Installing Windows 7 64 Bit Upgrade in VMWare Fusion 3

As a university staff member, I was able to take advantage of a discount on Windows 7 Ultimate. As it turned out the upgrade version was the only version available on DVD with no manuals. No problem. And since VMWare Fusion 3 supports 64 bit Windows on Mac OS X Snow Leopard, I figured, what the heck, let’s go 64 bit at last! Even though, this was a upgrade version, because I had previously installed Windows 7 Release Candidate, I was eligible to use the upgrade. The question that remained was how to actually go about doing the install. I’d read a lot about what others had done on the net, but of course everyone’s experience may vary. So here is what happened to me, in the hope that it will be useful to others.

The first thing I discovered was that there was no way to do the install from the physical DVD in VMWare Fusion 3. I started using the Easy Install option in VMWare, but for some unknown reason, it was never able to boot the VM from the DVD. As near as I could tell, it wasn’t even detecting the DVD at all. To be sure that the DVD was in fact bootable, I tried it out on another PC. Since the Windows 7 RC was installed from an ISO image, I decided to create an ISO from the DVD using the Mac Disk Utility. This is done by creating a new CD/DVD master image from the DVD. The resulting file will have a .cdr extension. Just change this extension to .iso.

So with ISO in hand, so to speak, I tried the install again, also choosing not to enter the product key during the VM setup process. I’d read that you should install without the key first and then activate within Windows later. This install went well and all was good until I tried to activate Windows. Then I got an error saying that my key was for an upgrade version not a clean install.

Ok, that wasn’t entirely unexpected. I had hoped the install would ask for the product key of an upgrade eligible version of Windows. But it turns out, and this was confirmed by other net reports, that the install needs to see a Windows installation somewhere on the computer when it runs.  Now how to do that in a VM? I had read of people connecting external drives with Windows on them to get around this, but I wasn’t clear on how to do this in a VMWare VM. Then I noticed that I could add additional hard drives to the VM, including virtual drives of other VMs!

So I junked the new Windows 7 VM and started over. This time though, before starting the install, I edited the VM to add the Windows 7 RC VM virtual disk (.vmdk file) as another hard drive. This time, the install proceeded as before except the activation was successful! Once I was sure everything was working as necessary, I shut down the VM and removed the Windows 7 RC virtual disk from it.

So far, everything is running smoothly. Hopefully, VMWare will fix what I think is a bug with the DVD boot issue I encountered. As for Microsoft, they could make things easier for upgraders too, but I won’t complain too much. Letting the Windows 7 RC users upgrade rather than pay full price is a nice gesture on their part, even with the little puzzle I had to solve.

5 replies on “Installing Windows 7 64 Bit Upgrade in VMWare Fusion 3”

Thanks; this is helpful. I’m a university professor, so I have the same upgrade discount. Question to anyone who can help: can I go from a 32 bit (Windows Vista Home Premium) VM version to a 64 bit (Windows 7 Pro) VM version? Thanks for any help. I’ve got Vista, and I can start the Win 7 installation (from a downloaded executable file), but then the Windows 7 64 bit installation gets so far and stops, giving the error message (Cannot install from the folder … make sure folder is not read only… etc.) Comments? Suggestions?

@M McDonald Sorry about the delay, but I don’t think there is any way to go directly from a 32-bit Vista installation to 64-bit Windows 7. I think you’ll have to back up and then do a clean install. Though, if you’re doing the install from an upgrade disk, it’ll need to at least see the Vista installation on the disk even though it cannot upgrade over it. Well those are my guesses at least. Good luck!

Thanks a lot for the useful post. It didn’t really work on my computer though

I installed win 7 a first time, then a second time on a new virtual hard drive. As long as the first hard drive is connected to the virtual machine everything works (I only get a boot option, where I can choose which one of the two win 7 I want to boot).
When I removed the first hard drive, the computer did not boot anymore. I guess this is because the boot sectors where on the first hard drive, the one that I deleted, and not on the second one.

Why didn’t you have the same problem? I can’t think of an easy workaround, unless there is a way to tell windows on which hard drive to put the boot sectors, but I don’t think you can do that from the windows installation menu.

Any ideas? Am I doing something wrong?

Thanks a lot!

My installations were completely separate. The first one the Windows 7 RC was installed in its own VM, no boot manager involved. The second one was also in a completely separate VM to which I added the virtual disk of the first VM. Adding the virtual disk with the Windows 7 RC on it was the only way I could get the upgrade to procede. I never had a set up that would allow me to choose which Windows installation to boot from. The RC virtual disk was just like some additional, non bootable disk in the Windows 7 64-bit VM. So when I detached it I didn’t run into any problems.

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