Get started Bring yourself up to speed with our introductory content.

VMware ThinApp explained

Application virtualization with VMware ThinApp can offer many advantages, especially around flexibility and security. But VMware ThinApp isn't a good fit for all applications.

By Mak King, Contributor

VMware ThinApp is a tool that allows you to virtualize applications.

The concept of server virtualization -- converting the operating system and applications into a set of files and abstracting them from the physical hardware -- is a well-understood technology. Now, simply move the concept up one more level, and you have application virtualization: converting an entire application to a single executable file and abstracting it from the base operating system.

VMware ThinApp pros and cons
Application virtualization with VMware ThinApp has many advantages:

  • Virtual applications can run on multiple operating systems.
  • Applications are separate from each other, thus avoiding possible interference, such as from shared .dll files.
  • Troubleshooting problems becomes much simpler, because the entire application is stored as a single file.
  • It's easier to upgrade base operating systems because less regression testing is required for each application (because the application is abstracted from the OS).
  • Multiple, disparate machines can point to the same virtual application on a shared network resource, thus minimizing the number of service packs, patches, etc. you must installed. By using the built-in versioning controls in VMware ThinApp, you can make sure that users always have access to the most up-to-date application.
  • Security is enhanced. With application virtualization, you won't overlook local applications for service pack or patch installations, because the application is hosted at a single, shared location.

 Not every application, though, is a good fit for virtualization. On the VMware ThinApp community portal, users can share information about application virtualization hits and misses.

Evaluating application virtualization with VMware ThinApp
You can evaluate VMware ThinApp by creating just three virtual machines (VMs) in a test environment with VMware Workstation:

  • A package VM to install and run ThinApp;
  • a capture VM for the base operating system and the application you wish to virtualize, which you then convert to an application package;
  • and a test VM for verifying your completed application package.

Application virtualization with VMware ThinApp offers several time- and cost-saving advantages, if applied correctly. This kind of quick and easy evaluation lets you explore this aspect of the virtual world and see if it's right for you.


Mak King has been in the IT industry for 14 years, progressing from his blissfully green days of DOS and sneakernet to VMware and storage area networks. He has certifications from NetWare (CNE), Microsoft (MCP), CompTIA (iNet) and VMware (VCP Virtual Infrastructure 3). He is the virtualization and directory services subject matter expert for NYCE Payments Network LLC (an FIS company), where he has been employed for more than 10 years.

Dig Deeper on VMware basics