The VMware Player is a free virtualization application released by VMware. This application allows users to run virtual machines on their desktop computers. There are many reasons that you might want to run a virtual machine. Perhaps you have upgraded to Windows 8, but still want to use older applications that require Windows XP. Or, maybe you want to test out Linux or Mac OS and do not want to have to go to the hassle of maintaining a second PC or dual booting.
Virtual machines are also popular with gamers, who want to run multiple instances of the same game on their PC, but want to have different device fingerprints for each game. Another popular use of virtual machines is to run multiple servers on one computer. Virtualization allows you to make better use of powerful hardware.
The VMware Player comes in two versions; a standard free version and a plus version for commercial use. You can use the player to create a virtual hard drive and then install your operating system onto that drive. It is important to note that a virtual machine installation of an operating system still counts as a real installation, meaning that you will still need a license for the OS to use it.
VMware Player is free for home use, and is a great educational tool. It has fallen out of favour slightly now that Microsoft ships a version of Hyper-V free with Visual Studio Express, but VMware is easy to use and it does have many benefits, including the ability to give virtual machines access to graphics acceleration and other powerful hardware features of the host machine.
The Easiest Virtual Machine
VMware player is perhaps the easiest virtual machine to set up and configure. To get a working guest OS, all you need to do is click through the VM setup wizard and set the size of the drive and the amount of memory you want to allocate to the guest OS. Peripherals and networking are all handled for you. If, after installing the operating system you are unhappy with the performance of the guest VM, you can change the number of cores, the graphics acceleration and other features of the machine manually.
VMware player can play virtual machines that were created on other computers. If you download a pre-configured VM then the software will ask you whether you created the virtual machine on the computer you are opening it on, or whether you copied it from somewhere else. If you select “I copied it” then the player software will intelligently reconfigure the machine so that it works on your computer. This system is not completely foolproof, but it does work most of the time and can save you from some laborious set-up work.
VMware produces a range of applications for home users and enterprise applications. The VMware player is a great introduction to virtualization and can help you test out new ideas and infrastructure implementations without spending a lot of money.