Windows 8.1 – an easy upgrade – except for VMware

I’ve just upgraded my HP Envy 17 from Windows 8 Pro to Windows 8.1 Pro RTM and the early signs were that it was the easiest and fastest Windows upgrade that I can remember. Everything went extremely smoothly and nothing caused a problem – even the “Classic Shell” add-on that I used with Windows 8 to have a Start button. All of the installed programs from Office 2013 to some very old programs originally used with Windows XP have functioned perfectly since the upgrade.

Until that is I started to play with VMware… The first thing was that VMware Workstation 8.0.6 complained a little that the graphics capabilities of the PC appeared to have changed since the VMs were last used, but appeared to work normally. At least, they did until the Exchange servers that I use lost connectivity with the domain controller and so ceased to function. A quick reboot ensued

VMware complains - but not a lot

VMware complains – but not a lot

However, the network problem for the VMs persisted after the reboot. None of the servers was able to access the Internet and none were able to see each other on the same network. All of this had been working perfectly before the upgrade so I am a tad baffled as to the cause. Removing and reinstalling VMware Workstation had no effect and I was not able to restore normal service. I’m not the only one to hit this issue but any suggestions that I have found to date have not worked. I guess I should talk to some of my more VMware-literate friends.

I fear that this might be the prompt to make me move to Hyper-V as my hypervisor of choice as it seems easier to use a capability that’s integrated into the operating system. Of course, Hyper-V has its own problems – not being able to access USB sticks from guest machines seems like a major deficiency when compared to VMware.

In any case, I am no VMware expert and have left the problem to one side while I deal with some other things. Presentations have to be reviewed and approved for the upcoming Exchange Connections conference in Las Vegas (we have a great schedule lined up and I am very impressed at the quality of the material reviewed to date – like this tip about .NET tuning for the Information Store) and I have an Exchange 2013 class to teach before I can travel to Connections. In between, I have to drive up from the South of France back to Ireland. No doubt I’ll find the time somewhere along the way to plunge back into the mysteries of why VMware doesn’t work so well with Windows 8.1 Pro RTM.

[Update: Thanks to everyone who has pointed out that Workstation 10 is the right version to run with Windows 8 or 8.1; Workstation 8.0.6 has worked perfectly to this point with Windows 8, so it’s a tad baffling why it should be such an issue for 8.1 but there you are…]

[Update 2: IE11 (the version of Microsoft’s browser bundled in Windows 8.1 RTM) and Outlook Web App (OWA) running on Exchange 2013 RTM CU2 don’t work as well as they should. You see the light interface instead of the premium version. This doesn’t happen when connected to Exchange Online in Office 365.]

[Update 3: I have now installed VMware Workstation 10.0 and everything is back to normal. The VMware networking configuration was all screwed up and took some work to restore. This leads me to believe that it might be a good thing to take note of your VMware configuration (screen shots, perhaps), before you upgrade your PC to Windows 8.1]

Perhaps I should have waited a few weeks before upgrading to Windows 8.1 RTM, but taking the safe and easy option doesn’t seem quite so exciting, does it?

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About Tony Redmond

Lead author for the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook and writer about all aspects of the Office 365 ecosystem.
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7 Responses to Windows 8.1 – an easy upgrade – except for VMware

  1. Mike Kline says:

    Have you heard of this being in issue with workstation 9 or 10. I’m running 9 but haven’t upgraded to 8.1 yet.

  2. Technically the first version of Workstation to support 8.1 is 10.0. Workstation 8.x doesn’t officially support even Windows 8.

  3. paulschnack says:

    Hi Tony,

    Enhanced VM connect (essentially RDP over VM Bus) is a feature of Hyper-V in 2012 R2 / Win 8.1 (turned on by default in 8.1, off in R2). It enables the same USB redirection features as a normal RDP connections so USB stick in guest, as long as you have the VM connect window open is all OK. So I’d ditch workstation and go with Hyper-V 🙂

  4. Frank says:

    Activating Hyper-V will disable your power saving features, however using VMware or VirtualBox does not disable them…
    So there are reasons to not use Hyper-V

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