Sunday, February 15, 2009

A quick update on installing and running VMware Server on Vista 32-bit

I had only very minor experience with VMware, having only firsthand experience with it on an iMac with VMware Fusion beta installed. The iMac ran Mac OS X 10.4 and VMware Fusion was used to host a Windows XP guest OS. It ran very slowly, possibly due to the lack of Intel VT-x (Virtualization Technology) on the model of Intel Core 2 Duo. Also, the iMac only had 1 GB of RAM.

In early February, 2009, I was compelled to install VMware on my laptop to run a Linux server environment. The laptop is an ASUS F8Sn-B1 with an Intel T8100 and 3GB of RAM. My hope was that performance on this machine would not be a problem.

This is just a distillation of some of the issues I discovered while preparing to do the installation. There are several VMware Products, it used to be that the versions you wanted to download were the beta versions (Fusion for Mac, or Server beta). Those versions you could download, install, and run a VMware host for free indefinitely. Now, VMware Server 2.0 is out of beta. The version available at the time is 2.0.0 build 122956 and it is a simple matter to register at to download this free version.
With this new release there are now only a few things to be careful of during installation. The beta versions had a lot more problems even though this latest version still doesn't officially support Vista as a host.
1. Before installation, reboot your machine to allow the installation of unsigned drivers. You will have to hold F8 or F5 or in my laptop's case, repeatedly hit F1 right after the BIOS POST beep to enter the Windows Boot Advanced Options Menu. Once there choose: Disable Driver Signature Enforcement. Links to references:
2. Disable UAC (User Account Control) and any overprotective antivirus software prior to installation.

I had basically very few problems installing and getting VMware Server running a guest OS. Compared to the multitude of problems other people have had trying to run the beta versions, my experience was a breeze. I didn't have any "freeze" up issues or virtual memory problems that others had. Performance for me has been wonderful and much faster than on the iMac setup I tried earlier. The non-beta release really seems to be a step in the right direction.

Other references:
VMware on Vista Lameness
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