Using physical disks with VMWare server

For some reason (product differentiation? simple oversight?) VMWare Server 2 ((Downloadable from has no option to create a VM using a physical disk. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean that it can’t use them; you just need to import a predefined VM and tell it to use that. It’s possible to create a VM in the right format using some other version of VMWare – Workstation, an older version of Server, and possibly Fusion – but that means you need to have those around.

Alternatively, there are some third-party tools to do the job. Take a look at VMX Builder; it’s a free (as in beer) Windows program, that’s said to work in Wine – though if you’re running Linux you’d probably be better with KVM and virt-manager than VMWare. VMX Builder makes it straightforward to define a VM as you need (NB: if you have a 64-bit guest you may need to choose the LSI Logic virtual SCSI controller).

Having done that, go to the VMWare console and choose ‘Add Virtual Machine to Inventory’ from the ‘Virtual Machine’ menu.

Using this method it’s possible to boot a real physical Linux installation from within Windows and have it run in the background as a service ((If you’re doing that it’s probably worth looking at open-vm-tools which is probably packaged by your distribution of choice, and probably more likely to actually work than VMWare’s official version.)). Most virtualisation options on Windows are either a) expensive, b) arbitrarily limited – 32-bit only, single-processor only, etc. or c) intended to run in the foreground as a standard windowed application.

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