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On 16 Sep 2011

Tech Notes, VMware

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I always found being able to copy and paste between your desktop machine and a VM through the VI Client a godsend.  In the good old days this was always enabled by default, so you could copy and paste text between your desktop and VM consoles to your heart’s content.

Since ESX 4.1, its been disabled by default in order to provide a more secure, locked down environment out of the box.  There are two main options if you enjoyed the old-skool benefits; use a different app, or just re-enable the old functionality…

Different Application Examples

  • RDP – Allows copy and pasting of text, if your VM supports RDS / Terminal Services (admin mode)
  • RealVNC –  Allows full copy and paste loveliness (yes – even binary files, but it does cost to get more than basic text copy and paste), also supports more than just Windows.  As a SysAdmin I’ve always preferred it to RDP as there’s no 2 (or 3) connection limit, and it actually gives you the server’s desktop rather than a separate session so numerous people can VNC onto a server and follow what one person is doing (eg for training, not stalking!). I’ve known servers that are slowly grinding to a halt to respond to VNC but not RDP (I suspect as the memory/effort required to create a new interactive user session is just too much)

Enabling Clipboard Integration

EDIT: In addition to the below, I’ve also recently come across a PowerCLI method that can be applied for a particular VM that doesn’t require downtime (but does require an operation that reloads the VMX file; vMotion, Snapshot etc) – see http://enterpriseadmins.org/blog/scripting/enable-vsphere-console-copypaste-without-power-off-the-powercli-way/

  • Enable for VM – Permanent, but requires VM downtime
    1. Shutdown the VM
    2. Go to Edit Settings, Options tab, then Advanced / General and hit Configuration Parameters
    3. Use Add Row to add the following new config items
      • Set isolation.tools.copy.disable to false
      • Set isolation.tools.paste.disable to false
    4. Restart the VM
  • Enable for VM’s on an ESX – Temporary (won’t survive ESX software upgrade), VM’s can be vMotioned on to allow clipboard integration funkiness
    1. SSH to the ESX and then edit the /etc/vmware/config file, appending the following…
      • isolation.tools.copy.disable="FALSE"
      • isolation.tools.paste.disable="FALSE"
    2. VMotion a VM onto the ESX and you’ll be able to copy and paste

If you’re in an old pre-ESX 4 environment and you want to disable the joy of copy and paste, then the converse parameters need to be used, so for the VM set the following

  • Set isolation.tools.copy.enable to false
  • Set isolation.tools.paste.enable to false

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