How to launch VMware Player VMs without GUI

Last updated on September 26, 2020 by Dan Nanni

If you are a user of VMware Player, you may have wondered whether it's possible to run VMware player without GUI. For example, when you are accessing VMware hosts via SSH remotely, you may want to run VMware Player from the command line. While you can use X11 forwarding over SSH to launch VMware player's GUI from remote locations, it will be rather inconvenient if the SSH connection is slow. Furthermore, the VM launched inside VMware Player's GUI window will automatically be stopped when you close the VMware Player window.

If you would like to start or stop VMware Player VMs without GUI, you can use vmrun which is a command-line utility which one can use to automate operations on VMware virtual machines (VMs). vmrun is contained in VMware VIX API libraries which are freely downloadable from VMware website. You can follow the instructions below to manage VMware Player VMs remotely.

I assume that you have already created a VM using VMware Player, and so have *.vmx files ready somewhere. Now you want to start/stop the VM using vmrun. You don't need root permission to use vmrun command.

First, download VMware VIX for Linux, and then install it on the VMware host as follows.

$ chmod 755 ./VMware-VIX-1.11.0-471780.x86_64
$ sudo ./VMware-VIX-1.11.0-471780.x86_64

To start VM without GUI:

$ vmrun -T player start /path/to/vm/my.vmx nogui

To reboot VM without GUI:

$ vmrun -T player reset /path/to/vm/my.vmx soft

To power off VM without GUI:

$ vmrun -T player stop /path/to/vm/my.vmx soft

VMware Player does not support VM snapshot operations. So you cannot take a snapshot of VMware Player VMs using vmrun. But if your VM was created using VMware Workstation or VMware Fusion, you can take a snapshot of a running VM as follows.

$ vmrun -T ws (or fusion) snapshot /path/to/vm/my.vmx my_snapshot

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