Because I get asked to this quite often for a couple of Ubuntu Server instances we run on a VMware VMSphere Server, I thought it worth jotting down the process in these pages for quick referral. First though:

VMware Tools is a suite of utilities that enhances the performance of the virtual machine’s guest operating system and improves management of the virtual machine. Without VMware Tools installed in your guest operating system, guest performance lacks important functionality. Installing VMware Tools eliminates or improves these issues:

  • Low video resolution
  • Inadequate color depth
  • Incorrect display of network speed
  • Restricted movement of the mouse
  • Inability to copy and paste and drag-and-drop files
  • Missing sound
  • Provides the ability to take quiesced snapshots of the guest OS
  • Synchronizes the time in the guest operating system with the time on the host
  • Provides support for guest-bound calls created with the VMware VIX API

Right, so first up, open up your management console and locate the Ubuntu Server instance you want to install/re-install the VMware Tools for. Right-click to bring up the context menu and from the Guest sub-menu, select Install VMware Tools option. This will offer you two choices, basically Automatic or Manual. If you have the automatic option available to you, great, clicking this will do all of the work, but in my instance this is seldom the case. So manual selection it is. (This essentially ‘pops a CD into the CD-ROM drive on the server’).

So if manual is your route, continue on with the tutorial. Next open a console and log in. If you’ve currently have VMware Tools installed, I find the safest is to actually to a uninstall. To do this, run:


Once this completes, you should be ready for the install process. First, make sure your system is updated (not technically necessary though):

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get-upgrade

Another optional step, make sure all the build dependencies and required linux headers are in place (to be used by the VMware Tools installer):

sudo apt-get install build-essential
apt-get install linux-headers-`uname -r`

Note the sneaky mid-run execution of uname (using backticks) in order to ensure the current kernel headers are installed.

Right, now onto the actual meat of installing VMware Tools on your Ubuntu server:

Create a directory to mount the CD-ROM by running (obviously you can substitute your own paths in if you don’t like mine):

sudo mkdir /mnt/cdrom

Mount the CD-ROM by running the command:

sudo mount /dev/cdrom /mnt/cdrom or sudo mount /dev/sr0 /mnt/cdrom

The file name of the VMware Tools bundle varies depending on your version of the VMware product. To get the name that you need:

ls /mnt/cdrom

Extract the contents of the VMware Tools bundle by running the command:

sudo tar xzvf /mnt/cdrom/VMwareTools-x.x.x-xxxx.tar.gz -C /tmp/

(Note: x.x.x-xxxx is the version discovered in the previous step.)

Change directories into the VMware Tools distribution and run the installer:

cd /tmp/vmware-tools-distrib/
sudo ./ -d

The -d switch assumes that you want to accept the defaults. If you do not use -d, press Return to accept each default or supply your own answers.

Once everything is done you should be home free, though as always, a reboot is suggested just to make sure everything is refreshed and fallen in place:

sudo reboot now


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Related Link: VMware Knowledge Base