How do I... Create virtual machines for testing in VMware Workstation 6?

As an information technology professional, especially one working as a consultant, you must stay current on a wide range of different technologies, including the multitude of operating systems on the market. Running all of those operating systems on separate machines is just not practical. Steven Warren shows you how to install and configure VMWare workstation so that you can run any software you want inside a virtual machine.

As a Senior Technology Consultant, I must stay current on a wide range of different technologies, including the multitude of operating systems on the market. Just to keep up with Microsoft, I need to run Windows 95, 98, NT4, 2000, XP, Vista, Server (2000, 2003, 2008), and other permutations of the Windows operating system. I could keep about ten spare computers on hand for testing or purchase additional hardware, such as swappable hard drive bays, but that is obviously unwieldy. Equipment costs can also run up the expense of testing Windows clustering.

To save money and run all of these operating systems and clusters, I looked into VMware Workstation. In case you've never heard of VMware, it is software that lets you run virtual machines within an installed operating system; you can be running Windows Vista and boot to a Windows 2008 Domain Controller in a separate window. You can even boot non-Windows operating systems, such as Linux and FreeBSD. The VMware technology is great, and I now use it extensively. Fortunately, the setup is fairly straightforward.

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The specifications for the machine that I used in this How do I... are: Gateway GT5628 Intel Core 2 Quad CP Q6600 @2.40 GHz, 3 GB RAM, 500 GB hard drive (Figure A).

Figure A

Test machine

I wanted more than 2GB of memory to allow me to run multiple virtual machines. The main operating system on this computer is Windows Vista, which is capable of running five VMware virtual machines concurrently, with all of them connected to my network and able to access the Internet as well as other network resources, such as file sharing. I could upgrade the memory on this computer to 4GB for even more virtual machines and later load a 64-bit version of Windows Vista to even further expand out my virtual resources.

If you want to follow along with the steps that I'm going to demonstrate in this tutorial, you're going to need a trial or licensed version of VMware Workstation. You can download a trial version. When you run the executable, the installation will place VMware in the directory you specify and create VMware Virtual Ethernet Adapters. These adapters appear as network connections on your system, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Ethernet Adapters
Now that you've installed VMware, let's get started. Select the Start Orb and type VMware in the Instant Search field. Double-click on VMware Workstation, shown in Figure C. This window allows you to create, suspend, and configure a VMware Virtual machine. Figure C shows my screen, with Windows Server 2008 running.

Figure C

Virtual Windows Server 2008
For the purposes of our example, we're going to set up one virtual machine, a Windows 2008 domain controller. Once you have VMware Workstation opened, choose File | New | Virtual Machine ([CTRL] + [N]). You'll have the option of choosing a Typical or Custom installation, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Typical or Custom
We'll choose a Custom installation for our example so that you can see the various available options. (You may find that you can use the Typical installation option when creating additional virtual machines.) Choose Next, and specify the virtual machine you want to install, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

Choose you virtual machine

Choose Windows Longhorn (experimental) and choose Next. On the next screen, you can choose the name of your virtual machine (DC in this case) and specify a location. Next, you can specify the amount of memory you want allocated to this virtual machine.

I recommend a minimum of 250-500 MB memory per virtual machine. The more memory you allocate to virtual machines, the faster and more consistently they will run. Keep in mind that you must leave enough memory to run the actual operating system. If you don't have enough memory on one computer for all the virtual machines you want to run, you can always throttle back the memory.

The next screen, shown in Figure E, allows you to configure network settings. For this example, you're going to choose Bridged Networking to empower the guest to access an external Ethernet network. Note that with this setting, you can either connect the virtual machine to a DHCP server or set the IP address manually.

Figure E

Configure network settings
You're now ready to configure a disk on the next screen. You can choose one of three disk options, as shown in Figure F. For this example, elect to create a new virtual disk and choose Next.

Figure F

Configure a disk

The next window allows you to choose the size of your virtual disk. You have the option of adding disks at any time to configure software-based RAID configurations. Click Finish, and you'll have successfully created your first virtual machine.

Now you're ready to install the actual OS. In this case, you can install the OS by either placing the bootable Windows Server 2008 DVD in the DVD drive or by using a Windows Server 2008 ISO image. Once you have placed the appropriate DVD or ISO image in the drive, choose the newly created virtual machine and select the Power On this Virtual Machine green arrow. A powered-on machine will automatically boot to the DVD or ISO image. If you are booting to DVD, make sure that you have this option enabled in your system's CMOS. Happy Testing!