Providing vmware guest access to a physical disk driver hosted on Linux

  • 7001976
  • 20-Nov-2008
  • 27-Apr-2012


Mostly desktop users and specifically those who login with a non-root account.


First configure VMWare guest to use physical disk partition as a Root user

- Note that as a Root user the message which appears next to the Hard Disk in the Guest says, "Using Partitions"
- Now login as the non-root user and note the message which appears next to the Hard Disk in the Guest which reports "Using Device"

1. This problem occurs because the non-root user does not have RW access to the required Linux device driver.

2. Granting the non-root user permissions or changing ownership to the device, e.g. /dev/sdb will not work after a reboot
     At Linux boot time (each time) disk device drivers files are created


A) Firstly identify the type of disk device used by the vmware guest

- Look at the device name on YOUR system (as per the sample vmdk file), using root permissions:
- at a terminal window:
    # ls -al /dev/sdb
       brw-r----- 1 root disk 8, 16 Nov 21 11:20 /dev/sdb

 - Note that 'b' means block and the 8, 16 identify the device as per the file devices.txt (e.g. /usr/src/linux-

A) Add these commands to "/etc/init.d/boot.local",
      - where 'myuser' is the non-root user name:
      - AND using the block device numbers returned on YOUR system
      - name the device something that is not already in directory /dev. (It will be the name you place in the vmdk file in the next step)

mknod /dev/sdbvm b8 16
chown myuser:disk /dev/sdbvm

B) Edit the appropriate vmware guest vmdk file (only edit the device name):

Sample of portion of vmware file: WinXP-Notebook-0.vmdk
# Extent description
RW 63 FLAT "WinXP-Notebook-0-pt.vmdk" 0
RW 146801907 FLAT "/dev/sdbvm" 63
RW 37752750 FLAT "/dev/sdbvm" 146801970
RW 440582625 ZERO
RW 5103 ZERO

No doubt this could be made to work with any user by using a variable in the boot.local

Additional Information

The reason for this specific disk setup is to boot Windows from a vmdisk but have access to a physical NTFS disk partition for data. Also provides access to a FAT32 physical disk partition located on the same physical disk as NTFS partition, for the purpose of shared file access between Linux host and Windows guest.

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