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VMWare using Physical Disk


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So I have a custom build that I have to create for a specific project.


Host OS: Vista 64-bit Enterprise, only able to launch 2 VM's in VMPlayer. Hard drive partitioned, 40gb, 260gb.

VM 1 - XP Pro locked down so IE 7 is the only application that launches and the VM shuts down when it is closed (or crashes). 10gb virtual disk on c: partition.

VM 2- (for now) XP Pro, will be a full production and fully accessible OS (may do Vista at some point). runs on physical disk in 260gb partition.

Yes, I know there are other ways to do this but they want free. Not counting my time.

So Host OS and VM 1 are set up and everything is working as it should. Now we run into the snag. Trying to install XP to the physical disk from VMWare 6.5 you get and error that "operation on file "\\.\physicaldrive0" failed", So reading the documentation to make sure I've met all the requirements I find I forgot to remove the drive letter from that partition. Fine, done. Same error on the next attempt.

So I try full disk instead of a partition, thinking maybe it will let me select the second partition that way, no go, same error.

I beat Google up, down, left and right, and all I find are people having the same issue and a bunch of people doing it with Ubuntu as the host os. VMWare is just as helpful.

So I figured it out and for the next poor fool who tries this here is what you do. It is so simple it is not even funny. Ready for this?

Create the partition as a second primary partition (which I had done previously).

Now don't format it. (Simple right, heaven forbid they mention this in the VMWare docs)

Create your VM using the custom option, select "Use physical disk" on the "Select a Disk" config page, select your desired disk PhysicalDrive0 in my case, select "Use individual partitions", then select the desired partition, showed as FAT16 in VMware but it is actually RAW.

Now proceed on through as you normally would when creating a Virtual Machine.

Hope some one else finds this useful so my half a day wasted wasn't totally fruitless.

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Good info. I'll be setting up a VMWare environment in a week or so and I'll keep this in mind. It's a shame Vsphere licensing is so ridiculous. Running a basic VSphere (with vmotion) environment on two servers (each with 2 cpus, and shared storage) costs upwards of $15K! The job I have coming up, they declined to pay that kind of money for VSphere. So now I'll be stuck using Hyper-V or ESX. It makes me mad, but I can understand where the client is coming from.

On another note, I've been doing development work on Vmware, basically testing PXE/WinPE3.0 deployment. I can't find a Win7 driver (to integrate in to PE) for VMWare's virtual PCNet NIC driver. Windows Update doesn't have one, and there's absolutely nothing on the net.

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Check out VMWare they just released version 7 yesterday, I haven't been able to get it yet as work hasn't gotten our license numbers yet but it is supposed to be Win7 compatible so I would have to assume the new tools would have a working driver.

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This is a problem based on Windows NT 6, because they have bigger restrictions about raw disk access. The only solution would be a driver like www.eldos.com but this has to be implemented by the distributor of the application (the driver isn't for the end-user) ...

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  • 4 months later...

I tried the same kind of thing and had the same problem because when you install XP it try to write the MBR of the drives so if the virtual drive is a raw partition, it won't work.

The only way to do it and keep best performances (from using raw device) is to create a static vmdk for the system and a raw device for the rest.

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If you trick the OS into believing the disk is unpartitioned, then nt6.x have nothing to lock and thus vmware will have complete control of the disk including the mbr. Did you read the thread?


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