VMware Workstation FAQ

Run multiple OSes and create test labs right on your desktop with VMware Workstation. If you want a VMware Workstation upgrade, VMware Workstation 9 is the latest version.

VMware Workstation allows administrators to run multiple operating systems from a single physical machine.

With VMware Workstation, users can create Windows and Linux virtual machines (VMs) and run them directly on their desktops. It also facilitates desktop virtualization and is a popular tool for testing and development labs.

So how can a VMware Workstation upgrade improve your infrastructure? And how does VMware Workstation compare with similar products from other vendors? The answers to these frequently asked questions can help you learn more about VMware Workstation and its potential role in your IT infrastructure.

VMware reported more than 50 improvements and new features when it released Workstation 8 in September 2011, but many IT professionals were content with the stability of their virtualization test-and-development environment in Workstation 7. We answer some common questions about both popular versions of the VMware Workstation platform.

What's new in Workstation 9?

VMware released Workstation 9 in August 2012. Some of Workstation 9's key features will benefit VMware educators, especially password-restricted VM access and the addition of Microsoft's Hyper-V on the guest OS list. Workstation 9 also integrates more closely with production IT environments.

Am I set up for VMware Workstation 8?

The main features of Workstation 8 include support for 64-bit operating systems, integration with vSphere and a more organized graphical user interface than Workstation 7. You need a 64-bit processor and a few other hardware and OS benchmarks, to take advantage of Workstation 8. If a Workstation 8 upgrade satisfies your cost/benefit analysis, follow this step-by-step installation guide.

Can I use Workstation 8 for more than test and development?

Workstation 8 makes it easy to copy a VM to ESXi. Copying only virtual machines that are ready for production maintains an uncluttered ESXi host. Workstation 8 users can copy a VM to an ESXi host, VMware vCenter Server and another Workstation 8 machine. You can also view available resources on an ESX host, for quick decisions about how and where to allocate VMs. These are a few of the tricks for IT admins that want to explore the basic management functionality of Workstation 8.

With Workstation 8, administrators can test hypervisors in 64-bit nested VMs. Users can create a VM, run a hypervisor inside, and then run another nested VM inside the hypervisor. Nested virtualization isn’t limited to ESXi; it also supports Microsoft Hyper-V or other hypervisors. This capability is useful when learning or testing hypervisors.

Should I stay in Workstation 7?

In 2009, VMware released Workstation 7 and, in 2010, followed it up with the Workstation 7.1 upgrade. These versions support Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 as guest OSes, and they even allow admins to pause live VMs. There’s also VMware Player: the free, stripped-down alternative.

VMware Workstation 7 supports Windows 7 in either 32-bit or 64-bit modes, and it also added support for new host and guest OSes. VMware Workstation 7 also offers streamlined software development and testing, the ability to run applications with 3-D graphics and automatic snapshots. Plus, you can pause a VM (instead of suspending it) to quickly free up resources for other VMs or host applications.

What are some lesser-known features in Workstation 7.1?

You might not have noticed Unity and Capture Movie in previous versions, so if you’re new to VMware Workstation 7.1, it’s time to explore these VMware Workstation 7.1 features. Unity integrates the applications running in guest VMs with a host so that they behave as native applications. It also provides greater management flexibility on a desktop. Capture Movie is useful for training purposes. Capture Movie records what's happening on a guest VM's screen and saves it as an AVI file. It’s also easy to edit the video once you’re done.

Can I use VMware Workstation to learn new software?

These days, many administrators find themselves taking on additional responsibilities that require learning new software quickly. VMware Workstation can be an important tool for experimenting with software, particularly because it’s so easy to create and test VMs. Along with VMware virtual appliances, Workstation allows you to focus on the application you need to study rather than bogging you down with installation details.

Which is better: VMware Workstation or Oracle VirtualBox?

A common face-off for host-based virtualization is VMware Workstation vs. Oracle VirtualBox. VMware administrators favor VMware Workstation, but other users gravitate to VirtualBox because it’s open source. VirtualBox includes most of the features included in VMware Workstation, but Workstation offers linked-clones capability. Oracle’s offering also features greater command-line functionality than does VMware Workstation. For some users, the VMware Workstation 7 release makes Workstation more appealing than VirtualBox. Workstation 7 includes the Rewind and Replay feature to diagnose nondeterministic bugs, plus video and VM teaming capabilities.

How can I connect a VM to the Internet with VMware Workstation?

The flexibility of VMware Workstation’s virtual networks is a benefit, but it can also present challenges. It’s especially tricky to connect VMware Workstation guest VMs to the Internet. The Virtual Network Editor helps you configure VMware Workstation networking and connect VMs online. Using the Network Editor, you can bridge networks to a local area network, connect VMs using the Network Address Translation protocol or simply connect VMs to a host. You can also use VMware Workstation to test machines with IP address conflicts, malware or duplicate names.

How can VMware Workstation improve disaster recovery?

If VMware Site Recovery Manager doesn’t fit your IT budget, you can use VMware Workstation for disaster recovery. With just your laptop and VMware Workstation, you can whittle disaster recovery times down to less than an hour. Simply create VMs that include the OS and application functionality needed in a disaster recovery situation, then store them on the laptop's local storage or copy them to USB. Finally, restore failed servers by starting the VMs from the storage device, and assign IP addresses and names.

This was first published in March 2011

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