Running a Raspberry Pi on your PC

A Virtual Raspberry Pi

If (like me) you find yourself building and rebuilding Raspberry Pi systems to do deployment testing then you might find it useful to know that you can do a lot of testing on a PC.
In fact you can create virtual Raspberry Pi machines and have them run on your main computer or on a dedicated Virtulisation Host.

If you are still reading then I assume you are interested. So lets work on a guide to show how.

The main part of this guide will be based on VMware workstation 15 player running under windows 10, but I will also add supplementary notes on Virtual box running under Linux and even details for running VMware ESXi as a dedicated host.

you can apparently run VMware Virtulisation on a Pi itself, but that’s something for another day.

First step is to get the image ISO for the Raspberry Pi Desktop, and this can be found at the official Website: Download the ISO or if you can use the torrent as it will (usually) be faster.

while that’s downloading you can set up your Virtulisation software.
For VMWare workstation Player, this can be downloaded from the VMware official site

if you are commercial or using this for business then I would recommend to get the pro version, or better the full ESXi and VSphere.

I see that version 16 is now out and will try that later, but for now this guide is still based on Version 15

Once your Virtulisation system is installed and running, the download of the ISO for the raspberry Pi should also have completed.
Copy (or move) the ISO from the downloads to a more permanent folder on your computer. In my case I keep a folders of ISO images. In my case I keep a folder on my NAS with any I have downloaded.

Start the Virtulisation software and lets create the virtual pi.

Select the “Create a New Virtual Machine” option and when prompted for an installation source, select the “Installer disc image file (iso):” option.
For the source, point it to the ISO file you downloaded.

Next it will ask for the Guest operating system, and for this select “Linux” and then then the Version as “Debian 10.x 64-bit”

Then you get to name the Virtual machine name, I used “VM-Pi-01”, the Location for the files can stay as the default, but I prefer to have mine in a separate directory so I would set this to “C:\VmGuests\VM-Pi-01”. This is up to you, but it’s good practice to keep them organised for later.

Specify Disk Capacity, here it will depend what you are going to do with the Pi, so just think of this as the equivalent of the SD card size on the Pi and the default of 20GB is more than enough for most systems.

Next we get “Ready to Create Virtual Machine”, but first select the “Customize hardware…” button, we can then set the details of the hardware. This will depend on your Host PC as a low power PC might not have much RAM or Processors. The Default of 2GB for RAM and 1 Processor will work (but slow), a better spec would be 4GB RAM and 4 Processors.

Leave everything else as default for now.

Select “Finish” and the machine is created as if you have a new Raspberry Pi with a SD card ready.

Now to Power it on.

Select the “Play Virtual Machine” and away it goes. This is somewhat different to the normal as we need to install the files onto the virtual image.
Once it starts up you will have a window with various options, make sure to select this quickly otherwise it will start but not install
Select the “graphical install” and select your relevant settings

It might seem as bit odd to use this as you will need to click the mouse in the window before the keyboard (or virtual mouse) will respond.

Select the “Guided – use entire disk” option.
When prompted select “All files in one partition (recommended for new users)”
When you get asked, make sure to set the “Write changes to disks?” to “Yes”.
It will then install the system, this will take some time.

Notice at the bottom you will see the note for installing VMware tools. Don’t touch this for now.

After all the install and a bit of automatic configuration, you will be asked to install the GRUB boot loader, select “Yes” and “Continue”.
Select the “/dev/sda” as the boot loader location and “Continue”.

Finally we get to “Finish the installation”, once again click the “Continue” and we will be booting into the Raspberry Pi desktop.

As with all new Pi installs we get the usual Keyboard, timezone, language and other prompts, which you can set as you wish, and then it will be up an running a Raspberry Pi Desktop in a window on your PC.

During the update you might see a prompt to install the VMWare Tools. It’s best to let everything finish updating and installing first until you see the ‘System is up to date’ prompt (or you skipped the update system option). Do a restart.

Wait for it to restart and then we can install the VMware Tools. this is not necessary but will make using the image much smoother.
Once you have selected the Tools to be installed, open a terminal window and move to the virtual CD and uncompressed it.

mkdir vmtools
cd vmtools
tar -xf /media/cdrom/VMwareTools-*
cd vmware-tools-distrib
sudo ./

Select Yes for the first prompt regarding using open vm tools and then just hit return to all the subsequent prompts.

Do another reboot and you will be up and running.

Congratulations you now have a Raspberry Pi running on your PC.

You can sue this for most testing, with the main exception being that you do not have the I/O capacity (i.e. no GPIO).

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