VMWare: Booting From a CD or DVD

There are many cases when you need to boot from a CD or DVD with VMWare Workstation machine. Booting is easy when you have a brand new machine with no operating system. However, when you have a live operating system, how do you keep the machine from booting the OS and skipping the CD Rom? Forcing the CD Rom boot in that case isn’t so easy! Here’s the trick.

First Things First

Before I tell you the secret, I need to give you a quick blurb on using CD’s and DVD’s in VMWare Workstation. While it isn’t difficult to use an actual CD or DVD by placing it in your CD Rom Drive, there are better ways to use CD’s and DVD’s with Workstation.

If you are using an Operating System CD or DVD, then my recommendation is to burn an ISO to disk first. An ISO file is simply an image of the CD or DVD. This means you cannot use it on your computer with normal software, but you can use it in place of a CD or DVD drive. Roxio and Sonic both have software packages that burn CD’s and make ISO’s. I use WinImage which has the added benefit of making images of floppy disks (those really outdated tiny square things you used to put into a disk drive, and yes the really old ones were floppy and not stiff like the more recent ones). There is a trial version available, but I recommend supporting the developer and purchasing one.

Why go to this trouble? Because, you will most likely never get it the way you want the first time around. It’s kind of like the old video games. If you loose all your players, you just restart the game – it’s too easy. Well, with VMWare Workstation, creating a machine is so easy you can make them until you get one you like. I use a 4gb USB drive to store disk ISO’s for Windows and Linux as well as storing my program setup files.

Booting Within a VMWare Machine

Ok, now to the good part. When the bios screen starts on VMWare Workstation, you have to move fast. If you have a slow computer and you can read the bios screen, your PC is too slow to use virtual machines! To select a boot mode, press the ESCAPE key when the bios screen is showing.

However, the first part is to make sure that the window is accepting your key presses! Be sure to click the window or set your machine to accept mouse and key presses when using the keyboard.

Sometimes it takes me two or three attempts to get the key press accepted, so keep trying. Yes, that means you may have to use CTRL-ALT-DEL some more, but be sure you are rebooting your virtual machine and not your PC!

Hope this helps. I have a whole group of articles planned, time is the constraint!

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