3 Replies Latest reply on Mar 26, 2020 12:17 PM by petreza

    Installing VMware Workstation inside a VM inside ESXi - why is it not possible?

    petreza Lurker

      What is the rationale behind forbidding VMware Workstation installation inside a VM, when the hardware does supports nested virtualization? They can say it is not supported, but still let us do it for home-lab type of setups.

      I don't even want to run nested-nested VMs on Workstation. I just want to use the program as an advanced VMRC replacement.

      That is:

      I have a VM-1 running in ESXi with a 4K video card passthrough. After I force nested virtualization (vhv.allowPassthru=TRUE; vhv.enable=TRUE) I want to install Workstation inside VM-1.

      I have several other Desktop VMs (VM-2, VM-3....) running with only "VMware SVGA 3D" video cards.

      Instead of logging in into vCSA inside VM-1 and opening a VMRC session to all these secondary VMs, I want to use Workstation for easier, consolidated access to the Desktops.


      Yes, I know I can just run Workstation on an external 4K PC, but the whole point here is consolidation. Plus VM-1 connects to VM-2, VM-3.... through a dvSwitch with bandwidth in the GigaBytes per second - good for video. Would this setup be considered competition to Horizon? I doubt it.


        • 1. Re: Installing VMware Workstation inside a VM inside ESXi - why is it not possible?
          wila Guru
          User ModeratorsCommunity WarriorsvExpert



          What is the exact error that you are getting?

          What version of VMware Workstation are you trying to run?

          Host OS? What ESXi version, what CPU are in those hosts?


          FWIW, I do run VMware Workstation in VMs all the time as it gives me an easy way to run tests, so it can work.

          If the only thing you want to use it for is as a remote console, then you also might want to try VMRC instead.




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          • 2. Re: Installing VMware Workstation inside a VM inside ESXi - why is it not possible?
            petreza Lurker

            EDIT: Just found out that no matter what I do I cannot save the vhv.enable = TRUE parameter. In vCenter, it just silently drops it. Even if I manually add it to the .vmx file, on boot it gets deleted.

            I guess Workstation will not install on a vCPU that does not show support for virtualization. But it should give me an error message, no?


            ORIGINAL - answering your questions:

            - I get no error message - only a UAC warning, a splash screen and a progress bar popup saying "Preparing 'VMware Workstation' for installation". When the progress bar gets to 95% or so it crashes.

            - Workstation v. 15.5.1-15018445


            - The VM-1 is Windows 10 Pro 1909 with all the recent updates applied.

            8 cores per socket; 2 sockets

            NO - "Expose hardware assisted virtualization to the guest OS" - does not let me with PCI Passthru

            YES - I/O MMU

            8GB RAM - reserved

            PCI 0 - Radeon PRO WX2100

            PCI 1 - Audio associated with PCI 1

            PCI 2 - USB (ASM1042A)

            Boot - EFI (NO - Secure Boot)

            Config Params:

            --- svga.present - T

            --- vhv.allowPassthru - T

            !!!!!!! - vhv.enable - T - cannot be saved to .vmx file !!!!!!!


            Host CPU - dual Xeon Silver 4114 - HT, VT-x, VT-d, VT-x EPT

            Supermicro X11DPG-QT

            don't know if there is a relevant Host-BIOS switch I have to flip


            I tried VMRC. It works, but I hope Workstation will work better, like:

            --- respecting the hosting-vm's display scaling factor (4K is too small)

            --- tabbed interface for easy switching

            --- etc.



            • 3. Re: Installing VMware Workstation inside a VM inside ESXi - why is it not possible?
              petreza Lurker

              Ran some tests.

              Was able to install Workstation on Window 10 Pro VM with various settings combinations

              hypervisor.cpuid.v0 - T/F

              nested virtualization - on/off

              i/o mmu - on/off (does not conflict with nested virtualization unless you actually passthrough a PCI device)

              worked fine - the problem might have been with that particular installation.

              Once installed I was able to passthrough a GPU and there was no problem starting Workstation. I haven't tried running a VM locally to see what will happen with "nested" disabled.


              Will try to install with a PCI device passed-through first, (nested disabled), to see if that particular combination was the issue. Otherwise it works as expected. Was able to connect to vCenter and with a single click each to open the Desktop consoles of several VMs, each in a separate tab. I have two issues with this - scaling and switching between Desktops - started a separate thread.