Installing VMware Additions on Windows Server 2008 Server Core Installations

As you already know by now, in Windows Server 2008,  Server Core installation does not include the traditional full graphical user interface (GUI). You can read more about Server Core on my “Understanding Windows Server 2008 Server Core” article.

Without going to much into detail, because of the lack of GUI, installing applications on server core might be more complex than installing them on a regular server installation, not to mention the fact that they might not function at all.
One of these applications is the VMware Tools that comes with VMwares virtualization products such as VMware Server and VMware Workstation. VMware Tools greatly improve the guests performance. In addition, VMware tools provide the following:

  • Improved video performance
  • Mouse synchronization with the host operating system so that you dont have to keep releasing your mouse from the guest to go back to the host
  • Improved mouse performance
  • Copy and paste between the host and guest

You can read more about VMware Tools on the “How to Install VMware Tools in your Windows Guest” article.
Installing VMware Tools on a server core is exactly the same as installing them on any regular operating system, except for the fact that Auto-Run will not invoke the installer, and thus you must do so manually.
Note: Before installing the VMware Tools make sure theyre not installed already. Read the above article for more info on that.

How do I Install the VMware Tools on Server Core?

First, you need to mount the ISO file containing the VMware Tools on the guest VM. The easiest way to do that is to go to the same menu (VM), shown above, and click Install VMware Tools.
What this really does is mount an ISO file called Windows.iso as a CD and run the install program on that virtual CD. These ISO files (the tools) are located in the C:\Program Files\VMware\VMware Server folder , or in the C:\Program Files\VMware\VMware Workstation folder, depending on the version of VMware software youre using.

Since Server Core does not use Auto-Run, you will need to manually navigate to the D:\ drive (which is usually the drive letter for the CD/DVD drive), and manually run the installer program called VMware Tools.msi.
Note: Because the file name has a space in it, you need to enclose it in quotes in order to run it.

    1. In the VM menu, click Install VMware Tools.


    1. Click Install in the message window.


    1. Inside the virtual machine, type D: in the command prompt window (change this with the appropriate CD/DVD drive letter in your VM).
    2. Type dir to look at the CD/DVD root.


    1. Type “vmware tools.msi” and click Enter.
    2. The installer will run, click Next all the way till the end of the installation.

Note: Some websites claim that the installation of VMware Tools will stall, and that in order to complete it successfully you need to manually kill the RUNDLL process in Task Manager. Other sites claim that you need to run the installation by typing the following command:

​msiexec /i "d:\VMware Tools.msi"

You may wish to experiment with these. Do let me know if you have any insights regarding these issues.

  1. Reboot the VM in order for the VMware Tools to finish installing.
  2. Logon to the VM. Note that now youve got the VMware Tools installed. Working with the VM should be much faster than before.

BTW, working with Microsofts Virtual Server 2005 also requires installation of Microsofts VM Additions. Read more about that in the Related Articles section.