Installing VMware Server on CentOS 5

The free of charge VMware Server makes a great virtualisation solution. What's even better is that the server version runs on Linux. Just a quick note - VMware Server is not an open source product, unlike other Linux virtualisation solutions like Xen, OpenVZ, qemu and others.

You do need to register with VMware before they will give you a key to the free version, but once you have, it's pretty easy to get started.

In this tutorial, I'm going to be installing on CentOS 5, but the instructions here should work for most distributions.

Quick note - for CentOS 5, I had to install the following packages with yum before the install would work:

  • xinetd
  • gcc
  • kernel-devel (or kernel-xen-devel if you're using the Xen kernel)
Head over to the download page and grab the .tar.gz version for Linux. It's about a 100 MB download, so sit tight.

Once it's downladed, extract it (I'm working on a machine without a GUI, so I'll be doing it command line style):

$ tar xzvf VMware-server-1.0.2-39867.tar.gz

Your version number may differ slightly. Once that's extracted, go into the directory it has created:
$ cd vmware-server-distrib

Now it's time to run the install script. This needs root privileges, so either use su -c or sudo, depending on your distribution. Here I'll use the former (and will continue to do so through the rest of this tutorial).
$ su -c "./"

You'll now enter the interactive install program. I usually accept most of the defaults here, as this installs everything into the default locations and makes it nice and easy to do.

Once you've done that through, you'll get this message:

Before running VMware Server for the first time, you need to configure it by
invoking the following command: "/usr/bin/". Do you want this
program to invoke the command for you now? [yes]

Just hit enter here and we'll be in the final stage of setup. You'll have to read and agree to the licence agreement first, so press Enter, get reading then press q once you've read it all. Type yes when prompted and hit Enter.

Now the configuration script will go away and do a little configuring. Continue to accept the defaults for mimetype icons, application desktop menu entries and the application icon.

At this point, if you're lucky, VMware should find a kernel module and load it in. If not, you'll get this message:

None of the pre-built vmmon modules for VMware Server is suitable for your
running kernel. Do you want this program to try to build the vmmon module for
your system (you need to have a C compiler installed on your system)? [yes]

Make sure you have the gcc and kernel-devel packages insalled on your system (if not, use yum to install them and restart Press Enter.

VMware will go off and build a kernel module. If all goes well, you should move on to a question about networking. It's wise to choose yes for all of these, so you can use all the different network types for your virtual machines. Unless you know you don't need something, configure it anyway.

Once you've set up networking, the configuration tool will go off and compile some more stuff.

After that, you'll be asked which folder you want to store your virtual machines. This is completely up to you, but make sure you have enough disk space!

Finally, you'll be asked for your key that you got off the registration page earlier. Paste this in and finish the configuration.

You can now launch the VMware Server Console (or use the VMware Server client to connect to your new server from another machine). Enjoy!

Avatar for peter Peter Upfold -

Peter Upfold is a technology enthusiast from the UK. Peter’s interest in Linux stems back to 2003, when curiosity got the better of him and he began using SUSE 9.0. Now he runs Linux Mint 9 on the desktop, runs a CentOS-based web server from home for his personal website and dabbles in all sorts of technology things across the Windows, Mac and open source worlds.

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Discussion: Installing VMware Server on CentOS 5

  1. Mark (guest)

    # Posted on 08 August 2007 at 11:39 AM

    Thanks, this worked great. I saw many other directions however I was able to use your page to figure out I needed the kernel-xen-devel in order to get vmware running.

    Thanks, Mark

  2. Herb (guest)

    # Posted on 09 December 2007 at 01:27 PM

    Worked fantastically! May be you can give me some a detailed step s ways to getting a pay rise.

    Much Appreciated


  3. # Posted on 11 January 2008 at 02:23 PM

    [...] Link [...]

  4. mct (guest)

    # Posted on 21 January 2008 at 12:18 PM

    I am having problems when the gets to the point of locating the correct headers. I have searched for a week in an attempt to find an answer. The closest thing I have found was to compile a "custom" kernel. I have updated everything, added devel and other packages and headers I didn't even think were necessary, re-booted etc. I am always stalled at "What is the location of the directory of C header files..." THEN the problem.."The directory of kernel headers (version 2.6.18-53.1.4.el5) does not match your running kernel (version 2.6.18-53.1.4.el5PAE)..." I have tried using links to direct CentOS to the usr/src/kernels directory where the only kernel present is 2.6.18-53.1.4.el5-i686, obviously not one of the two listed above. Anyone know what the deal is or someplace I can find a correct/complete answer?

  5. albert (guest)

    # Posted on 24 January 2008 at 03:03 AM


    You need to install the following packages:

    yum install kernel-PAE yum install kernel-PAE-devel

    Hope this works for you


  6. John (guest)

    # Posted on 23 February 2008 at 02:12 PM

    I have installed VMWare on CentOS 5. Everything appears to work fine. I can create the virtual machine but when I power it on the server freezes for about 5 seconds and then reboots itself.

    Has anyone else experienced this issue? If so have you found a fix?

  7. Vito (guest)

    # Posted on 25 March 2008 at 06:16 PM


    As Mark wrote above you should install the kernel-xen-devel corresponding to your kernel (to see your kernel version type uname -r) and then write the correct path to it. For example:

    What is the location of the directory of C header files that match your running kernel? [/usr/src/linux/include] /lib/modules/2.6.18-53.1.14.el5xen/build/include

  8. computerexpertsgroup (guest)

    # Posted on 03 June 2008 at 10:06 PM

    @John -- I have the same problem on a Dell PowerEdge 2950 with 2 quad-core xeons. Xen works fine, vmware installs fine (v1.06), then starting any vmware vm reboots immediately.

  9. somebody (guest)

    # Posted on 04 June 2008 at 08:07 PM

    I'm also encountering server freezes myself. I'm running CentOS 5 (upgraded from 4.5 yesterday) with vmware server 1.0.5

  10. Jim (guest)

    # Posted on 21 July 2008 at 07:34 PM

    John - I have the same problem where my vmware clients cause the whole pc to reboot. Did you ever get your problem resolved? I have installed the lasted kernel development package, reran, and still any client when powered up causes the whole server to reboot.

    If anyone has any additional information on how to fix this, please let me know.

  11. Pete (guest)

    # Posted on 10 August 2009 at 01:29 AM

    I had problems installing VMware because I did not install all needed dependancies. Here is a complete guide I found that will help people starting with virtualization under Linux setting the OS properly before installing VMWare 2.0.1 under CentOS 5.3. It was a great help for me.

    Hope this helps.

    Cheers, Pete

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