Running Photon OS on Workstation

This guide describes how to get started using Photon OS as a virtual machine within VMware Workstation. It provides instructions for downloading Photon OS (as an OVA or ISO file), describes the various installation options, and walks through the steps of installing the Photon OS distribution on Workstation. Once Photon OS is installed, this document shows how to deploy a containerized application in Docker with a single command.

Note: If you want to upgrade an existing Photon 1.0 VM, refer to the instructions in Upgrading to Photon OS 2.0.

About Photon OS

Photon OS™ is an open source Linux container host optimized for cloud-native applications, cloud platforms, and VMware infrastructure. Photon OS provides a secure run-time environment for efficiently running containers. For an overview, see


Using Photon OS within VMware Workstation requires the following resources:

Resource Description
VMware Workstation VMware Workstation must be installed (Workstation 10 or higher). The latest version is recommended.
Memory 2GB of free RAM (recommended)
Storage Minimal Photon install : 512MB of free space (minimum); Full Photon install : 4GB of free space (minimum); 8GB is recommended
Distribution File Photon OS ISO or OVA file downloaded from bintray (

Resource requirements and recommendations vary depending on several factors, including the host environment (for example, VMware Workstation and VMware vSphere), the distribution file used (ISO or OVA), and the selected installation settings (for example, full or basic installation).

Note: The setup instructions in this guide use VMware Workstation Professional version 12.5.7.

Workstation version

Deciding Whether to Use OVA or ISO

The first step is decide whether to use the the OVA or ISO distribution to set up Photon OS.

  • OVA import : Because of the nature of an OVA, you're getting a pre-installed version of Photon OS. For Workstation, choose the OVA with Hardware Version 11 (not 13). The OVA benefits from a simple import process and some kernel tuning for VMware environments. However, because it's a pre-installed version, the set of packages that are installed are predetermined. Any additional packages that you need can be installed using tdnf.
  • ISO install : The ISO, on the other hand, allows for a more complete installation or automated installation via kickstart.

If you're just looking for the fastest way to get up and running, start with the OVA.

Downloading Photon OS

Once you've decided which way to install, you'll need to download the correct binaries. Go to the following Bintray URL and download the latest release of Photon OS:

For instructions, see Downloading Photon OS.

Importing the OVA for Photon OS 2.0

Using the OVA is the easiest way to create a Photon OS VM on VMware Workstation.

Step 1: Start the Import Process

After you've downloaded the OVA file (OVA with Hardware Version 11), do one of the following:

  • Double-click it to start the import process, or
  • Start VMware Workstation and, from the File menu, choose Open.

OVA file

Step 2: Specify the Name and Storage Location

Change the name and storage location, if you want.

Name and Storage Location

Choose Import.


Review the License Agreement and choose Accept.

Step 3: Configure VM Settings

Once the OVA is imported, Workstation displays a summary of the settings for your Photon OS VM.


Choose Edit virtual machine settings. Workstation displays the Virtual Machine settings. You can either accept the defaults or change settings as needed.

OVA settings

Select the Options tab.


Under Guest operating system, select Linux.

For Version, click the list and select VMWare Photon 64-bit.


Note: If you want to configure a secure boot for the Photon OS VM, select Advanced and select (check) Boot with EFI instead of BIOS. The EFI boot ensures that the ISO content is signed by VMware and that the entire stack is secure.

EFI boot

Choose OK.

Step 4: Power on the VM

From the tab, choose Power on this virtual machine.

OVA splash

After the splash screen, Workstation will prompt you to log in.

Step 5: Update Login Credentials

Note : Because of limitations within OVA support on Workstation, it was necessary to specify a default password for the OVA option. However, all Photon OS instances that are created by importing the OVA will require an immediate password change upon login. The default account credentials are:

Setting Value
Username root
Password changeme

After you provide these credentials, Workstation prompts you to create a new password and type it a second time to verify it. For security, Photon OS forbids common dictionary words for the root password. Once logged in, you will see the shell prompt.

OVA password

Once complete, proceed to Deploying a Containerized Application in Photon OS.

Installing the ISO Image for Photon OS 2.0

After you have downloaded the Photon OS ISO image into a folder of your choice, open VMware Workstation.

Step 1: Start the Installation Process

From the File menu, choose New Virtual Machine to create a new virtual machine.

New virtural machine

Select Typical or Custom, and then choose Next. These instructions refer to a Typical installation.

Typical installation

Step 2: Select the ISO Image

Select Installer disc image file (iso), choose Browse and select the Photon OS ISO file.

Photon ISO file

Step 3: Select the Operating System

Choose Next. Select the Guest operating system.

For the Guest operating system, select Linux.

Click the Version dropdown and select VMware Photon 64-bit from the list.

Operating System

Step 4: Specify the VM Name and Location

Choose Next. Specify a virtual machine name and location.

VM Name and Location

Step 5: Specify Disk Options

Choose Next. Specify the maximum disk size and whether you want to split the virtual disk into multiple files or store it as a single file.

Disk options

Step 6: Configure VM Settings

Choose Next. Workstation displays a summary of your selections.

Workstation settings

Important : Before you finish creating the Photon OS Virtual Machine, we strongly recommend that you customize the virtual machine and remove any unwanted devices that are not needed for a container run-time environment. To remove unnecessary devices, choose Customize hardware.

Customize hardware

Consider removing the following components, which are not used by Photon OS:

  • Select Sound Card, un-tick the Connect at power on option. Confirm your action and choose Close to return to the VM Settings by .
  • Select USB Controller and ensure that the Share Bluetooth devices with the virtual machine setting is unchecked (it should be unchecked, by default) and then choose Close.
  • Select Display and ensure that the Accelerate 3D Graphics option is unchecked (it should be unchecked, by default) and then choose Close.
  • At this stage we have now made all the necessary customizations and you are ready to select the Photon OS ISO image to boot and begin the installation process.
  • Choose Finish.

In Workstation, choose Edit virtual machine settings, select CD/DVD (IDE), and verify that Connect at power on is selected.


Step 7: Configure a Secure Boot (Optional)

Note: If you want to configure a secure boot for the Photon OS VM, in Workstation, choose Edit virtual machine settings, select Options, choose Advanced, and select Boot with EFI instead of BIOS.

Boot with EFI

The EFI boot ensures that the ISO content is signed by VMware and that the entire stack is secure.

Choose OK.

ISO settings

Step 8: Power On the VM

Choose Power on this virtual machine.

When you see the Photon Installer boot menu, press Enter on your keyboard to start installing.


Review the license agreement.

License agreement

Choose Accept and press Enter.

Step 9: Configure the Partition

The installer will detect one disk, which should be the 8GB volume configured as part of the virtual machine creation. Choose Auto to have the installer automatically allocate the partition, or choose Custom if you want to configure individual partitions, and then press the Enter key.


Note: If you choose Custom, the installer displays the following screen.

Custom partition

For each custom partition, choose Create New and specify the following information:

New partition

Size - Preallocated size of this partition, in MB.

Type - One of the following options:

  • ext3 - ext3 file system
  • ext4 - ext4 file system
  • swap - swap partition

Mountpoint - Mount point for this partition.

Choose OK and press the Enter key. When you are done defining custom partitions, choose Next and press the Enter key.

The installer prompts you to confirm that you want to erase the entire disk. Choose Yes and press the Enter key.

Disk erase

Step 10: Select an Installation Option

After partitioning the disk, the installer will prompt you to select an installation option.

installation option

Each installation option provides a different run-time environment, depending on your requirements.

Option Description
Photon Minimal Photon Minimum is a very lightweight version of the container host runtime that is best suited for container management and hosting. There is sufficient packaging and functionality to allow most common operations around modifying existing containers, as well as being a highly performant and full-featured runtime.
Photon Full Photon Full includes several additional packages to enhance the authoring and packaging of containerized applications and/or system customization. For simply running containers, Photon Full will be overkill. Use Photon Full for developing and packaging the application that will be run as a container, as well as authoring the container, itself. For testing and validation purposes, Photon Full will include all components necessary to run containers.
Photon OSTree Server This installation profile will create the server instance that will host the filesystem tree and managed definitions for rpm-ostree managed hosts created with the "Photon OSTree Host" installation profile. Most environments should need only one Photon OSTree Server instance to manage the state of the Photon OSTree Hosts. Use Photon OSTree Server when you are establishing a new repository and management node for Photon OS hosts.

Note: The option you choose determines the disk and memory resources required for your installation.

Select the option you want and press the Enter key.

Step 11: Select the Linux Kernel

Select a Linux kernel to install.


  • Hypervisor optimized means that any components that are not needed for running under a VMware hypervisor have been removed for faster boot times.
  • Generic means that all components are included.

Choose Next and press the Enter key.

Step 12: Specify the Hostname

The installer prompts you for a hostname and suggest a randomly generated, unique hostname that you can change if you want.


Press the Enter key.

Step 13: Specify the System root Password

Note : Photon OS will not permit commonly used dictionary words to be set as a root password.

The installer prompts you to enter the system root password. Type the password and press the Enter key.


The installer prompts you to confirm the root password by typing it a second time.

Confirm password

Press the Enter key. The installer proceeds to install the software. Installation times will vary based on the system hardware and installation options you selected. Most installations complete in less than one minute.

Step 14: Reboot the VM and Log In

Once finished, the installer displays a confirmation message (which includes how long it took to install Photon OS) and prompts you to press a key on your keyboard to boot the new VM.

confirmation message

Press any key on the keyboard and the virtual machine will reboot into Photon OS.

As the initial boot process begins, the installer displays the Photon splash screen, and then a login prompt.

Splash screen

At the login prompt, type root as the username and provide the password chosen during the installation.


You have now successfully set up Photon OS and are ready to use your container run-time environment. Proceed to the next section to deploy a containerized application.

Deploying a Containerized Application in Photon OS

Now that you have your container runtime environment up and running, you can easily deploy a containerized application. For this example, you will deploy the popular open source Web Server Nginx. The Nginx application has a customized VMware package that is published as a dockerfile and can be downloaded directly through the Docker module from the Docker Hub.

Step 1: Run Docker

To run Docker from the command prompt, enter the following command, which initializes the docker engine:

systemctl start docker

To ensure Docker daemon service runs on every subsequent VM reboot, enter the following command:

systemctl enable docker

Step 2: Run the Nginx Web Server

Now the Docker daemon service is running, it is a simple task to "pull" and start the Nginx Web Server container from Docker Hub. To do this, type the following command:

docker run -d -p 80:80 vmwarecna/nginx

This pulls the Nginx Web Server files and appropriate dependent container filesystem layers required for this containerized application to run.

Docker run

After the docker run process completes, you return to the command prompt. You now have a fully active website up and running in a container.

Step 3: Test the Web Server

To test that your Web Server is active, run the ifconfig command to get the IP address of the Photon OS Virtual Machine.

IP config

The output displays a list of adapters that are connected to the virtual machine. Typically, the web server daemon will be bound on "eth0".

Start a browser on your host machine and enter the IP address of your Photon OS Virtual Machine (the inet addr for eth0). You should see a screen similar to the following example as confirmation that your web server is active.


You can now run any other containerized application from Docker Hub or your own containerized application within Photon OS.

Installing Photon OS 1.0

Refer to the Photon OS 1.0 installation instructions in Running Photon OS on Fusion.

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