Installing VMWare Tools on a Netboot NBI

Netboot is great.  VMWare Fusion is great. Yosemite is….Netboot and VMWare are great. I use VMs to test things on our builds at work.  To get those VMs setup I use our imaging process that utilizes Netboot.  However, I discovered that, new with Yosemite, when the VM Netbooted to our Yosemite NBI I wasn’t able to login to OS X. After typing in the username and password the login attempt would just hang with the spinning gear turned beachball.  No bueno. Turns out all it requires is getting the VMWare Tools installed on the NBI.  No problem right? But VMWare’s installer (read: .app) doesn’t allow installing on a non-boot volume.  Crap.  This wouldn’t be a very interesting post if we stopped here so…

TL;DR: you need to mount the NBI and install the tools via the CLI ‘installer’ command.

First, make sure that your existing NBI is read/write when mounted.  In my case the NBI is actually a .sparseimage but renamed to .dmg for Netboot use.  When mounting the image named .dmg it mounts as read-only.  Renaming the .dmg to .sparseimage mounts the volume as read-write. YMMV. There are ways to convert disk images to read-write. I’ll leave that discovery up to you if your environment requires it.

VMWare Tools acquisition/installation:

There are a couple ways to get the tools.  I prefer to pull the tools from the VMWare bundle itself to guarantee that the version of VMWare Fusion you’re running is compatible with the tools. If you want an automated way using AutoPkg to get the latest tools check out Rich Trouton’s post at Der Flounder.  You can also download the tools if you know what version you need at VMWare’s repository.

Locally, the tools are located in the application bundle found at /Applications/VMware\


Mounting that image results in the installer and uninstaller.


However attempting to use the .app installer will fail as it won’t let you target the install on a non-boot drive.  Since it’s a .app “installer” there must be a .pkg buried in the bundle. To get the actual installer .pkg right click on “Install VMWare” and choose “Show Package Contents”.  Navigate to the /Volumes/VMware\ Tools/Install\ VMware\ directory.  There you’ll find “VMWare Tools.pkg”. Jackpot.


Copy the “VMWare Tools.pkg” to the computer where the NBI is mounted and run ‘installer’ pointing the target at the mounted Netboot NBI.

 sudo installer -pkg /Volumes/VMware\ Tools/Install\ VMware\\ Tools.pkg -target /Volumes/Yosemite\ NetBoot -verbose

That will install on the mounted volume.  Once complete, unmount the NBI, rename it if necessary, and you should now be able to log into a Yosemite NBI when Netbooted in VMWare Fusion.

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