On VMware workstation, when I boot a VM I see a screen appear for booting CD but it doesn't last long. I definitely try hitting F2 when I see it, and i'm a very fast guy, still no luck.

How do I do it?

enter image description here

I have heard of an option to power on to BIOS but I don't see it. I see VM..power on to firmware.

| |
  • 4
    "Power on to firmware" is the new name for "Power on to BIOS" since some VMs now use EFI instead of BIOS. BIOS is a type of firmware. – jamesdlin Aug 29 '15 at 20:57

You're right to act as soon as it starts, but don't just hit a key. You have to mouse click to enter the VM, and then hit the key (F2 for BIOS or ESC for boot menu) F12 for network boot though I haven't used network boot.

When the virtual machine starts, the mouse cursor changes from an arrow to a hand cursor, but you are not in the virtual machine unless you click, and then the cursor will disappear. Then, it will respond to key presses.

You can also edit the vmx file of the virtual machine, and add the line bios.bootDelay = "15000" (15000 milliseconds is 15 seconds but you can change it to whatever) and you get another screen that offers the same keys and a 15 second delay to hit them. Of course, you have to click first. You might want to shorten it from 15 seconds. But if you've been missing it you might appreciate the screen being there for 15 seconds, then change it once you've figured out how to do it.

When practicing you might want to shutdown and power up, rather than restart, so it's a bit clearer when it is powering up, though restarting is OK.

Another option is "power on to firmware", try it, it goes to the BIOS. It's in the menu when right clicking a VM, or in the VM menu at the top. And in some versions of vmware workstation it's "power on to BIOS". In my version it's "power on to firmware" but it goes to the BIOS

Oddly, while in an ubuntu VM, F2 and ESC don't bring up the BIOS, choosing "power on to firmware" does. (or "power on to bios" in other VMware workstation versions).

jamesdlin points out in comment

"Power on to firmware" is the new name for "Power on to BIOS" since some VMs now use EFI instead of BIOS. BIOS is a type of firmware.

| |
  • A good virtual machine to experiment with is a Win or Bart PE ISO. It restarts quickly so if you miss it you can restart within a few seconds, and try again. I was experimenting with an ubuntu VM but when missing a key for some reason it wasn't quick to restart. And even when it was, it kept bringing up a grub menu. – barlop Jul 14 '15 at 12:56
  • also ubuntu for some reason when you hit F2 it runs grub. Whether boot delay or not But boot to firmware gets it to the BIOS. – barlop Jul 14 '15 at 14:29
  • Note there is no power on to firmware option in workstation player (v12). You prbably need to upgrade to pro. – jiggunjer Jan 8 '16 at 3:55
  • 2018 and we still have to deal with the stupidity of whoever thought ESC was a good key to bring the boot menu – Dan Jun 24 '18 at 0:14
  • @Dan the same guy that thought "keyboard not detected, press any key to continue" was a good idea! – barlop Jun 24 '18 at 0:33

You can do the following to make your job easier.

To make it easier to access the BIOS setup screen, edit the virtual machine's configuration (.vmx) and add or edit one of these options:

bios.forceSetupOnce = "TRUE"

This forces entry to the BIOS setup at startup.

bios.bootDelay = "xxxx"

This adds a delay to the initial POST screen, showing it for longer and giving you more time to access the BIOS setup, where xxxx is the number of milliseconds to show the POST screen. (There are 1000 milliseconds in a second.) The maximum value for the boot delay is 10000 milliseconds or 10 seconds.

Note: Other documentation indicates the actually maximum delay is 20 seconds or 20000 milliseconds.


Once you have access to the BIOS setup you can change the boot order permanently by doing the following.

Switch to the Boot tab, and change the ordering of the items by pressing the “+” key to move items up on the list, and the “-” key to move items down the list.

enter image description here enter image description here

VMWare’s BIOS does not allow you to boot to a USB device, but you can get around that limitation, by using the PLoP Boot Manager. The source tutorial continues to explain how to actually boot to a USB device in more detail but that isn't what you are trying to do.


| |
  • When I started to write and submit this answer barlop's answer was a single sentence. – Ramhound Jul 14 '15 at 13:07
  • Your answer still adds value. Fundamentally though my error was not clicking. – barlop Jul 14 '15 at 14:06
  • When I add that force.. line I get an error i.imgur.com/l5igfXw.png "dictionary problem". This is the relevant part of my vmx file i.imgur.com/ZThX3BQ.png – barlop Jul 14 '15 at 14:08
  • Most of this comes straight from VMWare's own website. You don't indicate which which version of VMWare Workstation or VMWare Player you are using though. The knowlegebase article claims it basically supports all versions though. I won't be able to research it myself further until tonight. – Ramhound Jul 14 '15 at 14:20
  • VMWare Workstation 11.0.0 build-2305329 – barlop Jul 14 '15 at 14:21

Simply stated, in most instances it is faster to rebuild an entire host than to expect you can hist escape or F2 in the millisecond they allow for this to occur.

| |
  • -1 well, that's not very simply stated, 'cos it's not clear whether you're trying to suggest that rebuilding an entire host is an alternative – barlop Mar 1 '17 at 14:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.