Many technological freebies mean sacrificing security or performance. VMware Player 5.0 is a free virtualization hypervisor without a lot of baggage. VMware Player requirements are pretty low in version 5, so chances are you can take advantage of the free OS testing tool.
I like free stuff -- sushi samples at the grocery store, free tire repairs when you run over a nail, the wealth of Internet information -- you get the idea. As kids, my friends and I would send away for free, fun things. The anticipation made several weeks waiting for plans on making soup cans into a water pump seem like an eternity.
VMware Player is a free virtualization hypervisor where you create, modify and run guest OSes as virtual machines (VMs) from a Linux or Windows host system. VMware debuted Player a while ago; the current version is 5.0. Use it to test out the latest OSes such as Windows 8, or even run legacy OSes like XP, maintaining access to older systems.
Think of VMware Player as a stripped-down, fast and efficient hypervisor without a lot of complicated options. Player is free for personal, noncommercial use. If you need a more advanced test-and-development tool, purchase VMware Workstation, currently at version 9.
VMware Player requirements
VMware's developers did us a service by keeping Player 5's hardware requirements low. Users likely can try it out using their existing hardware.
- Processor: 1 GHz minimum; 2 GHz recommended.
- Memory: 1 GB RAM minimum; 2 GB RAM recommended. Each additional guest VM requires memory when it's running, so be sure to allocate the resources. When a virtual machine is not running, it won't consume memory.
- Hard drive space: 150 MB to 250 MB, depending on the host OS.
- Networking: Any Ethernet controller that the host OS supports.
Player can be installed on Windows XP/2003 or newer OS and literally dozens of flavors of Linux/Unix. If you want to really dig into your host OS options, go to the VMware Compatibility Guide and select Host OS under "What are you looking for." You'll select Workstation, not Player, in the "Product Name" field; VMware states that Workstation will give you compatible results and therefore does not break out Player separately. Fill in the other fields to narrow down your search.
VMware Player is not designed to co-install with other VMware products. If you already have VMware Workstation or Server installed, an attempt to install Player will abort with a message prompting you to Uninstall Workstation (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. If you have VMware Workstation installed, VMware Player 5 will attempt to remove it.
Incidentally, if you installed Workstation previously, a compatible version of Player was installed already. So, congratulations, you can skip the installation.
Download and install Player 5.0
Once you verify that your host OS meets Player 5.0's minimum requirements, download the tool from VMware.
With the software downloaded, verify its integrity using one of the CHECKSUMS (either the MD5SUM or the SHA1SUM) values listed on the download page. I verified my download using MD5Summer (see Figure 2).
Figure 2. Verify the integrity of the VMware Player 5.0 software before starting your installation.
Start the installation process (see Figure 3) and follow the install wizard. You have the option to change Player's installation path (see Figure 4).
Figure 3. This wizard will walk you through installing Player 5.
Figure 4. Change where VMware Player installs, if you want to, here.
Automatic updates are enabled by default (see Figure 5). I recommend keeping this setting, as it allows Player to check for newer versions, which may add functionality, fix bugs or improve security. The "Learn More" link in the install wizard will give you more information about automatic updates.
Figure 5. Leave automatic updates enabled when installing Player.
The Player install wizard also will prompt you to enroll in the User Experience Improvement Program (see Figure 6). If you're interested, check out the "Learn More" link.
Figure 6. You can enroll in VMware's User Experience Improvement Program.
Once you select which shortcuts you want for VMware Player (see Figure 7), you're ready for installation. This is the last point at which you can go back and make changes (see Figure 8).
Figure 7. VMware gives you a few shortcut options when you install Player.
Figure 8. If you have any second thoughts, go back and change options now.
Now that it's successfully installed, VMware Player 5.0 is ready to use.