VMware Workstation 8, released in September along with vSphere 5, offers many new features that may make an upgrade
worthwhile. If you do decide to update VMware Workstation, make sure you understand the hardware and OS requirements, cost, and Workstation 8 installation process.
Of course, the first thing to determine before upgrading to VMware Workstation 8 is whether your hardware is supported. It’s pretty relaxed on hardware requirements, but it does require a 64-bit processor. Not running a 64-bit yet? This may be a good excuse to buy that shiny new laptop you have your eyes on. (It’s not necessarily a good idea to use the word “excuse” with your boss/spouse/conscience. I recommend something like: “It is critical to spend this money to achieve X level of productivity improvements for the benefit of the company/family/sanity.”)
These are the basic VMware Workstation 8 hardware requirements:
- 64-bit x86 Processor
- 1.3 GHz or faster core speed
- 2 GB RAM minimum/ 4 GB RAM recommended
- 1 GB minimum available hard disk space for guest operating systems
The host operating systems (both 32-bit and 64-bit) that are currently supported are:
- Windows 7
- Windows Vista
- Windows XP Service Pack 2
- Windows Server 2008
- Windows Server 2003
- Ubuntu 8.04 -11.04
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.0 - 6.1
- CentOS 5.0 - 6.0
- Oracle Linux 5.0 - 6.1
- openSUSE 10.2 - 11.4
- SUSE Linux 10.2 - 11 Service Pack 1
- Mandriva Linux 2008 – 2011
Of course, it’s not a bad idea to exceed the minimum requirements when you put any software to real-world use.
If you decide to update VMware Workstation, here is what you can expect to spend on Workstation 8:
- New purchase (not an upgrade): $199.99
- Upgrade from VMware Workstation 6.x or 7.x: $99.99
- Upgrade from VMware Workstation 7 purchased between Aug. 1, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2011: Free
Once you verify the hardware and OS requirements, it’s time for your VMware Workstation upgrade. You can find the installation software for VMware Workstation 8 on the company’s website. After you download it, close any open applications and double-click on the installation package. This will initiate the installer and prompt you to uninstall VMware Workstation 7 (Figure 1). Select Uninstall.
You will then be prompted to restart in order to complete the removal of VMware Workstation 7. After logging back into your system, you’ll see the following screen (it can take several minutes to display.)
The next option is to choose your Setup Type -- either Typical or Custom. Being an incorrigible tinkerer, I was irresistibly drawn to the Custom option. I recommend this option, as it allows you the maximum flexibility of VMware Workstation 8 installation options.
Once you choose Custom, the installation wizard will display four options of components to install (Figure 3). The first two selections are required. The next two options, Enhanced Keyboard Utility and Visual Studio Plugin, are optional. The Feature Description panel on the right can you help you decide if these components are right for your VMware Workstation upgrade.
The next screen is an important one. In VMware Workstation 8, you have the ability to share VMs. On this screen, you’ll see the default path where the shared VMs will be stored, as well as the listening port the server component will use (Figure 4). The default port is 443, so if port 443 is already in use on your system, you will receive a warning and need to specify another port, such as 8080.
Next is the typical screen for adding shortcuts to the desktop and Start menu. Then, you’ll see the confirmation page to begin the actual VMware Workstation 8 installation. If you want to change any options, this is your chance to go back through the wizard and adjust your settings. If you’re ready to install, click Continue. You will then be prompted to install a license key, which is optional. If you are just installing VMware Workstation 8 to try it out, you can click Skip at this point. There is an option to install the key in the interface later.
And you’re done! You’ll see a screen that the wizard is complete, and you can now restart. If you decide to continue to use VMware Workstation 8 and you didn’t enter a license key, you will be required to buy and enter a license key and register your version. You’ll be reminded to enter a license key when you first power on a VM in VMware Workstation 8 (Figure 5):
Clicking on any of the available options at the VMware Workstation Activation window will take you to the appropriate location.
Having upgraded from VMware Workstation 7 to Workstation 8, I have had no issues opening VMs I had previously created in the earlier version. With all the new features included in VMware Workstation 8, the decision to update VMware Workstation is likely worth your money and time.