-Where Virtualization is a Reality!


Monday, February 06, 2006

LiveCD Player Virtual Machine

I've used LiveCDs in the past for checking out new operating systems or applications. They are a very handy way to do this without having to trash a computer... Then VMWare came along. It was easy to create a VM and try out new stuff. But that still took time. I found myself going back to playing with LiveCDs because I could boot into a pre-configured environment. One that looks just like the developer wanted it to look (provided you have all the right and supported hardware). The best way to do this would be if every developer realized the power of virtualization and made a VM for their project. But since they don't all do that and some still take the time to do a LiveCD, I've now gone to booting LiveCDs within virtual machines.

Normally you'd have to be using VMware Workstation to pull this off... (And, yes, I know there are tools out there for creating VMs, but I figured this would just be easier.) But now with Player being free and all, it is something that you can have ZERO virtualization experience and get up and running LiveCDs on your PC - within a virtual machine - in no time flat. I'm assuming, though that you have VMware Player or Workstation installed. If you don't go here to get player.

1) First, download and unzip this file. Don't worry, this file is only about 4kb in size (and it is only that large because I included a 2gb drive since some LiveCDs were complaining about the lack of a hard drive).

2) Then download the LiveCD of your liking. For this example I downloaded the Knoppix version 4 LiveCD.

3) Once you have the LiveCD ISO file on your computer, copy or move it to the folder where you extracted the files in step 1. and rename the file "livecd.iso" I put a blank file there with that name as a placeholder. You'll need to delete it before renaming your real LiveCD ISO.

4) Now that the files are in place it should look something like this:

5) Now you should be able to open the vmx file with VMware player or workstation... Here's the splash screen of knoppix starting and then a screen-cap of the whole desktop after it booted:

Here's a list of LiveCDs:



  • anonymous is hazelem@inmail.hu)

    your page is very good in appearance -
    i'm sure that much more good content
    will follow soon, as this thing with
    VM is swirling.
    at the vmware-site, i unsuccessfully
    searched for any potential benefits in
    employing a multithreaded cpu for the
    host system - guest system using the
    "second" cpu. could you/friends have
    a word on that?
    regards, hazel emmerich, budapest

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at February 13, 2006 4:01 PM  

  • I'm not familiar with VM's, so I was wondering how this thing is achieved. Does the LiveCD Player VM function as a "bootstrap" utility, booting up the actual LiveCD?

    Would it be possible to use actual drives instead of an .iso file? So if you have Linux installed on /dev/hda2, you could boot up your secondary OS in a virtual machine? Or does VMWare allow this kind of thing?

    By Blogger Kejjo, at March 01, 2006 5:06 AM  

  • any way to use this vmx for livecd's and be able to load a cd/dvd into the VM guest os ie: gentoo, SLAMPP, knoppix... how about accessing non virtual hd's in a VM.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 08, 2006 12:19 AM  

  • Just kudos; very useful tool!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 09, 2006 6:38 AM  

  • Just kudos; very useful tool!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 09, 2006 6:38 AM  

  • Thanks for this. I have my own remastered version Knoppix which I have been running inside of XP with Qemu. Runs much faster in VMWare with your nifty little tweak. Much appreciated.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 09, 2006 1:25 PM  

  • this is my fave-o-rite tool for vmware :-)

    I use it daily when a new live version of linux comes out to try it out without even wasting a cd for ones that dont suit my fancy ;-)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 13, 2006 5:32 PM  

  • This is the LiveCD vmx file
    It seems you can just edit it in
    notepad if all you have is the
    VMware Player
    --BEGIN HERE-----------------------
    config.version = "8"
    virtualHW.version = "4"
    scsi0.present = "TRUE"
    memsize = "256"
    MemAllowAutoScaleDown = "FALSE"
    ide0:0.present = "TRUE"
    ide0:0.fileName = "vmwarez.com-Generic-LiveCD-Virtual-Machine.vmdk"
    ide1:0.present = "TRUE"
    ide1:0.fileName = "livecd.iso"
    ide1:0.deviceType = "cdrom-image"
    floppy0.fileName = "A:"
    ethernet0.present = "TRUE"
    usb.present = "TRUE"
    sound.present = "TRUE"
    sound.virtualDev = "es1371"
    sound.fileName = "-1"
    sound.autodetect = "TRUE"
    displayName = "vmwarez.com-Generic-LiveCD-Virtual-Machine"
    guestOS = "otherlinux"
    nvram = "vmwarez.com-Generic-LiveCD-Virtual-Machine.nvram"

    ide1:0.autodetect = "TRUE"
    floppy0.present = "FALSE"

    ide0:0.redo = ""
    ethernet0.addressType = "generated"
    uuid.location = "56 4d 5f a0 97 20 77 b7-86 20 87 df 25 3f 97 f5"
    uuid.bios = "56 4d 5f a0 97 20 77 b7-86 20 87 df 25 3f 97 f5"
    ethernet0.generatedAddress = "00:0c:29:3f:97:f5"
    ethernet0.generatedAddressOffset = "0"
    --END HERE-------------------------

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 15, 2006 12:59 AM  

  • awesome image, thank you!

    By Anonymous Christian Koch, at April 07, 2006 9:08 PM  

  • Regarding Kejjo's question:
    "Would it be possible to use actual drives instead of an .iso file? So if you have Linux installed on /dev/hda2, you could boot up your secondary OS in a virtual machine? Or does VMWare allow this kind of thing?"
    Yes, this works for example with a dual-boot installation of Windows NT4 or Windows 2000 and Linux; Linux being the VMware Workstation/VMware Player host.
    It will probably work the other way too, but I haven't tested it. Also, there's a warning popup, at least in VMware Workstation, telling you about possible issues and that support for this configuration may be limited or non-existent (I don't recall the exact wording from the top of my head).
    I have been using this configuration for more than a year (starting with a VMware 4.x release) and haven't noticed any quirks. Of course, certain preparations are necessary to make Windows run both on the real hardware as well as in VMware. You should set up different hardware profiles (disabling drivers for hardware that doesn't belong to the emulated machine when booting VMware, and vice versa), and make sure to use the standard IDE driver for the VMware hardware profile, or Windows will BSOD with an INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_DEVICE during boot.
    Haven't tried it with SCSI disks so far, I'd guess that things would be a bit more tricky there.

    Kind regards

    By Anonymous Stefan, at April 08, 2006 1:29 PM  

  • Absolutely cool. Thanks.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 13, 2006 8:47 AM  

  • I use this very oftenly, it's great! I also happen to use it with install cd's and not only live cd's however the 2 gb is way too small is there a way to make it bigger to something more like 10 gb? Thanks!

    By Anonymous Avi, at April 30, 2006 12:10 PM  

  • Try checking out VMware's free server product.. You can create them yourself.


    By Blogger Jim, at April 30, 2006 12:55 PM  

  • Ubuntu has a nice live cd and SuSE a complete live DVD...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 13, 2006 12:46 PM  

  • Cannot make this appliance work. Followed directions to the letter, but machine starts but does not boot.Suggestions....?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 27, 2006 11:24 AM  

  • An awesome config, the only thing I have problems with is the lack od serial ports. How do I expose /dev/ttyS0 from Linux host to the guest OS?

    By Anonymous Mario, at August 14, 2006 3:50 PM  

  • Hi,

    You website is good and tool appears to be nice too, I am just trying it now.

    I am using Win XP and just downloaded VMWare Player today. Its my first time I am using VMWare(ya, I know, where have I been).

    I have multiple LiveCD and DVDs with Linux versions. Please can you convey if(and how) I can use these LiveCDs and DVDs from the DVD Drive without actually making ISO images.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 24, 2006 8:56 AM  

  • Make sure the DVD or CD drive is set to boot before the hard disk. Then just put the Dvd or CD in the drive and switch on the computer, it will boot up from the live cd or dvd. If the cd or dvd doesn't boot the machine you can change the boot order of the disks and drives in the bios of your computer.
    To do this switch the computer off and on again, as it starts and does the memory checks tap the delete key and you will enter the bios setup screen, select I think it is the second menu "advanced settings" and you will see the drives listed you can alter the booting sequence here make the cd rom or the dvd first then the other second and the hard drive third.

    Hope it works for you


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 27, 2006 5:34 AM  

  • I have a download of vmware workstation and have tried to install the tools in Ubuntu 6.06 and also knoppix 5.5 it is just a thankless task to attempt this as there is just no way it can be accomplished.

    The computer I am using is up to date and very stable running windows xp professional, i just do not get the problems that many people report with windows, I work with movies sound large files of all kinds and have about eight usb devices connected and have countless programs installed which all start and end without problem.

    I am looking at Linux for a client also for myself and the vmware setup looked just the thing to try, and finding your blog was great i really thought i would be quite sucessful trying out these distros. I couldn't be more wrong, these guys at vmware are wanting to sell me some software at $189 and the most importtant part the tools are a free extra which you cant install, i am seriously peed off at the moment.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 27, 2006 5:45 AM  

  • Hi,

    I managed to get the vmware tools loaded along with suse linux 10.1 I couldn't figure out how to do it really, but i discovered on the vmware site there are versions of linux that already have the tools installed, on the description of the distros some do say "tools already installed". Anyway the sun is now shining and I might just buy the vmware workstation, as the tools make all the difference, you can get from windows to linux seamlessly now.

    What i am trying to figure out now is how to get the virtual machine to load automatically and start up so that I have a dual boot effect if you know what I mean, i know how to start the vmware alright I just need to figure out how to start the virtual machine.I might work it out but if someone knows it would be nice to hear.

    I am glad I found this blog as it has saved me a lot of time.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 31, 2006 5:02 PM  

  • Hi
    As I said I know how to start the vmware alright and I have that running now, the problem is the instructions for starting the Guest don't work out, e.g. it doesn't start. There is an option on the power button (The green one) to have it run when the guest is opened, as I say it doesn't work, that's maybe because the Guest is already open when vmware starts, I am still working on that.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 03, 2006 3:16 PM  

  • Hi,
    Ok I have got it going now. When you read the workstation manual it gives you the impression the virtual machine will open when workstation starts if you select the power up on opening option. Thats not so, it only starts the virtual machine when you open the virtual machine within an already open workstation, which was not what i wanted.

    Anyway the answer is to create a shortcut to the vmx file for the machine you want to run when workstation opens, and place this shortcut in the windows startup file for a particular user, or in the windows startup file for all users if you want it available for every user. It has to be a shortcut to the vmx file, not a copy of the vmx file otherwise workstation can't find the virtual machine.

    I don't know how much interest this is to anyone maybe none, but it means that a user has both operating systems available without having to reboot the computer like in a duel boot system, it just makes it easier for them to access the linux application, I am hoping that this will help wean them off always using windows.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 04, 2006 2:39 PM  

  • I am using the Live CD VM Appliance ( http://www.vmware.com/vmtn/appliances/directory/56 )and using Knoppix V4.02 EN CD version as the ISO.

    Everything works good except accesing the virtual HD under /dev/hda

    I get an error that it can not be mounted as it can not determine the file system type and none was specified.

    Any hints as to what may be the isse.

    I've included the fsta bad VMX file. The VMDK is the one included in the appliance.

    Thanks in advance.

    /proc /proc proc defaults 0 0
    /sys /sys sysfs noauto 0 0
    /dev/pts /dev/pts devpts mode=0622 0 0
    /dev/fd0 /mnt/auto/floppy auto user,noauto,exec,umask=000 0 0
    /dev/cdrom /mnt/auto/cdrom auto user,noauto,exec,ro 0 0
    # Added by KNOPPIX
    /dev/hda /mnt/hda auto noauto,users,exec 0 0

    VMX file:
    config.version = "8"
    virtualHW.version = "4"
    scsi0.present = "TRUE"
    memsize = "256"
    MemAllowAutoScaleDown = "FALSE"
    ide0:0.present = "TRUE"
    ide0:0.fileName = "vmwarez.com-Generic-LiveCD-Virtual-Machine.vmdk"
    ide1:0.present = "TRUE"
    ide1:0.fileName = "livecd.iso"
    ide1:0.deviceType = "cdrom-image"
    floppy0.fileName = "A:"
    ethernet0.present = "TRUE"
    usb.present = "TRUE"
    sound.present = "TRUE"
    sound.virtualDev = "es1371"
    sound.fileName = "-1"
    sound.autodetect = "TRUE"
    displayName = "Knoppix V4.02-Virtual-Machine"
    guestOS = "otherlinux"
    nvram = "vmwarez.com-Generic-LiveCD-Virtual-Machine.nvram"
    priority.grabbed = "high"
    priority.ungrabbed = "high"

    ide1:0.autodetect = "TRUE"
    floppy0.present = "FALSE"

    ide0:0.redo = ""
    ethernet0.addressType = "generated"
    uuid.location = "56 4d c1 f6 78 e4 3c f7-e7 9c e6 b0 24 b7 ff 4c"
    uuid.bios = "56 4d c1 f6 78 e4 3c f7-e7 9c e6 b0 24 b7 ff 4c"
    ethernet0.generatedAddress = "00:0c:29:b7:ff:4c"
    ethernet0.generatedAddressOffset = "0"

    tools.remindInstall = "TRUE"
    checkpoint.vmState = ""

    By Anonymous rec9140, at September 06, 2006 11:58 AM  

  • booting live CD's from within a virtual machine. The recursion is making my head spin... :P

    By Blogger mdm-adph, at September 06, 2006 12:33 PM  

  • Yes I got that problem with knoppix 5.5 , i didn't do anything about it as i didn't like the look of that particular distro of Linux.

    I am not a Linux Techie at all but I have used windows for years starting off with workgroups 3.11 and dos before that, I have a kind of rule of thumb that says if you get too much trouble with a program its not worth continuing with.

    Why dont you just write a few lines in the wordprocessor and save it then have a look to see where it puts the file, what I find is a lot of these operating systems just report a load of old rubbish. I would download the latest version of the software anyway. One thing I have found is that it is better to try a distrop with the vmware tools already installed, I am using suse 10.1 and so far no problems , well I still need to get the printer going but i have been too busy to do that this week.

    By Blogger Fred, at September 10, 2006 5:21 PM  

  • Hi,
    how can I have the virtual disk a little bigger - so that I can even install a live CD on VMWare and do further testing.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 15, 2006 8:32 AM  

  • Hi,

    You could download VMware Server for free and create your own. That would be the easiest way.

    By Blogger Jim, at September 15, 2006 8:35 AM  

  • I took SUSE 10.1 off my virtual machine, it was just murder trying to get the printing going. I have installed Ubuntu on vmware workstation and it went on very well.

    I added a parallel port and the printer wizard found my HP laserjet 1100, the driver was available in the selection of drivers within the wizard.

    I put a shortcut to the vmx file in the windows pro xp startup file, so i get a dual boot without having to use a boot manager.

    The only real problem was installing the VMware tools as the instructions by vmware are not detailed enough. With Ubuntu 6.0.6 the cd will appear on the desktop you double click it and it will open up in a file browser with two files a RPM and a TAR if you double click the Tar it will open up in the window of an unzipping utility where you can unzip it to the tmp file, in a terminal window you can type the installing instruction given in the VMware Tools instructions and the installation will go ahead, you can accept all the default settings, there are three utilities that it can't install but apparently you don't need them anyway, well not for desktop machine.

    One thing that is difficult to discover is that to install the tools you need to be the Root or Super user, "su" doesn't work, it will ask you for a password that the system will then not recognise. You need to type "sudo" before any command that needs you to be Root, it will then ask you for a password , which is your user password , the one you enter when Ubuntu boots up. As far as the RPM package is concerned it didn't work at all. To run the VMware tools at bootup put "vmware-tools" in the startup tab of SYSTEM>>SESSIONS.

    By Blogger Fred, at September 17, 2006 8:15 AM  

  • No the easiest way would be to include a larger virtual drive, or have an optional download where you could select 2GB, 5GB, 10GB, 20GB, 100GB virtual drive sizes.

    That would be the easiest!

    Another easier way would be to list instructions how to modify the included file to adjust the size to each persons choice.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 01, 2006 3:37 PM  

  • Easiest for who?



    By Blogger Jim, at October 01, 2006 3:39 PM  

  • For everyone that doesn't already have VMware server, and everyone that doesn't already know how to use it, and all the lazy people, and I guess that covers about 99.99999999999% of the people on the planet. oh and we can't forget Mickey.

    BTW: I didn't say it earlier, but I do like this and think it is a great tool. It does a job better and is faster then actually booting off a live cd.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 01, 2006 4:25 PM  

  • im useing vmplayer on linux and its murder to boot a live cd iso image ... ie boot another linux cd or bsd live cd iso image ... i have found small scripts on the net and modified them and had a little success with truebsd althou i found i had to alter the truebsd.vmx script and pretend it was linux not bsd .... i relise i could and can download preconfigured linux vmx zips witch contain distros wich run fine ... but id rather run regular iso images live ... ive read up on this but so far its been fruitless apart from the exeption of truebsd wich wouldnt load xfce4 . i hope this makes sense ... any help or tips in running live cd iso images in linux vmwareplayer would be nice ..

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 05, 2006 7:52 AM  

  • For those who doesn't allready know how to bot up from a real cd drive:

    just edit the .vmx file and replace

    ide1:0.fileName = "livecd.iso"
    ide1:0.deviceType = "cdrom-image"


    ide1:0.fileName = "D:"
    ide1:0.deviceType = "cdrom-drive"

    where D: is suposed to be your system CD-ROM drive mapping letter.

    Be water my friends! ;)


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 06, 2006 8:18 AM  

  • Has anyone tested with NimbleX?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 08, 2007 11:56 AM  

  • Tried it with backtrack. This is based on slackware. Worked flawlessly. Thanks

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 12, 2007 8:43 AM  

  • This is amazing! I use this all the time when i'm on Vmware -- well, not all the time, sometimes I don't use ISO's.

    But this is convenient and makes good use of VMWARE.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 20, 2007 10:05 PM  

  • Great Post, I would like to see you include puppy linux in your live CD links. It is a really good portable distro.

    By Anonymous Jesse, at February 03, 2007 1:46 PM  

  • Hi! Works fine with Ubuntu too, my first time trying linux :D
    But I got one question, what if I want to install VMplayer to my usb memory?
    I tried and it worked fine with the comp where I installed it, but when I changed comp, it gave me an error?
    How can I install it so, that it works?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 13, 2007 3:56 AM  

  • did not work. tells me it the following:
    "Exiting Intel Pxe rom"
    "Operating System not found"

    Any reason why?

    By Blogger agello24, at November 05, 2008 9:13 AM  

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