This guide is a general overview of installing VMware and its power for accessing legacy hardware in a VM. Its designed to get you started convert old software disks into .isos and floppy disks into .flps for use for virtualisation. The guide is focussed on tips to connect to legacy devices after installation. Separate guides are available which comprehensively cover modern and legacy Window OS installation and Linux installation in a VMware Player VM.
- Download Links
- Installation of VMware Player (No OS) and WinImage
- Creating a .iso from a CD/DVD Image
- Loading the .iso in a VM
- Creating a .flp image from a Floppy Disk
- Example of Loading USB Devices in a VM
- Adding Virtual Serial and Parallel Ports
- BIOS and Boot Delay Time
- What Operating System can you virtualise?
1. Download Links
VMware player can be found here:
The latest installer requires a 64 Bit Windows or 64 Bit Linux Host however earlier versions could be installed on 32 Bt Windows or 32 Bit Linux Hosts (unrecommended).
Select Download VMware Player:
Select Downloads → All Drivers and Downloads:
Scroll down until you get to VMware Workstation Player:
Then opt to Download for Windows if your Host is Windows (and your guest is Windows or guest is Linux) or Linux if your Host is Linux (and your guest is Windows or Linux).
WinImage can be downloaded from here and will be used to convert CD/DVD and Floppy Drives into Virtual equivalents for installation in the VM:
Use the 64 Bit .exe for 64 Bit Windows and the 32 Bit .exe for 32 Bit Windows.
Installation of VMware Player is easy. Open the folder double click the installer and select run or select run directly from your Browser:
The install will begin:
Select the license agreement and select next again:
Select next again:
Select next again:
Select next again:
Select next again (uncheck Desktop shortcut if you don’t want one):
Launch VMware Player from the Start Screen:
Upon first entry you will be prompted to input your email adress or buy a commercial license if you want to use the software commercially.
You now have VMware Player installed. The installation of WinImage is likewise straight forward double click the installer:
Select yes at the UserAccount Control Prompt:
Select Next, Next, Agree with the license Agreement and select Next again. Then select Next, Next, Next and then Finish:
The next part of this guide is creating .iso from CD/DVDs and .img files from Floppy Disks which may be needed for Legacy Window installation. If you are installing a modern version of Windows or Linux you do not need to carry out these steps. The part after is about connecting legacy hardware to a VM via serial, parallel and USB ports on the host PC. Again if you don’t plan to use legacy hardware with your VM you do not need to carry out these steps.
3. Creating a .iso from a CD/DVD
Most legacy Windows OS such Windows 95/98SE/2000/ME/XP come as a CD and XP MCE/Vista/7 come as a DVD. Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 are directly downloadable in .iso format so this step is not needed for these versions. Note one should only use Retail Full versions or Volume License versions of Windows to make .isos from. OEM and Retail Upgrade versions on the otherhand will cause issues with Microsoft Product Activation especially for Windows XP or later. Much legacy software also came in CD or DVD format.
In order to utilise these CD/DVDs in a VM it is best to convert them to .iso format. This also ensures that they can be used in future machines without optical drives..
On a computer with an internal or USB Optical Drive, launch WinImage and insert your CD/DVD. Then open the CD/DVD in Windows Explorer:
Next close down all Windows Explorer instances to prevent this error message:
Select Disk and then ensure “Use CD-Rom D:” is selected:
Then select Read Disk:
You will be prompted for a location and name for the .iso. Name the .iso and then select save. This is a Windows XP Pro SP3 Disk so I have labelled it appropriately.
WinImage will read the Disk and copy its contents as a .iso:
It will then show you the .iso:
Note for Windows XP in particular you may wish to update your installation media. To make Windows XP Service Pack 4 installation media from an older installation disc see my Slipstreaming Service Pack 3, Windows Media 11 into your Windows XP Installation Media using nlite. For Retail or Corporate installation media you can directly slipstream the Unofficial Service Pack 4. Note that you don’t need to slipstream the older service packs, IE8 or WMP11 separately. The guide wasn’t updated for OEM installation media as it broke OEM System Locked Preinstallation which isn’t used for a Retail or Corporate Upgrade install.
4. Loading the .iso
You can select to load the .iso during the creation of a VM.
Left click player → Left Click File → Left Click New Virtual Machine:
Select Installer Disk Image File (.iso):
Select browse…. and left click the .iso you created.
If you wanting to load a .iso into a VM thats already up and running you can via the Player Menu. Left click Player on an open VM and select Removable Devices → CD/DVD (SATA) and then settings…
Select your .iso and select open:
The VM will now load the .iso as a CD/DVD:
5. Creating a .flp Image from a Floppy Disk
This will instruct in creating a read only floppy image for use in a VM.
On a computer with an internal or USB floppy Drive, launch WinImage and insert the Floppy Disk. Then open the floppy in Windows Explorer:
Have a look at the files listed:
Select Disk and then ensure “Use Floppy A:” is selected:
Select Read disk:
You should now see the contents of the floppy.
Note you may get some error messages select okay at each of these and just make sure all the files/folders are listed there.
Select the save button:
Ensure you opt to save in the .flp format:
Save the bootdisk as filename,flp
6. Adding a Virtual Floppy Drive and Loading a .flp in VMware Player
Make sure your VM is powered down and single left click your desired VM (a double left click will launch the VM) and select “Settings…”
If Floppy Drive is not displayed select Add to Add the Hardware:
Accept the User Account Control:
Select Floppy Disk and then select Next:
Select Use a Floppy Image:
Browse for the .flp image you created earlier:
Select the .flp image and select open:
You can opt to have it connected at power on or not. Select Finish:
Then select Ok and you can now launch the VM with the Virtual Floppy Drive Image:
Changing a .FLP image on an up and running VM is a more or less identical procedure to changing the CD/DVD .iso image as mentioned above.
Note adding a .FLP image to a VM will likely result in the VM trying to boot from the floppy disc which you likely will not want to prevent this you will need to change the boot settings discussed later.
7. Example of USB Devices
I will now demonstrate the power of VMware Player when it comes to connecting to hardware. If I right click the start button on the host PC and go to the Device Manager:
Then aerosnap this to the right I can see I have the Epson V330 scanner in the Windows 10 Device Manager. I have deliberately not installed the driver for it so it shows under unknown devices and not Imaging Devices:
In the VM I can select Player → Removable Devices and pick from a list of USB devices. I shall select the Epson V330 scanner and connect to it:
The Epson scanner then disappears from the Device Manager in the Windows 10 Host and the new hardware Wizard begins in the VM:
I have installed the Epson scanning software in the VM so will just select next. The system is offline so it won’t find anything from Windows Update:
I’ll select install this software automatically and select next:
The driver for the scanner will now be installed:
When its done I can select Finish:
I can now open up the Device Manager in the XP VM by going to start and right clicking computer and selecting properties:
I can then select the Hardware tab:
Then launch the Device manager:
The scanner should show up in the Imaging Devices category, in my case I had to power it on and off again after the driver installation for it to show:
I can now launch the Epson Scan software from the XP VM:
I can then select scan:
Then ok to begin the scan:
The scan is now in my pictures in the VM and can open it in the VM:
I can then use drag and drop to copy the file from the VM to the host PC:
You will see the quick flash about copying files from the VM:
The image file will now be in the folder of the host PC I dragged it to:
I can now use all the programs on my Windows 10 PC to edit the Image or to email it etc. This was an example using a scanner (which works natively with Windows 10) but its a good demonstration. This could equally have been a very expensive scientific instrument with no modern software and an ageing PC that needs replaced with a more reliable VM.
8. Adding Virtual Serial and Parallel Ports
Make sure your VM is powered down. Aerosnap VMware player to the right and open the Device Manager on the Host to the left by right clicking start and selecting Device Manager:
This system is a Latitude D820 with a D Series dock. The D series Dock has a Serial Port Com1 and Parallel Port LPT1:
To add these ports to the VM, right click your VM and then left click settings:
Select Serial port and then next:
Select use physical serial port on the host and select next:
Ensure that you select Com1 this will make this new serial port in the VM using the Com1 port of the host:
So theres a slight complication here and source of confusion….
In Windows XP and later the VMs virtual hardware already assigns virtual hardware to Com1 (in Windows 98 and earlier its likely the unknown devices which don’t have drivers so you don’t get this problem). Therefore any new serial device added comes as Serial Port 2 (Com2 in the XP Device Manager). I will amend this later as some legacy applications need the ports to be specific.
Now I will add the parallel port highlighting it and selecting next:
I will select Use physical parallel port on the host and select next:
I will change it to LPT1 and select next:
The ports line up like this. Select ok and launch the VM:
Open up the Windows XP Device Manager:
Select Device Manager:
The ports by default align like this. The red Com1 is part of the virtual machines virtual hardware and not a Com port on the host. We first want to change its port number in order to free up Com1 so we can align the ports accordingly or you can make the right port numbers on your VM for your legacy hardware (usually legacy hardware uses Com1 or Com3).
Right click Communications Port 1 and select properties:
Select port settings and then select Advanced:
I will change this from Com1 to Com256 (which I have no intention of using):
I will then press ok:
I will press ok again:
I can now rename Com2 by right clicking it and selecting properties:
Again I can go to port settings:
And now I can move it from Com2 to Com1:
I can then press ok:
The Device Manger needs refreshed I will close it down and open it again:
We can now see that Com1 is Com1 in both the host and the VM.
These ports are set to automatically connect when the VM is launched. They can however be accessed from the player menu. Go to player → Removable Devices and you will see the Serial Port (its still called Serial Port 2) and Parallel Port. You can then disconnect each or go to settings.
You can now control devices by plugging them into the serial/parallel ports of the host PC and by launching the legacy software in the VM in an identical manner to the USB scanner I demonstrated earlier.
9. BIOS and Boot Delay Time
By Default VMware player sets a VM to boot from the Virtual CD/DVD upon first launch. At every subsequent launch it defaults to the HDD (unless a floppy drive is present) and has a VMware virtual BIOS screen that is too fast for the user to c;lick into the VM and then access. This speeds the launch of the VM:
To alter this we need to go the Virtual Machine Configuration file. Power down the VM and right click your VM and select settings…
Select options. And copy the location of the working directory:
Go to the working directory in Windows Explorer and close down VMware Player:
Find the Virtual Machine Configuration file and right click it. Select open with:
Select more apps:
Select notepad and then select ok:
You now need to add or modify a line in the code:
Press [Ctrl] and [f] then search for bios if you can find it then change the line with bios.bootdelay to
bios.bootdelay = “10000”
If you cannot find it:
Then type in
bios.bootdelay – “10000”
At the top of the file. Then save and close the file and folder in Windwos Explorer.
10000 = the boot time in ms. The machine will give a BIOS screen that shows for 10 s allowing you ample time to access the BIOS setup or boot to a different device:
Open VMware player and launch your VM:
You will get the normal VMware Virtual BIOS which is too fast as normal:
You will then get an additional VMware Virtual BIOS screen which waits 10 seconds:
This longer boot screen allows you to enter the BIOS setup by pressing [F2] and to change the Boot order if necessary. In this case I want to boot to the Hard Drive by default and not the floppy Drive so will highlight the Hard Drive and select [+]:
I can then save the changes by pressing [F10]:
Then select yes:
This longer boot screen allows you to enter the Boot menu for a single launch by pressing [Esc]. I can then reinstall Windows from the .iso (CD/DVD Rom Drive) if I wanted:
<h1 “WhatOS”>10. What Operating Systems can you Virtualise?
To see the list of Windows and Linux OS you can virtualise, select Player, File → New Virtual Machine:
Normally the installer would begin by loading the .iso (or using a physical optical drive on the host). VMware Player would then detect the OS from the .iso and make conditions appropriate for the VM:
If however I will install the OS later is selected one may have a look through the list of possible VMs:
Selecting Microsoft Windows we can see the list of available Windows OS we can virtualise:
The most popular ones are highlighted.
If these versions of Windows are selected VMware Player will setup the hardware using the default settings it recommends for that version of Windows. I usually up the HDD, RAM and Number of CPUs in most cases but have separate guides on most of these Windows OS VMs.
Selecting Linux allows us to have a look at the Linux OS and we can see that there are a large abundance of these:
The most popular are Ubuntu, Fedora and Mint with Mint being similar to Ubuntu so Ubuntu should be selected for installation of Mint. I will look at installation of these main three Linux versions.