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Configuring Dual- or Multiple-Boot Systems to Run with VMware Workstation

Configuring Dual- or Multiple-Boot Systems to Run with VMware Workstation

VMware Workstation uses description files to control access to each raw IDE device 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 was not configured to use. The description file also prevents accidental corruption of raw disk partitions by 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. The wizard is typically rerun to create a separate configuration for each guest operating system installed on a raw partition.

If a boot manager is installed on the computer system, the boot manager runs inside VMware Workstation and presents you with the choice of guest operating systems to run. You must manually choose the guest operating system that this configuration was intended to run.

Running Windows Guests on Windows Hosts with FAT File Systems

Running Windows Guests on Windows Hosts with FAT File Systems

There is a potential problem with VMware Workstation on Windows hosts when you boot an operating system from an existing partition. If the Windows host's partition uses a FAT file system, the guest operating system (for example, Windows 98 or Windows 95) sees this partition at boot time and attempts to fix the file system on that partition. This causes serious problems, because the host operating system is actively using that partition.

If you use an advanced boot manager such as BootMagic (PowerQuest) or System Commander (V Communications), it solves this problem by changing the partition type to "unknown." If you are already using such an advanced boot manager to dual boot, the boot manager's partition marking scheme works fine with VMware Workstation.

However, if you are not using an advanced boot manager for dual booting, the configuration process described below hides partitions that do not belong to the guest operating system. When raw disk partition hiding is enabled, all read-only partitions are mapped to "unknown." Also, all updates to the master boot record are intercepted and not written to the actual master boot record.

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.

Using the LILO Boot Loader

Using the LILO Boot Loader

If you are using the LILO boot loader and try to boot a virtual machine from an existing raw partition, you may see L 01 01 01 01 01 01 instead of a LILO: prompt. This can happen regardless of the host operating system. As part of booting a physical PC or a virtual machine, the BIOS passes control to code located in the master boot record (MBR) of the boot device. LILO begins running from the MBR, and in order to finish running correctly, it needs access to the native Linux partition where the rest of LILO is located - usually the partition with the /boot directory. If LILO can't access the rest of itself, an error like the one above is displayed.

To avoid the problem, follow the configuration steps below and be sure to mark the native Linux partition where the rest of LILO is located with read-only access. The next time the virtual machine tries to boot, the LILO code in the MBR should be able to access the rest of LILO and display the normal LILO: prompt.

Configuring a Windows Host

Configuring a Windows Host

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. Before starting, if you are running a Windows guest operating system you should read Setting Up Hardware Profiles in Virtual Machines. VMware recommends booting the guest operating system natively on the computer and creating a hardware profile for the virtual machine before proceeding.

  2. Create a separate configuration for each guest operating system. Allow read/write access to the partitions used by that operating system only.

    To configure a virtual machine to run from a raw disk partition, 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 used by the virtual machine should be set to Write.

  5. To run multiple guest operating systems from different raw disk partitions, unmap these partitions on 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. If you have multiple IDE drives configured on a system, the VMware BIOS normally attempts to boot them in this sequence:

    1. Primary master
    2. Primary slave
    3. Secondary master
    4. Secondary slave

      If you have multiple SCSI drives configured on a system, the VMware BIOS normally attempts to boot them in the order of the SCSI device number.

      If you have both SCSI and IDE drives configured, the VMware BIOS normally attempts to boot SCSI drives followed by IDE drives, in the order described above.

      The boot sequence can be changed in the Boot menu of the virtual machine's Phoenix BIOS. After powering on the virtual machine, press F2 during the BIOS boot in the virtual machine to enter the BIOS setup menu.

  8. Power on the virtual machine. Click the Power On button. The virtual machine starts, runs the Phoenix BIOS, then boots from the master boot record (MBR).

    Choose the target operating system from the list of options offered by the boot manager.

  9. Remember that your virtual machine hardware environment, which the guest operating system is about to run in for the first time, probably differs significantly from the physical hardware of your host computer.

    For Windows guest operating systems, Plug and Play reconfigures Windows. Set up your virtual hardware profile with the devices found and configured by Plug and Play. See Setting Up Hardware Profiles in Virtual Machines for more information.

  10. Install VMware Tools in your guest operating system.

Warning: If you configure your raw disk in undoable mode, you need to either commit or discard the changes to the disk before you reboot your guest operating system natively. This is necessary because any changes to sectors on the physical disk that have been modified on the disk invalidate the redo-log file for the disk in undoable mode. See Disk Modes: Persistent, Undoable and Nonpersistent for more information on disks in undoable mode and their corresponding redo-log files.

Configuring a Linux Host

Configuring a Linux Host

  1. Before starting, if you are running a Windows guest operating system you should read Setting Up Hardware Profiles in Virtual Machines. VMware recommends booting the guest operating system natively on the computer and creating a hardware profile for the virtual machine before proceeding.

  2. Create a separate configuration for each guest operating system. Allow read/write access to the partitions used by that operating system only.

  3. Check 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.

  4. 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/sda (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 when exploring different options here.

    It is typically 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.

  5. If you plan run a second Linux installation from an existing partition as a guest operating system and your physical computer's /etc/lilo.conf has a memory register statement such as Append= "mem", you may want to adjust the append memory parameter or create a new entry in LILO for running Linux in a virtual machine.

    If the amount of memory configured in lilo.conf exceeds the amount of memory assigned to the virtual machine, then when the virtual machine tries to boot the second Linux installation, the guest operating system will most likely panic.

    You can create another entry in lilo.conf for running Linux in a virtual machine by specifying a different amount of memory than what would normally be recognized when Linux boots directly on the physical machine.

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

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

  8. Select the read/write option for the disk partitions that contain the guest operating system being configured.

    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 under Linux 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.

    You need to leave the master boot record (MBR) read-only. Leaving the other partitions read-only is recommended. The LILO boot manager often reads files from /boot (on a Linux partition) to boot a guest operating system.

  9. 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.

  10. Start VMware Workstation and check the configuration. Type
    vmware <config-file>.cfg.
    <config-file>
    is the path to the configuration file created by the Wizard.

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

    Also modify any configuration options you want to change from the Configuration Wizard's defaults - for example, you may want to change the amount of memory allocated to the guest operating system.

  12. If you have multiple IDE drives configured on a system, the VMware BIOS normally attempts to boot them in this sequence:

    1. Primary master
    2. Primary slave
    3. Secondary master
    4. Secondary slave

      If you have multiple SCSI drives configured on a system, the VMware BIOS normally attempts to boot them in the order of the SCSI device number.

      If you have both SCSI and IDE drives configured, the VMware BIOS normally attempts to boot SCSI drives followed by IDE drives, in the order described above.

      You can change the boot sequence using the Boot menu of the virtual machine's Phoenix BIOS. After powering on the virtual machine, press F2 during the BIOS boot in the virtual machine to enter the BIOS setup menu.

  13. Power on the virtual machine. Click the Power On button. The virtual machine starts, runs the Phoenix BIOS, then boots from the master boot record (MBR).

    Choose the target operating system from the list of options offered by the boot manager.

  14. Remember that your virtual machine hardware environment, which the guest operating system is about to run in for the first time, probably differs significantly from the physical hardware of your machine.

    For Windows guest operating systems, Plug and Play reconfigures Windows. Set up your virtual hardware profile with the devices found and configured by Plug and Play. See Setting Up Hardware Profiles in Virtual Machines for more information.

  15. Install VMware Tools in your guest operating system.

Warning: If you configure your raw disk in undoable mode, you need to either commit or discard the changes to the disk before you reboot your guest operating system natively. This is necessary because any changes to sectors on the physical disk that have been modified on the disk invalidate the redo-log file for the disk in undoable mode. See Disk Modes: Persistent, Undoable and Nonpersistent for more information on disks in undoable mode and their corresponding redo-log files.

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