In this article, we will set up the latest version of Debian 11 Bullseye, a great Linux distribution, on a new virtual machine with VMware Workstation 17 Pro virtualization software installed on a Windows 10 PC, and then configure VMware Tools to be able to share files between the host and the VM.
How to Set Up Debian 11 (11.5) on a Virtual Machine using VMware Workstation 17 Pro on Windows 10
Debian Linux is a free open-source operating system and includes many free tools that can be used by home or business users to do all their work. Examples of these applications are LibreOffice for creating or editing office documents, and VLC Media Player for opening various video files.
You can use and experience Debian Live via a DVD or USB memory without using your computer’s hard disk and without destroying your current operating system. If you plan to install this system on your PC later, you can start the system installation from the Live CD.
Instead of using the Debian operating system as Live, you can use virtualization software such as VMware Workstation in the system installed on your host computer. In particular, it might be a smart idea to use a Linux distribution you want to experience in a virtual machine.
Workstation Pro software developed by VMware company is paid, but you can use the Player version for the free version. Workstation Pro allows you to activate more advanced features of the system you will install or to create a VM professionally to test new technologies.
How to Download Debian ISO Installation Image File
To download Debian Linux as an ISO to your computer, you must first visit the debian.org website.
After viewing the website, click Getting Debian from the options in the top menu to download the ISO file. Then, click on the “complete installation image” link under the Download an installation image option. Then click the “Download CD/DVD images using HTTP” link, and then click amd64 in the subheading “Official CD/DVD images of the stable release”.
You will see two titles, CD and DVD, if you click on the amd64 option in the DVD title, you will be directed to the DVD image download web page, which contains many tools for environments where an Internet connection is not available or very slow.
After downloading the website a little bit, you can download the 3.6 GB ISO file named “debian-11.5.0-amd64-DVD-1.iso” to your computer.
How to Create a New Virtual Machine for Debian
Before you can properly install and run an operating system in VMware virtualization software, you must configure the virtual machine settings correctly.
After running the VMware virtualization software, after clicking Create a New Virtual Machine, a Wizard will open as below. Select the Custom (advanced) option in the Virtual Machine Wizard, and then click the Next button.
Configure the hardware compatibility setting of the virtual machine to 17.x. If you upgrade the Workstation program to a newer version after installing the VM, do not forget to change the hardware compatibility.
Select I will install the operating system later in the Guest Operating System Installation wizard, then click Next.
You can configure the type and version of the operating system you will install on the virtual computer from this window. First, select the Linux option and select Debian 10.x 64-bit from the options listed in the Version section, then click Next.
You can choose the location where you want to install your virtual computer from this window. If you have an old computer and are using a mechanical disk, you can gain further performance gain by storing the VM’s location on an external SSD disk in this window.
Type a name for your virtual machine and then choose where you want to store it and continue with Next.
In the Processor Configuration window, specify a value for your virtual machine according to the processor power of your PC and click Next.
Similarly, in the Memory window, set a value according to the RAM size of your existing host.
In the Network Type window, you can use the NAT selected by default. If you have configured a Bridged network on Virtual Network Editor, you can select this type.
Leave the default option (LSI Logic) for the controller type enabled and click the Next button.
Select the NVMe type known as the newest technology as the type of virtual disk. If you try to install older versions of the Debian system, you need to find out if it supports the NVMe disk structure. If not, you can change the disk type to SATA or SCSI.
In the Select a Disk window, you must select the Create a new virtual disk option as you will be installing a Debian from scratch.
If you want to use the VMDK file instead of using the Debian ISO file, you need to select the Use an existing virtual disk option in this window during the virtual machine setup.
In the Specify Disk Capacity window, specify a size for the new virtual disk and tick to store the virtual disk as a single file, then click Next.
You can change the location where you want to back up the disk file from this window. The configuration in this window will only change the location of the virtual disk to be created.
The summary hardware information for the virtual computer is as follows. Now, click on the Customize Hardware button to enable a few extra settings.
After clicking the Processors device, enable all virtualization options under Virtualization Engine displayed on the right.
Virtualize Intel VT-x/EPT or AMD-V/RVI
Virtualize CPU Performance Counters
Virtualize IOMMU (IO Memory Management Unit)
To add the Debian 11 ISO file to the VM, click CD/DVD / Use ISO image file / Browse button and add the file.
In your Debian VM, change the Compatibility setting to 3.1 in the USB Controller device settings so that you can transfer files faster using USB 3.0/3.1 devices.
Finally, enable the 3D Graphics (Accelerate 3D Graphics) option in the Display device settings and configure the video memory to a size that your host can support.
After configuring all the settings of your Debian virtual computer correctly, check the settings in the summary window again and click Finish to close the wizard.
Until this step, you have prepared a new virtual system for Debian distribution. Now, click Power on this VM to run the VM and begin the system setup.
How to Install Debian 11
After preparing the Debian guest operating system, all you have to do is install the Linux distribution on the VM.
After running your virtual computer, press Enter on the Graphical Install option on the Debian GNU/Linux installer menu (BIOS mode) screen.
Select the Debian operating system language, that is, the display language, and click the Continue button.
In the Select your location window, select your country of residence and click the Continue button.
In the Configure the keyboard window, configure the keyboard layout you want to use and click Continue.
In the Configure the network window, you need to type the hostname to identify your system to a network. You can choose the default configured name as in the image below, or you can specify a hostname according to your network environment.
If you are a home user, you can leave the Domain Name blank.
In this step, create a strong password for the root account of your Debian system and click Continue.
To define a new account to be created instead of the Root account for non-administrative activities, type your full name or something else in the Set up users and passwords window and then click Continue.
Re-type your username for your account in lowercase letters. Or, if you write your Name and Surname in the previous step, you can only write your name in this window.
To add a password to the new user account you created, type a strong password in both text fields in this window.
Select your time zone according to where you live and click Continue.
In the Partition Disks window, if you are a first-time user of the Linux/Debian system, we recommend that you continue by selecting the Guided – Use Entire Disk option.
At this stage, select your virtual disk to be partitioned.
Likewise, if you are a new user, as indicated by the installation wizard, select All files in one partition and click Continue.
A summary of the disk settings for the Debian VM will be shown to you in the window below. If you are going to make a change to the partition, you can return to the previous configuration step by clicking the Go Back button.
Continue by selecting Finish partitioning and write changes to the disk option.
Select Yes for the changes made to the virtual NVMe disk to take effect, and then click Continue.
If you want the wizard to scan additional DVD installation media to install some additional packages on your system, continue by ticking the Yes option.
When you try to download and install a program from the Internet on your Debian system, the mirror addresses defined in your system are used. If you want to add these addresses to your system manually later, you can select the No option here.
When trying to install a program, the installation media will be scanned first instead of the repository addresses. If the program you want to install is not available on the DVD media, you need to pull it from the mirror network on the Internet. Therefore, continue with Yes as you will need to use Network Mirror.
In the Debian archive mirror country window, you can select your country for the Network Mirror setting. Because you can download files faster from servers that are closer to you.
For the Debian archive mirror, choose the most preferred server (deb.debian.org) and continue.
If you are using a proxy server in your network environment, you can configure it from this window. If you are not using it, leave this box blank and continue.
If you want to send the statistics of the applications you use most frequently on your system to the server every week, you can continue with Yes to configure the settings.
You can continue with GNOME, the default desktop environment of the Debian system, and choose a desktop environment of your choice.
In the Software Selection window, select the desktop environment you want to use. Generally, it is the user’s choice to choose the desktop environment in Linux systems.
Select Yes to install the GRUB Boot Loader on the primary virtual drive and continue.
For boot loader installation, select the /dev/nvme0n1/ drive and click Continue.
After completing the Debian installation, remove the installation media from the VM and restart your system.
Press Enter in the Debian GNU/Linux option in the GNU GRUB menu.
After typing your username and password you created, log in by pressing Enter.
You can check the version of the Debian system you have installed from the Settings / About section.
How to Install VMware Tools
After installing Debian with VMware Workstation, you may need to install the drivers for the virtual computer. Under normal conditions, if the host computer has a network connection, VMware Tools, that is, virtual machine tools, are installed automatically.
If you need to connect your virtual machine to the Internet later, you must install VMware Tools manually.
If VMware Tools is not installed automatically, the screen resolution of your guest system will be as in the image below. You need to install these tools in order to both fix the screen resolution problem and transfer files with the host.
After making sure that your guest machine is connected to the Internet, open the terminal and execute the command “sudo apt install open-vm-tools-desktop” and press Y and Enter to confirm the new packages to be installed.
sudo apt install open-vm-tools-desktop
After installing VMware Tools, reboot your system with the “sudo reboot” command and check the screen resolution.
When you drag and drop a document from the desktop or a different location of your host system to your virtual computer, you can see that the file is copyable to the VM.
How to Configure Shared Folder
You can additionally use the Shared Folder feature to make file transfers between the host and the VM faster. To use this feature, VMware Tools must be installed, otherwise, you cannot use this feature.
Click VM / Settings from the tool menu of the VMware Workstation program and open the virtual machine settings window. In the settings window with the Hardware and Options tabs, click Options and then select Shared Folders.
Configure the Folder Sharing feature as Always Enabled from the settings listed on the right, and then click the Add button in the Folders section. Then, click Next to make the necessary settings in the Add Shared Folder Wizard window.
Click the Browse button in the Name the Shared Folder window and create and select a new folder in any location of your host PC.
Check the Enable This Share option in the Shared Folder Attributes settings and close the virtual machine settings after clicking Finish.
You can find the shared folder at /mnt/hgfs/FolderName on your Debian machine. Create a file or folder in the shared folder and check it on your host PC, and you can see that the file-sharing is successful.
You can create a shortcut for the shared folder in any location on your Debian system. For example, you can use the command below in the terminal to create a shortcut in Documents.
It may make more sense to use a USB flash drive when you want to copy very large files to your virtual system, or you can connect your external SSD storage device to the VM and back up your data faster.
Insert a flash memory into one of the USB ports of your host computer and create a folder named Backup, for example.
You need to click VM / Removable Devices / Name of your USB from the VMware tool menu to mount the USB disk in your guest operating system. However, if you see the Connect option disabled or grayed out, you need to edit the VMX file to fix this issue.
Go to the location where you installed your Debian 11 system and open the VMX file with notepad and change the value (usb.restrictions.defaultAllow = “FALSE” ) to “TRUE” and save the file.
Change: usb.restrictions.defaultAllow = "FALSE"
To: usb.restrictions.defaultAllow = "TRUE"
After connecting your USB flash memory to your virtual system without any problems, you can see the folder called Backup that you created in it.
Hi, I'm Tolga, a computer expert with 20 years of experience. I help fix computer issues with things like hardware, systems, networks, virtualization, servers, and operating systems. Check out my website for helpful info, and feel free to ask me anything. Keep yourself in the loop about the newest technologies!