Configuring the Kernel for VMware

This document describes the kernel configuration that will provide a basic, working kernel if you are trying to build a new kernel for a Linux system and it happen to conform to the following characteristics.

When creating the virtual machine, accept the recommended setting. This is important for setting that affect the type of virtual hardware that is created because the hardware determines which kernel modules are needed. Settings like the size of memory and the size of the disk do not matter.

The kernel configuration described here only applies to the openSUSE 11.1 Linux distribution because many parts of the system initialization are dependent upon which Linux distribution is used (for example, building the initial root file system).


The following table lists the names of the modules that need to be enabled in the kernel for the system described above. Be sure to configure these modules to be built as dynamically loadable modules rather than being built into the kernel (see “Determining the Correct Configuration” below for more information).

This configuration assumes that you are starting with the default configuration produced by the make defconfig command.

Next to each module is the name of the kernel configuration option that needs to be set to enable the module. The module nf_conntrack_netbios_ns lists two configuration options because NF_CONNTRACK_NETBIOS_NS is dependent on NETFILTER_ADVANCED.

binfmt_misc BINFMT_MISC
ip_tables IP_NF_IPTABLES
ip6_tables IP6_NF_IPTABLES
ip6table_filter IP6_NF_FILTER
ip6table_mangle IP6_NF_MANGLE
ide-pci-generic BLK_DEV_GENERIC
sd_mod BLK_DEV_SD
ata_piix ATA_PIIX
ata_generic ATA_GENERIC
snd_seq_oss SND_SEQUENCER
snd_pcm_oss SND_PCM_OSS
usbhid USB_HID
usbcore USB
ehci_hcd USB_EHCI_HCD
ohci_hcd USB_OHCI_HCD
uhci-hcd USB_UHCI_HCD
edd EDD
ext3 EXT3_FS
jbd JBD (EXT3_FS)

Configuration Dialog

This section shows the parts of the configuration dialog that pertains to the configuration options listed in the previous section.

Power management and ACPI options

ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface) support




Executable file formats / Emulations

Kernel support for MISC binaries (BINFMT_MISC)

Networking support

Networking options

Network packet filtering framework (Netfilter)

Advanced netfilter configuration (NETFILTER_ADVANCED)

Core Netfilter Configuration

Netfilter connection tracking support (NF_CONNTRACK)

NetBIOS name service protocol support (NF_CONNTRACK_NETBIOS_NS)

IP: Netfilter Configuration

IP tables support (required for ... (IP_NF_IPTABLES)

IPv6: Netfilter Configuration

IP6 tables support (IP6_NF_IPTABLES)

Packet filtering (IP6_NF_FILTER)

Packet mangling (IP6_NF_MANGLE)

Device Drivers


Generic PCI IDE Chipset Support (BLK_DEV_GENERIC)

Intel PIIX/ICH chipsets support (BLK_DEV_PIIX)

SCSI device support

SCSI disk support (BLK_DEV_SD)

Serial ATA (prod) and Parallel ATA

ATA SFF support

Intel ESB, ICH, PIIX3, PIIX4, ... (ATA_PIIX)

Generic ATA support (ATA_GENERIC)

Fusion MPT device support

Fusion MPT ScsiHost drivers for SPI (FUSION_SPI)

Sound card support

Advanced Linux Sound Architecture

Sequencer support (SND_SEQUENCER)

OSS PCM (digital audio) API (SND_PCM_OSS)

HID Devices

USB Human Interface Device (full HID) ... (USB_HID)

USB support

Support for Host-side USB (USB)

EHCI HCD (USB 2.0) support (USB_EHCI_HCD)


UHCI HCD (most Intel and VIA) support (USB_UHCI_HCD)

Firmware Drivers

BIOS Enhanced Disk Drive calls determine ... (EDD)

File systems

Ext3 journaling file system support (EXT3_FS)

Determining the Correct Configuration

This section describes how the kernel configuration described above was arrived at.

Default Configuration

Start with the default kernel configuration. The following command will produce a default configuration for the current architecture, which, in this case, is the x86 Intel architecture. Change directories to the top of the kernel source tree and execute the following command.

$ make defconfig

Initial Root File System

If you build a kernel with the default configuration, the build process will print a number of error messages when the initial root file system is created (when the make install command is executed). This occurs because the openSUSE distribution lists several modules in the INITRD_MODULES variable in the file /etc/sysconfig/kernel. This variable identifies module that need to be added to the initial root file system when the kernel is built.

INITRD_MODULES="processor thermal mptspi ata_piix ata_generic piix

ide_pci_generic fan jbd ext3 edd"

In the default configuration, these modules are either not enabled or they are enabled, but they are built into the kernel rather than built as dynamically loadable modules. Unless they are built as dynamically loadable modules, they cannot be put in the initial root file system, which will cause an error.

After changing the configuration to build these modules as dynamically loadable modules, a few more modules show up as missing because they are needed by the modules just added. These new modules must also be built as dynamically loadable modules.

VMware Modules

Fixing the configuration options discussed above results in a kernel that boots, but there are still problems with the network. For this, you need to rebuild and reinstall the VMware tools. This is necessary because kernel modules can only be used with the kernel that they were compiled for, and so, the kernel modules that were being used with the original kernel cannot be used with the new kernel.

Select VM->Reinstall VMware Tools from the VMware menu bar. This will mount a file that contains everything you need to rebuild the VMware tools. The following commands show how to unpack the file and rebuild the tools. The script will ask several questions, which can all be answered by accepting the default answer (just press return).

$ cd /tmp

$ tar –zxvf “/media/VMware Tools/VMwareTools-8.1.3-203739.tar.gz”

$ cd vmware-tools-distrib

$ sudo ./

Startup Errors

If you examine the messages that were printed while the system was starting, you will still see errors caused by missing modules. These errors are caused by some of the system startup scripts trying to load kernel modules that are not built as dynamically loadable modules.

The messages printed during system startup are saved in the file /var/log/boot.msg. You can use the following command to print the error messages that were printed when one of the startup scripts failed trying to load a module.

$ grep FATAL /var/log/boot.msg | sort | uniq

Again, these modules must be built as dynamically loadable modules.