Tech Line

VMware Player -- To Go

Run VMware VMs from your pen drive. All it takes is the quick installation of a nifty tool called moka5.

A few months ago, I describe a way to run virtual machines from removable media, such as a pen drive, using the QEMU Emulator (see "VM Portability to the Max"). Since so many of us run VMware virtual machines, having the same portability as the QEMU Emulator is something that many have been waiting for.

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With the moka5, the wait is finally over. With this tool, you can package and run VMware VMs directly from a pen drive on any Windows XP SP2 computer. Alternatively, you can install this tool to your desktop. In moka5, running VMs are referred to as a LivePC.

When launched, you can import your VMware VMs to your USB drive using moka5 and then run them from another computer. The VMs will run inside the VMware Player; however, you won't have to actually install VMware Player on the system. Instead, the player will run directly off of the USB drive (or from your desktop if you perform the desktop installation). Since moka5 can completely run locally, this gives you a great deal of flexibility with running VMware VMs on other systems. However, you will still need to have local administrative rights in order to run moka5. You'll need those privileges in order for moka5 to temporarily install the VMware network drivers when the application is run.

Another very cool feature of moka5 is that it's also designed to pull VM images from a Web site address. So, you can create a VM and stage it on a company Web server. You could then configure moka5 to access the VM from the server. With this approach, a master copy of the VM will live on the server and any client system having moka5 installed will be ableo to download and cache the VM locally. If you need to update the VM, you can make changes to the VM on the parent server using moka5 and repackage the VM. Then, the client would automatically download the updates.

So if your organization needs to maintain a common system and applications, moka5 might be worth investigating. To get going with moka5, here is the relevant information:

  1. File download at http://www.moka5.com/products/getstarted.html
  2. VMware to LivePC conversion steps (click here)
  3. How to create and share a new LivePC (click here)

If you just want to take a LivePC with you on a pen drive and run it with moka5, you'll just need to follow steps 1-5 of the VMware-to-LivePC conversion. This will allow you to import the VM to your pen drive and prepare it to run as a LivePC under moka5. Once the import is finished, you can just click the Play button in moka5 to launch the VM. In a moment, you'll see the VMware Player start and the VM begin to boot.

To me, the tool is great for taking VMware VMs with you on the road, as well as for centrally managing and distributing VM images. Unlike the server-based products, moka5 users can download shared VMs and run them locally -- that means the processing and overhead for running the VM is offloaded to the client systems. If you’ve been waiting for the Swiss Army knife of VMware portability to come along, you just might have found it with moka5.

About the Author

Chris Wolf is a Microsoft MVP for Windows --Virtual Machine and is a MCSE, MCT, and CCNA. He's a Senior Analyst for Burton Group who specializes in the areas of virtualization solutions, high availability, storage and enterprise management. Chris is the author of Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise (Apress), Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley), and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).learningstore-20/">Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley) and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).

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