VMware files allow you to create and run virtual machines on your computer. They make it easy to set up complex software configurations and test applications without dedicating physical hardware. This guide will walk through the main steps for creating different types of VMware files from scratch.
Before creating any VMware files, you need to have VMware software installed. The main options are:
- VMware vSphere – For running production environments and data centers. Requires vCenter Server.
- VMware Workstation – For developers and IT professionals to use on desktops.
- VMware Fusion – For Mac users to run VMs locally.
You also need enough storage space for the virtual disks and RAM for the virtual hardware specs.
Create a New Virtual Hard Disk (VMDK file)
The VMDK file describes the virtual hard disk drive for a VM. Here is how to make one from scratch:
- Open VMware Workstation/Fusion and click File > New Virtual Machine.
- On the New Virtual Machine Wizard, select Custom and click Next.
- Fill in name, guest OS type (Linux, Windows etc) and version. Click Next.
- Adjust RAM, processors and other hardware as needed.
- For the virtual disk, select Create a new virtual disk.
- Choose disk capacity up to 2TB and compatibility for VMware Workstation or vSphere.
- Select Store virtual disk as single file for easy portability.
- Choose disk format – Zeroed thick provision lazy zeroed is a common choice.
- Specify file location and name. Choose a .vmdk extension.
- Complete wizard to finalize the VMDK creation.
You now have a blank VMDK virtual disk ready for the virtual machine.
Set up VM Configuration (VMX file)
The VMX file defines key settings for a virtual machine – like BIOS, boot options, devices, IPs etc. Follow these steps to create one:
- After finishing the New VM wizard above, a .vmx text file gets created automatically.
- Open the .vmx file in a text editor like Notepad.
- Add these common settings:
firmware = “bios”
displayName = “MyVMName”
numvcpus = 2
scsi0.present = “TRUE”
scsi0.virtualDev = “lsilogic”
scsi0:0.redo = “”
ethernet0.present = “TRUE”
ethernet0.connectionType = “nat”
ethernet0.virtualDev = “e1000”
ethernet0.addressType = “generated”
nvram = “./MyVMName.nvram”
virtualHW.productCompatibility = “hosted”
powerType.powerOff = “soft”
powerType.powerOn = “soft”
powerType.suspend = “soft”
tools.upgrade.policy = “upgradeAtPowerCycle”
4. Save VMX file when done editing configurations.
The VMX determines how the virtual hardware, BIOS, and other settings emulate real server hardware.
Export an OVF Template (OVF file)
The OVF (Open Virtualization Format) standard allows VMs to be portable between environments. Here is how to export one:
- In VMware Workstation/Fusion, right click on an existing VM and select Manage > Export to OVF Template.
- Specify file location and name with .ovf extension.
- Select export options – choose OVF 1.0 for maximum compatibility.
- Click Finish to export OVF template.
An OVF template gets created containing the .ovf definition file + .vmdk virtual disks in one package.
Create an OVA Virtual Appliance
An OVA file packages an OVF template into one distributable virtual appliance. To create an OVA:
- Locate the exported OVF directory containing .ovf + .vmdk files.
- Compress the folder into a single .ova file.
- On Linux/Mac this can be done via command line:
tar caf myAppliance.ova OVF_directory/
- On Windows, use a utility like 7-Zip to compress files.
- The resulting .ova package can run on VMware products as a virtual appliance.
OVA provides a way to easily import preconfigured VMs in one file.
- VMDK files are virtual hard disk containers to store a VM’s disk image.
- VMX files define key virtual hardware, boot, IP and other settings.
- OVF templates allow full VM portability between environments.
- OVA appliances bundle OVF templates into a single distributable file.
- Multiple VMware products like vSphere, Workstation and Fusion can all create and run these VM file formats.
Creating VMware files opens up a wide range of possibilities for virtual infrastructure. VMDKs allow you to provision virtual disk storage. VMX files customize all aspects of a VM’s configuration. OVF templates and OVA appliances provide standardized ways to migrate fully functional VMs between environments.
With these building blocks, you can model very complex server deployments on a single desktop. VMware’s virtualization platform is extremely flexible and production-ready even for large scale applications.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I create a VMware file in VMware Player?
- Yes, VMware Player allows you to create and run VMs using the same vmx/vmdk file formats. Its functionality is more limited than Workstation/Fusion.
- How large can I make VMDK files?
- Up to a maximum of 62TB. But large disk sizes negatively affect performance. Keep VMDK size aligned to your storage needs.
- What is the difference between thick and thin provisioned VMDK?
- Thick provisioning allocates all disk space upfront. Thin uses only actual used space allowing disk overallocation.
- Can I import an OVA file?
- Yes. In VMware products do File > Deploy OVF template and locate the OVA. This unpacks and imports the VM.
- How do I customize a VMX file?
- Use a text editor like Notepad. Add more configurations like hardware devices, IP addresses, boot options etc.
- What is the difference between OVF and OVA files?
- OVF is an open standard format to describe a VM for portability. OVA packages OVF files into one distributable appliance.
- Can I create VMware files on Hyper-V or VirtualBox?
- No. VMware’s VMDK/VMX/OVF formats are proprietary to their virtualization platform. Other hypervisors use different VM image types.
- What program should I use to create VMware files?
- VMware Workstation or VMware Fusion are the best choices. They include wizards to easily create all types of VM configurations.
- Do I need vCenter Server to create VMware files?
- No, vCenter is primarily for larger deployments. Products like Workstation let you create VMs as single standalone servers.
- How do I configure my VM hardware settings?
- The VMX text file defines hardware like virtual CPU, RAM, NICs, SCSI devices etc. Edit this file to configure default virtual hardware.
- Can I export OVF templates from vSphere VMs?
- Yes, all versions of vSphere support exporting VMs to OVF. This allows migration between on-prem vSphere to cloud vSphere platforms.
- What operating systems support VMware tools?
- VMware tools drivers are available for Linux, Windows, Netware, Solaris and FreeBSD operating systems to enable advanced functionality.
- How are OVA and OVF templates different from vSphere templates?
- vSphere templates are specific to the vSphere platform. OVFs and OVAs allow portability between any VMware product and other virtualization platforms.
- Should I create thick or thin provisioned virtual disks?
- Thin disks can cause performance problems if they run out of space during growth. Thick provisioning avoids this issue and is generally recommended.
- Can I connect physical hardware like a DVD drive to a VM?
- Yes, VMware Workstation and Fusion support connecting physical CD/DVD media, USB devices and disk drives to virtual machines via the VM settings.
- Is there a storage limit for OVF and OVA files?
- The format lets you package virtual systems up to 255 disks and 256 network interface cards so storage limits can get very high.
- How do I configure SCSI controllers and devices for my VM?
- The VMX file has sections like scsi0.present, scsi0.virtualDev and scsi0:0.redo to define SCSI controllers and connected storage devices.
- What steps should I take to troubleshoot an invalid VMX file?
- Verify correct syntax – capitalization of settings names is important. Check there are no typos and each setting has a value defined.
- Can I download prebuilt OVA appliances?
- Yes many vendors offer virtual appliances to easily test and deploy complex preconfigured software stacks as OVA files.
- Do I need VMware Workstation Pro to create VMware files?
- No, Workstation Player has the functionality to create and run VMware files like VMDK, VMX, OVF etc. The Pro version adds more sophisticated enterprise capabilities.