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Installing Windows Vista in VMware Server

David Davis


VMware Server is the perfect place to test Microsoft Windows Vista. That is because VMware Server is free to download and you don’t want to install Vista over your existing operating system. Vista is a significant upgrade to Windows XP and there are so many changes. In the perfect world, installing Vista under VMware would be without issue. However, the world is not perfect and neither is installing Vista under VMware Server. In this article, I will show you how I installed Vista under VMware Server and how to resolve a major issue I ran into.

What I started with

For the tasks I performed in this article, I started with the following:

  • Microsoft Windows Vista Enterprise in an ISO file
  • VMware Server 1.0
  • Desktop PC with 2GB of RAM

Creating the Virtual Machine

Prior to the actual installation, you must create a virtual machine inside VMware to house the Vista system. To do this, I went to File, New, Virtual Machine. I clicked Next and took the default of Typical. I found that VMware does now have an option for Vista and Vista x64 as valid “machine types”. I selected Vista from the drop down of machine type, like this:

From here, I clicked Next, typed a name for my new Vista Test machine (called “Vista Test”, how original). I clicked Next and Next again to select bridging as my network connection.

Next, I took the default to allocate 16GB of disk space for the guest OS but chose not to allocate it now. This may cause some performance issues in the long run but is best for my disk space.

One more reason that this is a good time to use VMware with Vista is that the VMware Tools are available for the Vista operating system. Make sure that you load these VMware tools after you get Vista up and running.

Then, I clicked Finish.

Booting the Vista Install CD

To boot the ISO CD, I doubleclicked the CDROM drive and added the Vista ISO file as the virtual CDROM drive. Of course, you could also boot a physical Vista installation CDROM and map VMware to the CD Drive. In my case, I made sure that my virtual CD would be connected at startup, like this:

Next, I powered on the virtual machine, which was configured like this:

Once booted from the Vista install CD, you can choose your language, click Next, then, click Install Now.

Vista/VMware CD Driver Issue

Immediately after clicking Install Now, I received this error:

I’m not saying that everyone will receive it but I did. It is discussed in the VMware forum at this link: Somehow, what this error is saying is that Vista recognized the CDROM drive when it booted from it and began the install but, at this point, it can’t seem to recognize it any longer. I don’t understand the cause for this but I have the solution. I read that other users have complained of this same error when using VMware ESX Server.

To get around this, you need to provide the drivers for the CDROM drive. I did this using a virtual floppy file (FLP). Here is a link to download my virtual floppy file:

Mitsumi CD-Rom Drivers

To mount the floppy, go to the VM menu on the toolbar and click on Settings. Then click the floppy drive. Select the Virtual Floppy and enter the path to the FLP file. Make sure it is Connected and click OK.

Back in Vista, browse to find the drivers on the A: drive and click OK.

Next, you will see that you are installing the new driver, like this:

Click Next. From this point on, the installation of Vista will be as normal. (You can follow our article Install Windows Vista if you need help)

When you are done with the complete process, you should see your Vista screen inside VMware Server like this:


Using VMware to test Windows Vista is a very smart solution. Vista is a complex product. Testing and learning about it inside a virtual environment protects your production desktop and network (if you choose to isolate it from your network).

If you don’t already have VMware, you can learn how to download and install VMware Server in our articles entitled How to Install VMware.

Do you have questions or comments about VMware and Windows Vista? Checkout our VMware Virtualization and Windows Vista discussion forums!
Got a question? Post it on our VMware Forums!

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