Patrick's Guide to Minix Under VMWare

Attention: This writeup was last updated in the fall of 2002. It's probably a bit out of date. It's on my list to redo at some point in the future. If you have questions, feel free to email at: patrick at wagstrom dot net and I'll try to get to them. In addition, I just converted this from PHP to HTML, so there may be some big issues.

The first and most obvious steps to this procedure are that you need to have a copy of Minix and a copy of VMWare. Minix should come with Tanenbaum book on Operating Systems, VMWare can be found at In addition, you'll need to have a copy of Dos somewhere so you can use FDVOL from the Minix CDRom, although you don't need a floppy drive for this. Which makes it really cool, especially considering mine doesn't work all that well.

Step 1 - Creating Your Minix Virtual Machine

First fire up VMWare and create a new virtual machine. Select other for your OS Type. You only need to create a 100 Meg disk or so and give it 32 megs of ram. This will help keep the rest of your system very usable while Minix is running.

After you have created the virtual machine, go into settions->configuration editor. Select floppy drive and have it point to a file instead. Name the file something like floppy.dsk or something simple like that.

You might also want to disable USB, Sound and the Ethernet Adapters because Minix can't take full advantage of these anyway.

Step 2 - Floppy Disk Creation and Booting up the Machine

Now you can create the Minix root floppy by going to your Minix CDRom directory MINIX/I386. Then running cat root usr > ~/rootdisk.bin. This will create the root floppy for you. Then copy this file from your home directory to the file where you said Minix's floppy disk file was going to be.

Now you should be to power on your virtual machine and start to install the base minix install. Follow the instructions provided.

Step 3 - Installation of Additional Packages

Unfortunately, there is another readme on Minix under VMWare that will cause corruption of the disks if you just do a split on the TAZ files and then try to copy them to your virtual floppy disk. You can still do it like that to regular floppy disks using dd if=xaa of=/dev/fd0, but like I said, my floppy is busted, and this is the 0 floppy disk method.

So you've got to start up your copy of Windows in VMWare (that is why you have VMWare right?). Set that virtual machine to point to the same file that Minix points to for the floppy disk. Now start up Windows at the same time as you've got Minix running in VMWare, but make sure to do Devices->floppy->disconnect under VMWare first to avoid weird disk problems.

Under Windows, format the floppy then start with FDVOL as described in the docs to create your first set of floppies. After you have created the first floppy of the set and it's asking you insert disk 2, detach the floppy drive from your Windows virtual machine and reattach it to your Minix virtual machine. Now run setup /usr and start with that first disk.

When the first disk is finished, detach the drive from Minix, reattach it to Windows and create the second disk. Repeat as needed for each disk of the set and for each set (CMD.TAZ, USR.TAZ, SYS.TAZ).

Step 4 - Preserving your Disk

If you're a true hacker, odds are that some time you're going to break Minix to the point of no return. Luckily VMWare disks are easily migratable. Power down your Minix machine (use shutdown), then go into your directory for the Minix VM and copy other.vmdk to other.vmdk.working. Also go into the configuration and select "undoable" for the mode on your primary master virtual disk.

You've just preserved a copy your hard disk and that work for the mere cost of 100 megs on your hard disk. Also when you power off the machine from here on out it will ask you if you wish to commit the changes made to the disk. So if you broke something, you can roll it back to the last known state.

Step 5 - Enjoy