Install elementary OS on VMware Workstation

A guided installation using a small virtual display.

If you’ve ever tried to install elementary OS 6 “Odin” on VMware Workstation, you may have given up out of frustration. When you first fire up your new virtual machine, the screen resolution is a tiny 800x600 — too small for the elementary installer to fit on the screen. This step-by-step guide will help you install elementary OS and enable VMware Tools to unlock higher resolutions.

Updated 10/9/2021

Andrew Vojak on Twitter notes that switching the Firmware Type from BIOS to UEFI increases the resolution. I’ve confirmed that this bumps the resolution to 1024x768, which is fully usable for the installation process. Instructions updated below.

I had no idea this was so easy.

Requirements

Prepare Your Virtual Machine

In VMware Workstation, go to File > New Virtual Machine… to start the new virtual machine wizard.

Create a new virtual machine. Typical will choose sane defaults. Click Next.

Linux and Ubuntu will be automatically selected. Click Next.

Name your virtual machine and select the installation location. Click Next.

Configure your disk capacity. If you are just testing elementary OS, 20 GB should be more than sufficient. If you are planning to use this for development or install many applications, you may want to consider opting for more disk space. Store the virtual disk as a single file for best performance. Click Next when you are ready to proceed.

Click Customize Hardware to make adjustments to memory, networking, and CPU cores. Otherwise, click Finish to continue.

Update 10/9/2021 — Switch Firmware Type to UEFI

At this point, you should be able to switch the firmware type from BIOS to UEFI to increase the default resolution from 800x600 to 1024x768.

From the virtual machine page, click on Edit virtual machine settings.

Click on the Options tab. Select the Advanced settings. Change Firmware type to UEFI. Click OK to apply and close the window.

Your new virtual machine is now ready. Click Power on this virtual machine to get started with the installation. If everything works as expected, you should be greeted with a fully visible installer window.

If for some reason this does not work, go back to your Virtual Machine Settings and change the Firmware type back to BIOS. Then proceed with the installation steps below.

If it does work for you, feel free to install elementary OS as you choose, then skip ahead to the Install VMware Tools section below to unlock higher resolutions and automatic resize options.

Installation

If you’re here, then the UEFI Firmware type option didn’t work and you’re now installing with a small SVGA resolution of 800x600.

When VMware Tools are installed, virtual machines will automatically resize to the window. Since they are not preinstalled on elementary OS, the installer will use this small resolution and you will not be able to click any of the navigation buttons. I’ve documented the series of steps to continue without clicking on the off-screen buttons.

Select a Language

Click your preferred language, or hit the Enter key.

Click on your locale, then hit the Enter key.

Select Keyboard Layout

Click your preferred keyboard layout, or hit the Enter key.

Click your keyboard variant, then hit the Enter key.

Try or Install

Click Erase Disk and Install. Hit the Tab key twice, and then Enter.

Select a Drive

Click the available disk. Hit the Tab key twice, and then Enter.

Enable Drive Encryption

Hit the Enter key to opt out of encryption and continue with the installation.

Installing

The installation will now proceed. Your VM will automatically restart once installed.

First Time Setup

Once elementary OS is installed, you will be greeted with the OEM Setup screen. Like the installer, you will select a language and keyboard layout before proceeding with your user details.

Select a Language

Click your preferred language, or hit the Enter key.

Click on your locale, then hit the Enter key.

Select Keyboard Layout

Click your preferred keyboard layout, or hit the Enter key.

Click your keyboard variant, then hit the Enter key.

Create an Account

Enter your user details, then hit the Enter key.

Login (Twice)

Your user is now configured. Go ahead and login now. You may need to login a second time, but this is only required on initial login.

You’re now logged in, but you still have a the unusable 800x600 resolution. Let’s fix that next.

Installing VMware Tools

You may be able to install the open-vm-tools-desktop drivers from AppCenter. They didn’t show for me initially, but they can be easily installed from the Terminal.

Click the Applications area in the upper left of the screen. Click on Terminal to continue.

Update and install the open-vm-tools-desktop.

sudo apt update
sudo apt install open-vm-tools-desktop

Enter Y and then hit the Enter key to install.

Once installed, the drivers will immediately resize the virtual display to fit.

Congratulations

You’ve successfully installed elementary OS 6 “Odin” on VMware Workstation. That wasn’t so painful. Next you should fire up App Center and get your updates. You may also want to head to Flathub and install some apps.

Installation screenshots taken on elementaryos-6.0-stable.20211005.iso running on VMware Workstation 16.1.2.

Featured image is a composite from:

Xubuntu, Xfce, and elementary contributor. Free software advocate. My opinions are my own. Writing about FOSS, gaming, tech, and more. https://bluesabre.org