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You’ve tried Linux from a live CD How to Build Your Own Bootable Linux Live CD How to Build Your Own Bootable Linux Live CD It's easy to create a DIY bootable live CD in Linux, using third-party tools or official Linux operating systems. Need help? Follow these steps to create a Linux Live CD in minutes. Read More . Now you want to install it, but you’re unsure about dual booting. The sensible option is to install your chosen Linux operating system in a virtual machine (VM).

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.


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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.

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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 Top 5 Linux Operating Systems You Should Try in a Virtual Machine Top 5 Linux Operating Systems You Should Try in a Virtual Machine Five Linux operating system distributions are particularly suitable for running virtual machines, so let's take a look at them. Read More , 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 How to Emulate a Raspberry Pi on Your PC How to Emulate a Raspberry Pi on Your PC Rather than buy a Raspberry Pi and be disappointed, why not try the QEMU emulator to get a feel for it first? Read More .

If you don’t know which OS to choose, however, you’ll find our regularly-updated list of the best Linux distributions here The Best Linux Operating Systems The Best Linux Operating Systems There are many Linux distributions available for a number of different purposes, which makes it difficult to choose at times. Here's a list of the very best to help you decide. Read More .

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

vmware linux config

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.

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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 Ubuntu: A Beginner's Guide Ubuntu: A Beginner's Guide Curious about Ubuntu, but not sure where to start? Start here: "Ubuntu: An Absolute Beginner's Guide" will teach you everything you need to know about Ubuntu in easy-to-understand language. Read More , and if you’re looking software, try our list of the best Linux apps The Best Linux Software The Best Linux Software Linux is full of awesome apps, both open source and proprietary. People new to Linux and even seasoned Linux users tend to find new and useful software quite often. Here's what we love. Read More .

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:

  1. Download the free VMware Workstation Player.
  2. Install, and restart Windows.
  3. Create and configure your virtual machine.
  4. Install Linux in the virtual machine.
  5. 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 7 Practical Reasons to Start Using a Virtual Machine 7 Practical Reasons to Start Using a Virtual Machine The term "virtual" has been co-opted in so many ways. Virtual reality. Virtual RAM. Virtual schools. But Virtualization in the context of PCs can be confusing. We're here to clear it up. Read More . You don’t have to stop there: Windows and macOS can also be installed as virtual machines How to Run macOS on Windows 10 in a Virtual Machine How to Run macOS on Windows 10 in a Virtual Machine The best way to try a new operating system is with a virtual machine installed on your existing OS. Here's how to run macOS Sierra on Windows 10 (i.e. create a virtual Hackintosh). Read More .

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.

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  1. dave
    August 28, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    What is the difference between VMware Workstation Player and Virtual Box? I use VBox and love it but there must be a reason they would have the VMware Workstation Player product too.

  2. Gordon
    August 17, 2017 at 7:19 am

    Wrong way round. Install Windows in a VM on Linux. That way, when you get a virus in Windows, it won't hose the entire system.

  3. William
    August 16, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    Great article, but so much easier, long term... Ditch Windows completely and just run Linux. If you really need windows... Sorry. I used Linux for years but now run a Chromebook exclusively. Easy life! Fast, stable and.... We actually install and maintain satellite internet systems. Most work is done in a browser. Haven't needed windows complexity in years.

  4. Eric Thomas
    August 16, 2017 at 9:55 pm

    What's with the spammy links?