x11 on debian in a vmware workstation guest machine

Since I've done this twice in the past week I feel the need to document what it takes to get Debian (woody) running X11 when installed in a VMWare workstation.
Create your workstation and set the guest OS to Linux.
Download the bf2.4 kernel ISO. I used http://people.debian.org/~dwhedon/boot-floppies/bootbf2.4.iso
Set the CD drive in your virtual machine to use the ISO above.
Boot the virtual machine and install Debian. Be sure to select the desktop installation when tasksel is run.
For some reason, the past few installs I've done didn't install the full x desktop packages. To fix this, go to a command prompt and type:
apt-get install xserver-xfree86
This will install the X11 packages needed.
NOTE: This could probably be done using dselect during the initial installation.
Next, you need to install the kernel headers so you can compile the vmware tools.
You can install the kernel headers package using apt-get. To find out which package to install, do the following from a command prompt:
uname -a
This will give you something like:
Linux debian 2.4.18-bf2.4 ...
The part after debin is what we want. Take that and append it to kernel-headers- to get the package name you'll need to install. For example, to install the kernel headers given the above uname output you'd use:
apt-get install kernel-headers-2.4.18-bf2.4
To install the VMWare Tools, choose File > Install VMware Tools
This will make the VMWare Tools image appear as the CD drive. To use it, you'll need to mount it:
mount /dev/cdrom /mnt
Copy the tools to your hard drive (I put it in /usr/src):
cp /mnt/vmware-linux-tools.tar.gz /usr/src
Extract the archive:
cd /usr/src
tar zxvf vmware-linux-tools.tar.gz

This will extract the archive to vmware-tools-distrib. Change to that directory and run the installer.
cd vmware-tools-distrib

Accept all the defaults until asked where the kernel header files are located and enter:
Replace kernel-headers-2.4.18-bf2.4 with the name of the kernel-headers package you installed above. When asked if you want to configure the tools, say yes and accept all the defaults.
The configuration step above will modify the xserver config file, /etc/X11/XF86Config-4. You will need to modify this file to use the appropriate mouse device. To do this:
vi /etc/X11/XF86Config-4
Find the line in the InputDevice section beginning with Option “Device”
This should be changed to:
Option "Device" "/dev/psaux"
Save the changes to this file.
Use startx from a command prompt and you should be able to start xwindows. Since I writing most of this from memory and definitely after the fact, please comment if you find any errors or have any problems.

3 thoughts on “x11 on debian in a vmware workstation guest machine

  1. im having a rough time installing debian on vmware, for some reason, it's not autodetecting the nic, even when i specify the irq/io address.
    did you run into anything like this? if so, can you send me some hints?

  2. Hi there,
    I've tried to set up VMware Tools using this explanation and everytime I try I run into the same problem over and over: everything works fine until it comes to mounting the image – means I can do so and mount it but when I look for “vmware-linux-tools.tar.gz” it's just not there.
    I'd be really happy if anybody knew a solution to this problem and would be so kind as to aid me.
    Thanx in advance.

  3. Chris Scott,
    Over a year ago you documented a workaround for getting vmware Xservers working correctly. I list the document title below. Thanks for taking the time, once I found your advice, it worked like a champ. For those who don't document their work and read this….Please do so, people really do read it.
    x11 on debian in a vmware workstation guest machine
    by Chris Scott at 02:53PM (EDT) on October 24, 2003 | #

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