The VMware Tools GUI is gone - Now what?

If you run Windows VMs on VMware ESXi 5.1 hosts or Workstation 9 then you may have noticed that VMware silently made an important change to the recent VMware Tools (for Windows) versions. Older versions exposed a GUI for configuring and using the VMware Tools that was accessible via a tray icon and a Control Panel applet. With the latest version this GUI has been replaced by simple "About" box that just shows the VMware Tools service status and build number:
The reduced GUI of VMware Tools version 9

What could you do with the old GUI?

The old GUI had options for
  • Configuring Time Synchronization with the host
  • Starting an update process for the Tools (but this is now disabled by default, s. KB2007298)
  • (Dis-)connecting removable devices
  • Configuring event scripts (for power-on, shutdown etc., see the vSphere docs)
  • Shrinking virtual disks

So are all these options no longer available?

They are all still available, but only through the command line tool VMwareToolboxCmd.exe that also already existed in earlier version of the Tools. You can find it in the installation directory of the Tools, and calling it with the parameter help will give you an idea of how to use it:

VMwareToolboxCmd help screen
There is also a detailed manual available in PDF format. The stat option is something that was not exposed in the GUI and is only available with the CLI tool - on ESX(i) hosts it reveals some interesting information about e.g. the host's CPU speed and possible memory and CPU reservations.

Why was the GUI removed?

I haven't found a VMware official statement that answers this question. In KB2046615 it is just stated that this behaviour is intentional. So we can only speculate about the reasons: For me the most probable reason is that VMware does no longer want to provide an easily accessible and usable GUI to every Windows Server Administrator (or even Workstation or Terminal Server user) that s/he could use to make changes to the virtual hardware of the machine - maybe just unintentionally and/or not really knowing the consequences. In larger companies not every Windows administrator is also a VMware administrator, so it may make sense here to hide the functionality of the VMware Tools, resp. make it only available through a "hidden" CLI tool.

Many people have complained about this, because they prefer having a user friendly GUI available even for tasks that you do not perform on a regular basis. So ...

Is there any way to bring the old GUI back?

Yes, the most obvious way is to continue using the VMware Tools of ESXi 5.0 (resp. VMware Workstation 8) even on newer versions of ESXi and Workstation, because these older versions still have the GUI available.

But also with the latest version of the ESXi 5.1 tools you can bring the GUI back! You just need to copy two files of a recent ESXi 5.0 Tools installation into the VMware Tools program directory ("%ProgramFiles%\VMware\VMware Tools"):
  • VMControlPanel.cpl
  • VMwareCplLauncher.exe
You can then launch the GUI by double clicking the cpl file (that is a Control Panel applet). On Windows systems that use UAC (User Account Control) you need to run the exe file instead - it will then prompt for elevation and start the cpl file in turn.

Of course this is unsupported by VMware, but as far as I could test it, it works fine.


  1. Security through obscurity isn't security. You would think that a company like VMware would know that, but apparently not...

    Vmware, please get rid of the guys you hired away from Microsoft that thought of this. Crippling user features to "help" them, isn't any help and never has been. There is a reason why we aren't running HyperV

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      I think it's not about providing false security, but more about preventing inexperienced Windows admins from making unintentional changes to a VM.


    2. Preventing inexperienced user to make unintentional change? This is a false sens of security. If you want to prevent that, use account right and security level. Any inexperienced user can google what he want to do and find a way to do it anyway and can end up doing more damage.

  2. I completely agree with the first poster - VMware have become very MS-like in their "We know best" approach, whether it be the forced implementation of SSO, the eradication of the GUI or these options for Tools :(


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