Installing VMware Tools is generally required so that virtual machines (VMs) can fully participate in the VMware memory overcommit features by providing the per-VM memory balloon driver. This driver provides a mechanism for the VM to contract and expand memory (within the preset settings of the VM) upon request by the VMkernel. Other than this, there are a host of other drivers and tools that make up VMware Tools. Those are:
- vmmemctl – Balloon driver.
- vmxnet – Paravirtualized network VMwaredriver.
- vmblock – Block filesystem driver to provide drag-and-drop functionality from the remote console.
- vmsync – Sync driver for freezing and thawing filesystems (Linux specific).
- vmhgfs – VMware host/guest file system driver (not used within ESX).
- SVGA Display Driver for Windows systems.
- Mouse Driver for Windows systems.
- vmdesched – Experimental driver for improving time keeping.
- vsock – Socket driver that works with VMCI.
- VMware Guest Daemon for controlling communication between the guest and the host including time sychronization.
- VMware Toolbox for Linux or VMware Tray for Windows for controlling various VMware Tools settings.
A few FAQs:
Do I have to install VMware Tools?
Not at all, your VMs will run fine without VMware Tools, but they will not be notified when memory ballooning occurs. The balloon driver aids the OS in handling these cases.
What do I do if the network is flakey?
Switch to the PCNET32 default device driver that comes with the OS instead of using vmxnet. Or even switch to the e1000 driver that comes with the OS, but this also requires a VM configuration file change.
What if VMware Tools fails to load?
In general this is not an issue unless it is the network driver you are currently using. In that case, you need to modify the system to use the PCNET32 device driver instead. In general, there is often no need to use VMware Tools.
Do I lose out on any other functionality if I don’t install VMware Tools?
When using the VMware Infrastructure Client without VMware Tools some of the information such as IP address will not be available.
The security document says to add X isolation setting. Why?
These isolation settings the security documentation says to disable are good things to do and are really unrelated to VMware Tools. What they do is modify VMware Backdoor functionality to be more secure.
I have a Linux system and the tools do not exist.
For Linux systems you often have to rebuild your VMware Tools to match your system. To do so you will need the GNU compiler collection (GCC) and kernel development packages installed. If your kernel is relatively new then you will need to use the VMware Tools from http://open-vm-tools.sourceforge.net/ as they are more up-to-date than the official ones from VMware.
How can I tell if VMware Tools is causing a problem in my system?
One way to tell if VMware Tools is involved in your problems is to uninstall it. If your problem goes away then VMware Tools is the culprit. However, once you install it you can select to only install certain items within VMware Tools. Do this until the combination causes a problem.
What do I do if I’m getting a message that VMware Tools is out of date?
Upgrade your VMware tools, this implies that there are newer official VMware tools available with a patch to the host. This is not really a guest OS issue.
VMware Tools are becoming a fact of life with VMware virtualization but they are not necessary and knowing when to install them is just as important as knowing how to debug your guest OS when they are in use. There are many posts on VMware Tools within the VMware VMTN Communities forums, so navigate to the VMTN forums for more information.