Every once in a while you might find yourself coming across the need or desire to run an alternate Operating System than the one you have loaded on your computer. As little as a few years ago the only options available to you in those circumstances was to either reload your computer with the Operating System you needed, load it on a physically different computer, or dual boot. Dual booting was perhaps the best of the available options but it wasn’t without it’s own headaches. Unless you were careful and knew what you were doing it was remarkably easy to overwrite your master boot record, which make your original operating system unbootable unless you had a means to restore the original master boot record. But outside of that the real downside to dual booting was the fact that you could truly only run one of the operating systems at a time. You couldn’t access applications loaded in the other operating system while you were booted into the other. If your other operating system happened to be a Windows operating system using NTFS as the file system it was extremely difficult to share files between the two, although you could work around it by creating a dos partition and using that as an intermediary location for the files. It was all workable, although imperfect and sometimes inconvenient.
That’s all changing now. In the past few years virtualization has exploded and new and powerful capabilities are available to us. Gone are the days when we had to dual boot and had to boot into one or the other operating system and instead we have the capability of literally running an operating system inside another and seamlessly access an application natively in one operating system from another. VMWare is a big part of all that. If you find yourself needing or wanting to run another operating system today you need only download one of the common desktop virtualization applications to begin that process. But in this article I want to talk a little about VMWare Player, which is one of the best known and most utilized desktop virtualization applications.
VMWare Player is VMWare’s bottom tier virtualization solution meant for home use only. It’s missing most of the high powered bells and whistles of the more advanced VMWare products but it has virtually everything you’ll need to run vanilla installations of other operating systems. VMWare has done such a marvelous job with Player that installations of guest operating systems are a piece of cake and I’m going to walk you through the installation of Fedora 13 in remainder of this article to illustrate just how easy it is. But before I get to that I do want to point out that one important feature that it used to have is now missing, and that’s the ability to take screen shots natively. At some point in the not too distant past VMWare removed the capability of Player to take and save screen shots, so you can no longer take screenshots directly from Player itself while installing an operating system or while using an application inside of it. Instead, if you want to take screen shots you’ll need to use one of the available screen capture utilities available on the Internet. Download.com is a good place to start to find one that suits your needs.
The first step is going to VMWare.com and downloading the version you need. For the purposes of this article I’m going to assume you’re running Windows. Download the windows Player installer and run it. The Player installation takes only a couple of minutes, after which you’ll be asked to reboot as the installation will be installing a kernel patch that won’t take effect until your next boot. Once you’ve rebooted log back in and run VMWare Player.
Ignore the fact that I already have two installed guest operating systems. The left hand pane should be blank for you but all you have to do is click the link in the right hand pane that says Create a new virtual machine.
Clicking that link will cause this window to pop up. If you have physical media to install from make sure you select the installer disk radial button, otherwise if you have an ISO image make sure you select the installer disk image file (iso) radial button and browse to where the image file is located, then select it.
Before going on it’s important to note that in the image you can see the note “Fedora 64-bit detected. This operating system will use Easy Install”. Easy Install is an “unattended installation”, meaning if you go forward with the installation as it stands right now, VMWare Player will install the operating system in a pre-determined manner and without any additional input from you. If you want to be able create a specific file system or install specific applications then you’ll want to choose the Iwill install the operating system later radial button and then click next. If you don’t care what gets installed initially, or are willing to configure the operating system after it’s installed go with the easy install and click the next button. I’ll make a further assumption that you don’t really care how Fedora is installed initially so I’m going to go with the easy install method.
This next window asks you to provide the user name and password you’d like to set up for yourself, and note that it will use the same password for the root account as well. You should never log in and use the root account for normal use, so once Fedora is finished installing one of the first things you should do is log in as you, SU to root and change the root password to something else. Only use the root account when you absolutely need to.
Next Player will ask you what you want this Guest operating system to be identified as within VMWare Player and where you want your virtual file system to be located. For my purposes I placed it in My Documents although it’s a very good idea to create a separate directory or partition to store them.
Next Player needs to know how large of a “partition” you want to give to Fedora and whether you want Player to create a single “partition” the size you’ve told it, or break it into pieces. I use the word partition here to frame this in a particular light even though what is actually being created is a single file, or multiple files depending on what you select. Click next to proceed.
Almost ready. This screen gives you an opportunity to review everything before you commit. Once you click the finish button Player is going to create the file and begin the installation process.
The next screen you see after clicking finished is this one. Player is creating the file right now and will shortly initialize it and begin the loading process. Notice there is no user input and there won’t be from this point forward.
Player has initialized the space and is now loading the image file.
And this is the last screen you will see until everything is loaded. The Easy Install loads a little over 1300 applications so this will take a few minutes. But once it’s through Player will load up the log in screen and at that point you have a fully functioning Fedora 13 that you can log into and use while still running Windows on your computer. There’s quite a few things you can do at this point depending on what you need to do and how you want to do them, but unless you need something specific which I’m not covering here simply log into Fedora and have fun.