VMware Player runs virtual machines for free

VMware Player lets you evaluate and test new or pre-release software contained in virtual machines without installation or configuration hassles.

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Most of you are probably familiar with Virtual PC and VMware, two programs that let you emulate an entire PC in software, including hard drives, peripherals and network connectivity. Administrators love the concept of virtual machines because a virtual machine allows them to test entire configurations without having to set aside a machine. They can also run untested programs safely.

VMware Inc. recently released VMware Player, a scaled-down version of VMware for running pre-existing virtual machines created by any edition of VMware or Microsoft's Virtual PC. The main features of the full-blown VMware that the scaled-down VMware Player does not support involve creating virtual machines (for that you need the full VMware product) and editing an existing machine's properties. However, VMWare Player will run any existing virtual machine without prohibitions.

VMware Player can also "play back" files created by Symantec Corp.'s LiveState Recovery product. When you want to recover data from a LiveState backup without actually restoring the whole computer, you can simply use VMware Player to open the LiveState image and copy out the data as needed.

More VMware Player features:

  • It can run multiple virtual machines side by side on the same host PC (provided the memory is there for it).
  • It provides drag-and-drop and copy-and-paste actions between virtual machines and host machines.
  • It provides access to host devices such as scanners or printers.
  • It offers limited support for VMware's "snapshot" functionality (which lets you roll back the machine to a previous configuration).
  • It provides 64-bit guest and host OS support.

Note: When installing VMware Player, you'll be prompted to also install the Google Searchbar (which is probably how further work on VMware Player is at least partially funded). Be sure to deselect this option if you don't want the Searchbar running on your host operating system.

One final thing: The program does not have the ability to natively mount and run an .ISO image, although you can do that through an existing machine definition file.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators.

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This was first published in April 2006

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