VMware Workstation

What’s Cool about the VMware KVM Utility.

VMware Workstation 10 comes with a handy utility which allows you to switch between active VMs (virtual machines) using a configurable hot key just like a KVM (Keyboard Video Mouse) switch. The benefit of using the VMware KVM utility is the VMs can be run in full-screen without launching the Workstation 10 interface (no tool bar) and manage their power state via CLI (command line interface). Another additional benefit from an IT perspective is running a virtual machine for the user when Windows is launched and the user can  seamlessly switch between the operating systems by using the defined hotkey.

Note: The VMware KVM mode is only available for Windows version of Workstation 10.x.

Below is a brief example with screen shots and short video on how I setup and used VMware KVM mode with desktop shortcuts on my Win 8.1 computer. *** Not all steps are included in this blog post and the location of your files might be different so please reference Knowledge Base article KB2057914 and VMware KVM Guide (pdf) for detailed information on using the VMware KVM utility.

The first step in configuring VMware KVM mode is setting the hotkeys and preferences. Open up a command prompt and change to the directory where Workstation is installed. Launch the VMware KVM executable with the “–preferences”  after the command.

VMware KVM Command Prompt

Upon launching “vmware-kvm.exe –preferences” command you will see a small GUI window that allows you to change the default hot keys in addition to other features for launching and exiting the virtual machine.

VMware KVM Preferences

If you use multiple monitors like I am you can change the physical monitor on which the selected virtual machine runs in full screen mode as shown below. Click OK to exit the utility and save you KVM preferences.

VMware KVM Pref Multi Mon

The second step is to execute the vmware-kvm.exe command with a pointer to the selected VM to run Workstation in KVM mode. You will run the command: “vmware-kvm.exe [OPTIONS] virtual-machine-vmx-file.vmxwhere: “virtual-machine-vmx-file.vmx” is the path to the .vmx file of the virtual machine. To run multiple VMs and switch between them with the configured hot key the vmware-kvm.exe command must be issued once for each VM you want to start or stop in KVM mode.

In the next few screen shots I created a desktop shortcut for the vmware-kvm.exe and pointed it to the location of my VM I want assigned to the desktop shortcut. The location of you vmware-kvm.exe and VMs may be different depending if you changed the default installation locations when installing VMware Workstation 10. For additional assistance in locating your VMs please reference KB Article KB1003880 besides the guides mentioned above.

Create a desktop shortcut for the vmware-kvm.exe executable from within File Explorer by right clicking on the executable and selecting “Send To” “Desktop (create shortcut)”

VMware KVM -Desktop Shortcut

Once the shortcut is created on the desktop edit the shortcut properties and in the “Target Field” enter the path to the “.vmx” file of the selected VM. Make sure the path to the VM is after the quotes and is also inside its own quotes. Click Apply and OK to exit the desktop shortcut properties. The path to my selected VM as an example would be “O:\VMs\Windows 7 SP1 x64\Windows 7 SP1 x64.vmx” and would come after the path to the vmware-kvm.exe file location as shown below.

VMware KVM Desktop Shortcut 1R1

Click on the newly created desktop shortcut to launch the VM in Full Screen. To cycle through the running VMs and current host OS desktop screen use the configured hotkey which in my case is the “Pause” key. To run more VMs in KVM mode create additional shortcuts for the vmware-kvm.exe executable and point to the VM you would like to run.

In the short video below (no audio) I created three vmware-kvm.exe shortcuts on my Win 8.1 desktop for various Windows OS VMs (Win XP, Win Vista, Win 7) and launch each one and cycle through the VMs with the Pause hot-key and then back to my WIn 8.1 desktop.