CPU Checks Required for Running Virtualization Hosts within VMware Workstation

So you want to run VMware ESX or ESXi within VMware Workstation but you do not know if your laptop or desktop will support the functionality? It will work but if you do not have the proper hardware, it will run extremely slow, ie. take several hours to boot a VM.  So you will need to run a few tests to determine if you have the proper hardware. However, first a few ground rules:

  1. Without the proper CPU the performance is worse than abysmal, so in essence it does not work.
  2. It will not perform well unless your laptop or desktop has support for Intel-VT or AMD-V. If your CPUs are AMD Opteron or Phenon then AMD-V is there by default. For Intel it is not so simple.
  3. Most Quad-Cores have this functionality available as do most modern Duo Cores, but if you have a single core the functionality is most likely not present within the chip or BIOS.
  4. You need to ensure that Intel-VT and AMD-V are enabled within the BIOS of the laptop or desktop. Some older laptops and desktops do not have the capability to enable this functionality. You may have to hunt around your BIOS to find the proper setting. For some reason the BIOS manufactures bury the settings deep in the BIOS.
  5. Once you do enable Intel-VT or AMD-V you will need to run some tests to see if everything will work as expected.

A good test is to run the VMware CPU Identification Utility and review the results. Once you unzip the CPU Identification Utility archive file you will have a cpuid.iso file that you can burn to disk. You would then boot the system from the ISO and read the results. While this tool is used to determine if you can run 64 bit VMs within a VMware virtualization product, it can also be used to determine if you can run VMware ESX or ESXi within VMware Workstation.

If you have an Intel processor you can also run the Intel(R) Processor ID Utility to verify your processor has the proper functionality. With this tool you are looking for a Yes opposite the following items listed on the CPU Technologies tab of the program:

  • Intel(R) Virtualization Technology
  • Intel(R) 64 Architecture
  • Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology
  • Streaming SIMD extensions
  • Streaming SIMD extensions 2
  • Streaming SIMD extensions 3
  • Streaming SIMD extensions 4

You will need at least the first two to be set to Yes. However I have found the Streaming SIMD extensions (SSE) settings also have be set to Yes.

In addition, you will want a laptop or desktop with at least 4 GBs of memory as you will need to assign minimally 2 GBs to your VMware ESX or ESXi VM running within VMware Workstation. There are other requirements for the configuration of the VM within VMware Workstation to run a virtualization host but those have been well covered by other bloggers.

These tests should also determine if other hypervisors such as Citrix XenServer and Microsoft Hyper-V can also run within VMware Workstation.

Is your laptop a Datacenter?

Edward Haletky

Edward L. Haletky, aka Texiwill, is an author, analyst, developer, technologist, and business owner. Edward owns AstroArch Consulting, Inc., providing virtualization, security, network consulting and development and TVP Strategy where he is also an Analyst. Edward is the Moderator and Host of the Virtualization Security Podcast as well as a guru and moderator for the VMware Communities Forums, providing answers to security and configuration questions. Edward is working on new books on Virtualization.

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