My main os is Windows, I then run ubuntu in VmWare. Before switching to i3 on gnome, I used Ubuntu gnome. In Ubuntu, I could share the clipboard between the windows-host and the ubuntu-virtual machine without any issues. However, after changing to the tiling window manager i3 in my ubuntu-virtual machine, I suddenly wasn't able to share the clipboard between the host system and the virtual machine. (As a side note, the hotkey for copy-pasting also changed after changing to i3, now it is e.g. ctrl+shift+c for copying.)

My question is: How do I share the system clipboard between my ubuntu virtual machine using i3 (VmWare), and my host windows machine?


Just stumpled upon this question and answer pair (though it's from 2013), quite similar to my question with the exception being he asks about i3 on arch, whereas I ask about i3 on ubuntu. I haven't tried 'autocutsel' out as the answer suggests yet, do you think it'll work?

3 Answers 3


I followed this article, it's content is short, so I just copied it:

First, make sure you have VMware tools installed.

sudo service vmware-tools status

If it’s not installed, then first make sure you don’t have the open-vm-tools installed.

sudo service open-vm-tools status

If you do have it installed, uninstall it.

sudo apt-get remove open-vm-tools
sudo apt-get remove --auto-remove open-vm-tools
sudo apt-get purge open-vm-tools
sudo apt-get purge --auto-remove open-vm-tools
sudo reboot

Then, after your computer reboots, you can install the VMware tools. If you didn't have open-vm-tools, you can skip to this step.

Click on Virtual Machine > Install / Update / Reinstall VMware Tools. Extract the VMware Tools tar to the Desktop and follow the below commands.

cd Desktop/vmware-tools-distrib
Run this command to install VMware Tools:
sudo ./vmware-install.pl
Follow the prompts to install. I picked the defaults.

Reboot your computer and copy/paste should work with the default window manager.

Since I already had vmware-tools installed, all I had to do was:

If you use i3 as a window manager, go to the i3 config at ~/.config/i3/config and add the following line at the end. (This assumes you already had an i3 configuration file created).

exec --no-startup-id vmware-user

Log out and log back in.


As pointed out in other answers, you don't need to uninstall open-vm-tools (open-vm-tools is the supported tool for Ubuntu versions greater than 12 by Vmware as seen here and here). Rather executing vmware-user-suid-wrapper (instead of vmware-user) from the i3 config file is enough to get the copy-paste and file transfer between guest and host sorted. You can follow the following steps to set it up:

Install open-vm-tools and open-vm-tools-desktop as follows:

sudo apt-get install open-vm-tools
sudo apt-get install open-vm-tools-desktop

Next open yoour i3 config file at ~/.config/i3/config and add the following line,

exec --no-startup-id vmware-user-suid-wrapper

Restart/refresh i3 config and tada, copy-paste and file transfers between guest and host works.


I used Ubuntu gnome. In Ubuntu, I could share the clipboard between the windows-host and the ubuntu-virtual machine without any issues.

First, restart the Guest machine (this ensures a good starting point for the next installation step). See if the Clipboard copy / paste has returned.

In the VMware Menu, Go to VM, and then select Reinstall VMware Tools.

See this screen shot to help you.

enter image description here

If the option to reinstall is greyed out, then you need to install the Tools manually. This may also be needed in the case for "i3" . Ubuntu Tools install on a modern version is automatic.

Manual Tools Install

Power on the virtual machine.

Verify that the guest operating system is running.

Because the VMware Tools installer is written in Perl, verify that Perl is installed in the guest operating system.

Select the menu command to mount the VMware Tools virtual disk on the guest operating system.

In the virtual machine, open a terminal window. Run the mount command with no arguments to determine whether your Linux distribution automatically mounted the VMware Tools virtual CD-ROM image.

If the CD-ROM device is mounted, the CD-ROM device and its mount point are listed in a manner similar to the following output: /dev/cdrom on /mnt/cdrom type iso9660 (ro,nosuid,nodev)

If the VMware Tools virtual CD-ROM image is not mounted, mount the CD-ROM drive. If a mount point directory does not already exist, create it.

mkdir /mnt/cdrom

Some Linux distributions use different mount point names. For example, on some distributions the mount point is /media/VMware Tools rather than /mnt/cdrom. Modify the command to reflect the conventions that your distribution uses. Mount the CD-ROM drive. mount /dev/cdrom /mnt/cdrom

Some Linux distributions use different device names or organize the /dev directory differently. If your CD-ROM drive is not /dev/cdrom or if the mount point for a CD-ROM is not /mnt/cdrom, modify the command to reflect the conventions that your distribution uses.

Change to a working directory, for example, /tmp. cd /tmp

(Optional) Delete any previous vmware-tools-distrib directory before you install VMware Tools. The location of this directory depends on where you placed it during the previous installation. Often this directory is placed in /tmp/vmware-tools-distrib. List the contents of the mount point directory and note the file name of the VMware Tools tar installer. ls mount-point Uncompress the installer. tar zxpf /mnt/cdrom/VMwareTools-x.x.x-yyyy.tar.gz The value x.x.x is the product version number, and yyyy is the build number of the product release.

If necessary, unmount the CD-ROM image. umount /dev/cdrom

If your Linux distribution automatically mounted the CD-ROM, you do not need to unmount the image.

Run the installer and configure VMware Tools as a root user cd vmware-tools-distrib sudo ./vmware-install.pl

Usually, the vmware-config-tools.pl configuration file runs after the installer file finishes running. If you attempt to install a tar installation over an RPM installation, or the reverse, the installer detects the previous installation and must convert the installer database format before continuing.

Note: For newer Linux distributions, users are prompted to choose the integrated open-vm-tools.

Follow the prompts to accept the default values, if appropriate for your configuration.

Follow the instructions at the end of the script.

Depending on the features you use, these instructions can include restarting the X session, restarting networking, logging in again, and starting the VMware User process. You can alternatively reboot the guest operating system to accomplish all these tasks.

  • As is also the case in your screenshot, the option to "reinstall VMware tools" is greyed out. i.gyazo.com/a40dd52f3c3be056c69f52266c5a1de7.png Mar 11, 2021 at 12:52
  • Rebooting doesn't solve the issue by the way. Mar 11, 2021 at 13:08
  • I amended my answer for Manual Tools Install. This was necessary for older versions of Linux or other incompatibility.
    – John
    Mar 11, 2021 at 14:26

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