Is there a way to install software like VMware player on your HD and run that software without an Operating System?
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Yes. You will need something called a "bare-metal/hypervisor-based" virtulisation solution. This runs a basic OS with very little overhead which the Virtulisation Software runs on top of.
The three big ones are:
Each have their own upsides and downside, ranging from costs to supported OS's and platforms.
The Wikipedia Hypervisor page has the concept in more technical detail.