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Installing an Operating System onto a Raw Partition from a Virtual Machine

Installing an Operating System onto a Raw Partition from a Virtual Machine

In some situations, you may want to install a guest operating system directly on a physical disk or partition - known as a raw disk - even if you do not need to boot that disk on the host, outside of the virtual machine.

It is possible to use either an unused partition or a completely unused disk on the host as a disk in the virtual machine. However, it is important to be aware that an operating system installed in this setting probably cannot boot outside of the virtual machine, even though the data is available to the host.

If you have a dual-boot system and want to configure a virtual machine to boot from an existing partition, see Configuring a Dual-Boot Computer for Use with a Virtual Machine. The instructions in this section do not apply to a disk with a previously installed operating system.

As with virtual disks, raw disks can be used in persistent, undoable and nonpersistent modes. For details on these modes, see Disk Modes: Persistent, Undoable and Nonpersistent.

Caution: Raw disks are an advanced feature and should be configured only by expert users.

VMware Workstation uses description files to control access to each raw disk on the system. These description files contain access privilege information that controls a virtual machine's access to certain partitions on the disks. This mechanism prevents users from accidentally running the host operating system again as a guest or running a guest operating system that the virtual machine is not configured to use. The description file also prevents accidental writes to raw disk partitions from badly behaved operating systems or applications.

Use the New Virtual Machine Wizard (on Windows hosts) or Configuration Wizard (on Linux hosts) to configure VMware Workstation to use existing raw disk partitions. The wizard guides you though creating a configuration for a new virtual machine including configuring the raw disk description files. Rerun the wizard to create a separate configuration for each guest operating system installed on a raw partition.

Configuring a Windows Host

Configuring a Windows Host

Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows .NET Server Dynamic Disks

Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows .NET Server Dynamic Disks

If your host is running Windows 2000, Windows XP or Windows .NET Server and is using dynamic disks, see Do Not Use Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows .NET Server Dynamic Disks as Raw Disks.

Configuring the Virtual Machine to Use a Raw Disk

Configuring the Virtual Machine to Use a Raw Disk

Use the following steps to run a guest operating system from a raw disk.

Note: If you use a Windows host's IDE disk in a raw disk configuration, it cannot be configured as the slave on the secondary IDE channel if the master on that channel is a CD-ROM drive.

  1. Identify the raw partition where the guest operating system will be installed.

    Check the guest operating system documentation regarding the type of partition on which the operating system can be installed. For example, operating systems like DOS, Windows 95 and Windows 98 must be installed on the first primary partition while others, like Linux, can be installed to a primary or extended partition on any part of the drive.

    Identify an appropriate raw partition or disk for the guest operating system to use. Check that the raw partition is not mounted by the Windows host and not in use by others. Also, be sure the raw partition or disk does not have data you will need in the future; if it does, back up that data now.

  2. Start the New Virtual Machine Wizard (File > New) and select Custom.

  3. When you reach the Select a Disk step, select Use a physical disk.

  4. The next panel allows you to specify the access that is needed for each partition on the disk(s). Most partitions should be set to Read, and the partition that the virtual machine is to use should be set to Write.

    Caution: Corruption is possible if you allow the virtual machine to modify a partition that is simultaneously mounted under Windows. Since the virtual machine and guest operating system access a raw disk partition while the host continues to run Windows, it is critical that you not allow the virtual machine to modify any partition mounted by the host or in use by another virtual machine. To safeguard against this problem, be sure the raw disk partition you mark as Write for the virtual machine is not in use.

  5. The partition where you are installing the guest operating system should be unmapped in the host.

    On a Windows NT host, use the Disk Administrator (Start > Programs > Administrative Tools). First highlight the partition that contains the guest operating system, then select Assign Drive Letter from the Tools menu. In this form, choose Do not assign a drive letter for the partition and click OK. The unmapping happens immediately.

    On a Windows .NET Server, Windows XP or Windows 2000 host, use Disk Management (Start > Settings > Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management > Storage > Disk Management). Select the partition you want to unmap, then from the Action menu select All Tasks > Change Drive Letter and Path. Click the Remove button.

  6. Use the Configuration Editor (Settings > Configuration Editor) if you want to change any configuration options from the wizard defaults - for example, to change the amount of memory allocated to the guest operating system or to change the disk mode.

  7. At this point you are ready to begin installing the guest operating system onto the raw disk you configured for the virtual machine. For more details, read the installation notes for various guest operating systems in Installing Guest Operating Systems.

Configuring a Linux Host

Configuring a Linux Host

  1. Identify the raw partition where the guest operating system will be installed.

    Check the guest operating system documentation regarding the type of partition on which the operating system can be installed. For example, operating systems like DOS, Windows 95 and Windows 98 must be installed on the first primary partition while others, like Linux, can be installed to a primary or extended partition on any part of the drive.

    Identify an appropriate raw partition or disk for the guest operating system to use. Check that the raw partition is not mounted by the Windows host and not in use by others. Also, be sure the raw partition or disk does not have data you will need in the future; if it does, back up that data now.

  2. Check the operating system partition mounts. Be sure the existing disk partitions that you plan to configure the virtual machine to use are not mounted by Linux.

  3. Set the device group membership or device ownership.

    The master raw disk device or devices need to be readable and writable by the user who runs VMware Workstation. On most distributions, the raw devices, such as /dev/hda (IDE raw disk) and /dev/sdb (SCSI raw disk) belong to group-id disk. If this is the case, you can add VMware Workstation users to the disk group. Another option is to change the owner of the device. Please think carefully of security in exploring different options here.

    It is a good idea to grant VMware Workstation users access to all
    /dev/hd[abcd] raw devices that contain operating systems or boot managers and then rely on VMware Workstation's raw disk configuration files to guard access. This provides boot managers access to configuration and other files they may need to boot the operating systems. For example, LILO needs to read /boot on a Linux partition to boot a non-Linux operating system that may be on another drive.

  4. Run the VMware Workstation Configuration Wizard (File > Wizard).

  5. When you reach the Disk Type Settings panel, select Use a physical disk. Click Next.

  6. Select the read/write option only for the raw partition or disk (and its master boot record) on which you want to install the guest operating system. If the raw disk you plan to use has multiple partitions already on it, be aware that certain operating systems (DOS, Windows 95, Windows 98) must be installed on the first primary partition.

    Caution: Corruption is possible if you allow the virtual machine to modify a partition that is simultaneously mounted under Linux. Since the virtual machine and guest operating system access an existing partition while the host continues to run Linux, it is critical that the virtual machine not be allowed to modify any partition mounted by the host or in use by another virtual machine.

    To safeguard against this problem, be sure the partition you mark read/write for the virtual machine is not mounted under the Linux host.

  7. Complete the remaining steps in the wizard. On the review screen, note the path to the configuration (.cfg) file. You will need it in the next step.

  8. Start VMware Workstation and manually change the controller/channel assignment selected by the wizard. Type vmware <config-file>.cfg, where <config-file> is the path to the configuration file created by the wizard.

  9. Choose Settings > Configuration Editor and check that your IDE configuration specifies at least two raw disk description files. These files are named <configuration-name>.hda, <configuration-name>.hdb, etc.

  10. Identify the description file for the raw disk to which you will install the new guest operating system. For example, if your physical machine has an unused disk on the secondary master IDE channel and you want to use this device for the virtual machine, you should see a file called
    <configuration-name>.hdc next to the virtual machine's IDE 1:0 or S-M configuration entry.

  11. Replace the name of the description file (.hda file) next to the virtual machine's IDE 0:0 channel with the name of the description file you identified in the previous step.

  12. Remove the other raw disk description file(s) from the virtual machine's IDE configuration dialog box and Click OK.

  13. Click OK to save the changes and close the Configuration Editor.

  14. At this point you are ready to begin installing the guest operating system on the raw disk you configured for the virtual machine. For more details, read the installation notes for various guest operating systems in Installing Guest Operating Systems.

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