also be installed as virtual machines.
Have you used VMware Workstation Player for your Linux VM? Planning to install Linux as a virtual machine inside Windows? Or do you prefer dual booting? Tell us in the comments.