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I'm running VMware for some older design apps that can run only on Windows XP.  One of those apps uses Ctrl+Alt and Ctrl+Alt+Shift shortcuts to perform various tasks.

The issue is that VMware player uses Ctrl+Alt as a hotkey to grant control back to the host OS.

Is there a way to disable this or change it?

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up vote 12 down vote accepted

I was having the same problem, and a little research led me to the “Modifying the hot key setting in VMware Server (1008036)” article on the VMware Knowledge Base site (archived here).

It shows how to modify the preferences.ini file to make the hotkey Ctrl+Alt+Shift, and indicates that other key combinations can also be set.  Ctrl+Alt+Shift was fine for me, so I tried that and it works:


This article provides steps to customize the hot key preferences in VMware Server 2.0.


The Remote Console does not provide an interface control to set the hot key settings. You must configure hot keys in the user preferences files.

To configure hot keys in the user preferences file:

Note: If you have other VMware products installed, these changes affect the preferences of those products as well.

  1. Open the preferences file in a text editor.

    The file is located in one of the following locations:

    • Windows XP and Windows Server 2000 –
      C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Application Data\VMware\preferences.ini
    • Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2012 – %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming\VMware\preferences.ini
      • (%AppData%\VMware\preferences.ini may work for either of the above.)
    • Unix/Linux – ~/.vmware/preferences
  2. Add the following lines to the file:

    pref.hotkey.gui = "false"
    pref.hotkey.shift = "true"
    pref.hotkey.control = "true"
    pref.hotkey.alt = "true"

    This combination sets the hot keys to Ctrl+Alt+Shift.  Other settings yield different combinations.

  3. Save the file and restart the Remote Console.

Reportedly, the pref.hotkey.gui line refers to the Windows key.

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Worth mentioning that "pref.hotkey.gui" refers to the Windows key; this wasn't immediately obvious to me. – Symmetric Mar 14 '14 at 19:34
On Windows 7 and Windows 8 the preferences file can be found in Users\UserName\AppData\Roaming\VMware\preferences.ini – mernst Oct 21 '14 at 3:42

If you change VMX-file parameters (preferences.ini - settings), you can do what you want...

pref.hotkey.shift = "true"    
pref.hotkey.alt = "true"    
pref.hotkey.control = "true"


In Linux-VMs you may not like the usual CTRL + ALT combination – use this for CTRL + ALT + SHIFT

The source of the above is here, which contains information regarding other things you can do with preferences.ini.

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