I have a Windows 64-bit host running VMware Server 2. I need to create VMs that will use the raw partitions for my Linux and Windows XP installations. Older versions of VMware had an option to add a raw disk, but VMware Server 2 only allows me to add a physical disk via the wizard.

If I was running a Linux host, I'd create a SCSI pass-through device, but when I try this in Windows the other partitions don't show up (only the CD-ROM shows up as a SCSI device).

How can I access the raw disks in VMware Server 2 on a Windows host?

EDIT: There is an unsupported method of adding a raw disk on a Linux host by editing the .vmx and .vmdk files. On Windows hosts, people have reported being able to import existing virtual machines which have raw disks, so it seems that the capability still exists but is no longer exposed by the UI. I'm wondering if anyone has gotten the unsupported method to work on a Windows host. I've tried, but haven't been able to get it to work.


6 Answers 6


I'm currently thinking about upgrading my VMware 1.04 to Version 2 - but I use physical devices for my virtual machines right now. I've noticed a huge performance difference between virtual and physical disk drives.

The new VMware Server User's Guide tells me not to upgrade: "VMware Server 2 does not support physical (raw) disks." (p.44) - this should answer your question, too..


I guess, since the device you want to use in your VM does have a file system what I'd do is I'd have the host mount this file system and then export it using NFS. Next I'd use the NFS client in the VM to connect to that file system.


Just wanted to let you know, it works under Windows with raw disk access, but I lack the UI:

I reused a VMWare server virtual machine with raw disk access. It worked under Windows XP. But now I copied the entire HDD onto a bigger one, and noticed the lack of the UI.


Maybe this can be also a nice solution: http://communities.vmware.com/message/1459563#1459563


VMware seems to be favouring the "Raw Device Mapping" approach over the use of physical disks/partitions for their server products, according to: http://www.vmware.com/pdf/esx25_rawdevicemapping.pdf

On my Windows 7 64-bit host I was able to create a Linux guest running from a secondary physical disk on VMware Server 2 by skipping the Hard Disk creation section and adding a "Passthrough SCSI Device" at the "Ready to Complete" stage, where I was able choose a physical disk to be connected to the virtual machine. I'm not sure why yours are not showing up. Are you using SATA disks or IDE? If the latter, then this might be the problem.

Obviously this option only allows for an ENTIRE disk to be passed through, not individual partitions, which might cause trouble if the host machine is running from the same disk, or if you try to use an already mounted partition from there.

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