How to Install Debian 11 on VMware Workstation 16

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 16 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 Install Debian 11 on VMware Workstation 16

How to Set Up Debian 11 (11.3) on a Virtual Machine using VMware Workstation 16.2.3 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 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 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-11.3.0-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.

   Step 1

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.

Creating a New Virtual Machine

   Step 2

Configure the hardware compatibility setting of the virtual machine to 16.2.x. If you upgrade the Workstation program to a newer version after installing the VM, do not forget to change the hardware compatibility.

Configuring Hardware Compatibility

   Step 3

Select I will install the operating system later in the Guest Operating System Installation wizard, then click Next.

I Will Install the Operating System Later

   Step 4

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.

Choosing Linux / Debian 10.x 64 Bit

   Step 5

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.

Configuring the Virtual Machine Name and Location

   Step 6

In the Processor Configuration window, specify a value for your virtual machine according to the processor power of your PC and click Next.

Configuring the Virtual Processor and its Core

   Step 7

Similarly, in the Memory window, set a value according to the RAM size of your existing host.

Setting the Virtual Memory Size

   Step 8

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.

Choosing the NAT Network Adapter

   Step 9

Leave the default option (LSI Logic) for the controller type enabled and click the Next button.

Selecting LSI Logic I/O Controller Type

   Step 10

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.

Selecting the NVMe Disk Type

   Step 11

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.

Creating a New Virtual Disk

   Step 12

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.

Storing a Virtual Disk as a Single File Type

   Step 13

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.

Configuring the Location of the Virtual Disk File

   Step 14

The summary hardware information for the virtual computer is as follows. Now, click on the Customize Hardware button to enable a few extra settings.

Customizing the Hardware

   Step 15

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)

Enabling Virtualization Features

   Step 16

To add the Debian 11 ISO file to the VM, click CD/DVD / Use ISO image file / Browse button and add the file.

Adding Debian 11 ISO File to Virtual Machine

   Step 17

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.

Selecting USB 3.1 Type

   Step 18

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.

Enabling 3D Graphics Acceleration

   Step 19

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.

Closing the Virtual Machine Wizard

   Step 20

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.

Running the Virtual Computer

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.

   Step 1

After running your virtual computer, press Enter on the Graphical Install option on the Debian GNU/Linux installer menu (BIOS mode) screen.

Debian GNU/Linux Installer Menu (Bios Mode)

   Step 2

Select the Debian operating system language, that is, the display language, and click the Continue button.

Selecting the System Language

   Step 3

In the Select your location window, select your country of residence and click the Continue button.

Location Selection

   Step 4

In the Configure the keyboard window, configure the keyboard layout you want to use and click Continue.

Choosing the Keyboard Layout

   Step 5

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.

Editing the Hostname

   Step 6

If you are a home user, you can leave the Domain Name blank.

Configuring the Domain Name

   Step 7

In this step, create a strong password for the root account of your Debian system and click Continue.

Creating a Root Password

   Step 8

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.

Typing the Full Username

   Step 9

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.

Specifying the Username for the Account

   Step 10

To add a password to the new user account you created, type a strong password in both text fields in this window.

Creating Password for Local User Account

   Step 11

Select your time zone according to where you live and click Continue.

Selecting the Time Zone

   Step 12

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.

Guided - Use Entire Disk

   Step 13

At this stage, select your virtual disk to be partitioned.

Selecting the Disk to Partition

   Step 14

Likewise, if you are a new user, as indicated by the installation wizard, select All files in one partition and click Continue.

All Files in One Partition

   Step 15

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.

Finish Partitioning and Write Changes to Disk

   Step 16

Select Yes for the changes made to the virtual NVMe disk to take effect, and then click Continue.

Confirming Writing Changes to Disk

   Step 17

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.

Bypassing Additional Installation Media Scan

   Step 18

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.

Choosing to Use Network Mirror

   Step 19

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.

Configuring the Package Manager

   Step 20

For the Debian archive mirror, choose the most preferred server ( and continue.

   Step 21

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.

HTTP Proxy Information

   Step 22

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.

Bypassing the Package Usage Survey

   Step 23

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.

Choosing the Debian Desktop Environment

   Step 24

Select Yes to install the GRUB Boot Loader on the primary virtual drive and continue.

Installing GRUB Boot Loader

   Step 25

For boot loader installation, select the /dev/nvme0n1/ drive and click Continue.

Installing GRUB Boot Loader on Bootable Device

   Step 26

After completing the Debian installation, remove the installation media from the VM and restart your system.

Installation Complete

   Step 27

Press Enter in the Debian GNU/Linux option in the GNU GRUB menu.

Debian GNU/Linux

   Step 28

After typing your username and password you created, log in by pressing Enter.

System Login

   Step 29

You can check the version of the Debian system you have installed from the Settings / About section.

Checking Debian Version

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.

   Step 1

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.

Screen Resolution Issue

   Step 2

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

Installing VMware Tools

   Step 3

After installing VMware Tools, reboot your system with the “sudo reboot” command and check the screen resolution.

sudo reboot

Controlling Full Screen Resolution

   Step 4

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.

Drag and Drop File Transfer Between Host and 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.

   Step 1

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.

Shared Folder Configuration

   Step 2

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.

Choosing the Shared Folder on the Host

   Step 3

Check the Enable This Share option in the Shared Folder Attributes settings and close the virtual machine settings after clicking Finish.

Enabling Sharing

   Step 4

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.

Checking Shared Folder

   Step 5

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.

sudo ln -s /mnt/hgfs/DebianSharedFolder/ ~/Documents

Creating a Shortcut for a Common Folder

   Step 6

To access the common folder faster, right-click on the shortcut location and click Add to Bookmarks.

Adding Specified Path to Bookmark

   Step 7

When you restart your virtual computer and click Shared Folder, you may see the error “This location could not be displayed”.

Shared Folder Error After System Reboot

   Step 8

To fix the Shared Folder error and make it permanent, you need to edit /etc/fstab. To do this, execute the “sudo nano /etc/fstab” command in the terminal and view the contents of the file.

sudo nano /etc/fstab

Editing /etc/fstab

   Step 9

Type the command below at the bottom of fstab and press CTRL + X and then Enter to save the file.

.host:/DebianSharedFolder /mnt/hgfs/DebianSharedFolder fuse.vmhgfs-fuse allow_other

Making Shared Folder Permanent

How to Use USB Flash Memory

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.

   Step 1

Insert a flash memory into one of the USB ports of your host computer and create a folder named Backup, for example.

Creating Folder Named Backup on USB Flash Memory in Host

   Step 2

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.

Connecting USB Disk to VM

   Step 3

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"

Editing the Debian.vmx File

   Step 4

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.

Checking Contents of USB Disk in Virtual Computer


Installing Old Versions

Debian Version
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  1. Avatar for Jan Verner Jan Verner 10 December 2020

    Works well except some small diff. caused by versions dissimilarity probably. Great help, especially for the part with installing boot loader, which was not understandable intuitively, thx

  2. Avatar for Leo Leo 13 October 2022

    Fantastic guide!
    Thanks for the effort!

    • Avatar for Tolga Bagci Tolga Bagci 13 October 2022

      You’re welcome, thanks for your nice comment.


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