ISO Image Files & VMware

by David Davis - January 8, 2009

VMware Workstation, Server, and ESX Server can use virtual CD/DVD disks instead of having to insert physical disks. This saves tons of time and trouble. Even better, creating a shared ISO library and all of your Virtualization servers can share that installation media. Let's find out how to mount these virtual CD/DVD drives in VMware.

What is an .iso File?

An .iso file is a disk image of a ISO 9660 file. In other words, a disk image is a single file that contains everything on an optical disk. It is easy to create these ISO files from your existing optical CD/DVD disks and even easier to mount them in your operating system.

What are the benefits to using .iso files?

  • No CD/DVD media to storage, search or get scratched
  • Quick access to optical media because you don't spend as much time searching for it as you might your optical media
  • Higher performance reading of your optical media - reduce the time to install your operating system & applications Share media between people (assuming everyone has a license, of course)
  • Excellent for remote access - when the server is in the data center and, well, you "aren't" You can download them over the Internet, many times

ISO files can be created with a number of different programs. Usually, these are the same applications you use to burn CD/DVD disks. A list of ISO creators can be found here- Wikipedia.org - ISO Image

Once I create my ISO images, I prefer to mount them to the local Host OS using the Daemon Tools. With Daemon Tools, you can generate a number of virtual CD/DVD drives, then mount your virtual media (your ISO files). These ISO files appear just as if you had inserted a CD/DVD into your computer. However, VMware Workstation and Server have this feature built-in and you don't need ISO mounting tools like these.

How Do You Use ISO Image Files With VMware?

All versions of VMware (Workstation, Server and ESX) offer the ability to mount ISO files and use them in virtual machines. Usually, these ISO files are used to install the operating system.

Recently, I had a new VMware user ask me how to mount ISO files inside VMware Workstation or Server. If you haven't done it before, it might not be obvious. On the other hand, once you do it, you will never need to be shown again. It is that simple.

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To mount an ISO file in VMware Workstation or Server, go to your existing Virtual Machine. Double-click on the CD-ROM drive like this:

Or, inside VMware, go to VM -> Settings and click on CD/DVD drive. Here, you will seen the "Connection" properties for this device. By default, you are probably using the "physical driver". To change that and use a disk image, click on Use ISO Image, like this:

Click Browse, browse to the name of your .ISO file, and click Open.

This will fill in the path to your ISO file, like this:

Now, click Connect at power on and OK.

At this point the ISO is ready for use by the OS. This demonstration was done with the VM not running but this operation can be performed on VMs while they are running (just like you would taking a CD/DVD in and out of the CD/DVD drive on your PC).

Here, you can see that the mounting was successful:

As you can see, this Windows Server has a CD drive mounted, even though it has no physical CD/DVD drive. From here, I could install operating system upgrades or additional features.

Summary

ISO files have so many different uses. We just covered how they can assist with VMware virtual Workstation & Servers. These applications support ISO files out of the box but have to be told the path to the ISO file. Creating an ISO library and using that as your central ISO repository will save you and your group time and time again.

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