Extracting VMware Tools ISOs for Fun and Profit

So you’ve probably done a VMware tools install by using the GUI feature within VMware Workstation or via the vSphere Client connected to vCenter or ESXi. But have you ever wondered exactly where that virtual CD exists, or wanted to harness it for fun and profit? This post will outline exactly where the ISO files are, and how to grab them for use with scripts. I use the extracted ISO files when doing P2Vs by putting the installation files on the physical server and then inserting an auto-launch script directly into the RunOnce registry keys to ensure tools is immediately installed after the server is virtualized.

Where Are the Tools ISOs?

My favorite place to snag the VMware tools ISOs are on the ESXi hosts themselves. You’ll get the latest and greatest tools ISOs based on whatever build exists on the host. The images are located in:

A listing of all the tools ISOs on the host

This is true for both vSphere 4 and vSphere 5.

In order to snag the ISO files, I typically suggest the use of WinSCP.

A view of the ISO files from WinSCP

Using the ISO Files

Once snagged, you can keep the ISO file intact and mount using Daemon Tools or other methods. However, I find this a bit cumbersome and typically just extract the files into a folder using 7zip or WinRAR.

The import files are either setup.exe (32bit) and setup64.exe (64bit), or if you prefer MSIs, use VMware Tools.msi (32bit) and VMware Tools64.msi (64bit). The other files are used in conjunction with the installer applications and should be left alone.

The installer files from the Tools ISO

Scripting the Installers

If calling the executables from a script, a fast and easy DOS decision IF statement is:

REM ### Check Operating System Version


Using the ISO images for purposes beyond the “Install VMware Tools” GUI action opens up a whole new world of possibilities, especially when doing P2V conversions. Make sure to update the tools files when your hosts get updated to a new build, else the install will result in a “tools out of date” message on the VM.