Get VMWare Workstation working again on Windows 10

A nasty surprise for VMWare Workstation users after a recent Windows 10.  Happily there’s an absurdly simple workaround and now a free update too!

VMWare Workstation is popular virtual machine software. Among it’s many uses is running different versions or states of Microsoft Office on the one physical computer.  Microsoft has a similar product Hyper/V that comes with high-end versions of Windows.

Our Windows books have a dedicated chapter with step-by-step guides to setting up virtual machines: Windows 10 for Microsoft Office users or  Windows 8 for Microsoft Office users.

What happened?

A small and undocumented part of some Windows updates stopped all older versions of VMWare Workstation from running.  Only the latest VMWare Workstation 15.5 escaped this block.

The culprits are:

No reason has been given for the block.  What we do know is that it’s ridiculously simple to workaround Microsoft’s block on a rival product.

If you

VMWare recommends paying for an upgrade to v15.5 (naturally).  That’s not an option for some, either for technical reasons or money.

UPDATE for v14

Update:  VMWare has now released a free update which workaround the Windows block.

Get VMWare Workstation v14.1.8 to fix the problem.

We’ve had trouble with v14.1.8 running on Preview editions of Windows 10.  The workaround is the ‘renaming vmware.exe’ trick mentioned below.

Workstation v12

If you have an earlier version of VMWare Workstation or, for some reason, can’t get v14.1.8  the original workarounds still apply.

VMWare suggests uninstalling the troublemaking patches.  Doing that also removes other fixes which might be essential.

The problem is changes to the Windows 10 Application Compatibility Database which stops known incompatible programs. Some people are suggesting replacing the new database with an older one from a previous version of Windows.  That will work but isn’t necessary.

The simple fix

The Application Compatibility Database works, in part, off the exact name of the program  file.

Change the .exe name and Windows will let the program work.

We could not believe this trick would work. Surely Windows does a more detailed check than simply the program name and version detail in it? But it works.

Shut down VMWare Workstation then head over to C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\VMware Workstation  and scroll down to vmware.exe

Rename the program, a single character will do.  vmware1.exe   vmwareA.exe – whatever you like.

Then update any shortcuts to the program. Right-click on the renamed file and choose Pin to Start.

Restart Workstation from the renamed .EXE and it works normally again.

All too easy …

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