VMWare Workstation and Wireless Network Adapter Problem

There is one important note to keep in mind when setting up VMWare Workstation (I use version 7) to use wireless network adapter. Here’s the basic terminology:

Bridged: Connected directly to your physical network.
So, a virtual machine is set to use Bridged mode, the vm is sitting on the physical network, having different IP address than the host and can access / be accessed by other computer in the same network (assuming the network sharing is enabled).

NAT: Used host’s IP address as its IP address.
A virtual machine that uses NAT mode is not connected directly to physical network. This vm kind of stand behind the host machine and is able to talk to network’s router / switch through the host’s IP address. Other devices in the same network would not be able to access the virtual machine.

Host-only: Connected to the host only.
Virtual machine that uses this mode is on host’s private network. The virtual machine is isolated in this private network that it can’t reach outside the host’s private network nor can any body reach in to the private network beside the host. This also means the vm can’t talk to physical network’s router / switch, so no Internet connection is available for the vms in the private network.

These virtual network adapter modes can be set / modify through “Virtual Network Editor” (From VMWare Workstation menu, Edit > Virtual Network Editor).

Having said this, when setting up your home / office network to use wireless network adapter, you will need to keep these terminologies in mind.

When a computer uses wireless network adapter to connect to a wireless router, the router will normally assign an IP address to that adapter. A typical router is able to assign multiple IP addresses to the same MAC address. However, some routers can’t do this. When a computer connects to a router using wireless adapter, the router recognizes the wireless adapter (not the computer) as one MAC address and it will assign one IP address to that adapter.

Problem might arise when you try to connect your guest machines using bridged connection because, remember, in bridged mode, a guest machine has different IP address. What happens if you use bridged mode is the host and the guest machines will have different IP addresses. These different IP addresses will use same wireless network adapter to connect to the router. If the router can’t assign multiple IP addresses to the same MAC address, the router will kick out host / guest (randomly) out of the network and only allow one IP address to use the device with previously defined MAC address.

The problem is not happening in NAT mode because guest machines will share same IP address with the host. The problem will also not be happening in Bridged mode with ethernet connection (as oppose to wireless) because the router will see each computer (host and guest machines) as having different MAC addresses.

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