Enable copy and paste on VMware ESXi VMs

When working with virtual infrastructure virtual machines (VMs), sometimes you'd like to have copy and paste operations available. In this post, you will learn how you can enable copy and paste for a single VM or all VMs on an ESXi host.

You might want to copy and paste in Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) connections, for example, when working via RDP connection on a remote Windows machine. You can freely copy when working with documents through the clipboard, from and to your physical management workstation or laptop back and forth to the remote system.

Within the VMware infrastructure, this is not possible—at least not at first sight. VMware has a "best practice" in place that gives you the most protection against malicious use.

Even if you try to copy and paste, it simply doesn't work. This advanced option is not active, and VMware says this is to prevent exposing sensitive data copied to the clipboard. However, when you don't want this security setting, for let's say, a lab environment, you have the possibility to override this.

You can change this via some advanced options we will show you today. You can configure these advanced options at the VM level or at the host level. In this way, when you're working inside a VM and want to copy from a spreadsheet or text file, you won't be limited, and your copy/paste will work correctly.

As stated above, this advanced setting can occur at two levels:

  • For an individual VM(s)
  • For a whole ESXi host

Let's take a look and see how to do this for a single VM first.

Enable clipboard copy and paste for a single VM ^

You'll need to log in to vCenter (or an ESXi host) using the vSphere Web Client and shut down the VM.

Then select the VM, click the Summary tab, and go to Edit Settings > VM Options > Advanced > Edit Configuration > Add Configuration Params. This will add a new row. Next, type these values in the Name and Value columns:

Validate and then repeat and click Add Configuration Params once more to add this one as well:

Add Configuration Params

Add Configuration Params

Click OK to close the Configuration Parameters dialog, and click OK again to close the Virtual Machine Properties dialog.

Start the VM, and you should now be able to use your clipboard.

Note: If you perform vMotion of a VM to a host where the isolation.tools.*="FALSE" parameter is already configured, it will automatically activate the copy and paste options for that VM. This means the host level overrides the VM-level options.

Enable copy and paste for all VMs ^

You'll need to use a Secure Shell (SSH) client for this, and you'll have to enable SSH on the host. A free SSH client for Windows called PuTTY is well known. There are plenty of others, and you can also install one as an extension in your web browser.

Then simply log in to the ESX/ESXi host as a root user.

Open the /etc/vmware/config file using the vi editor. Navigate first to the right directory (cd /etc/vmware), then type "i" to switch to insert mode, and then enter this command:

Note: You should make a backup of the /etc/vmware/config file. You can do this with the command below after you go into the /etc/vmware folder:

This saves the original file as "config_old."

Once you have the backup of the original file, you can add these entries to the file:

Edit the config file

Edit the config file

Save and close the file. We're done.

For the ESXi setting, you'll need to reboot the ESXi host for the values to take effect.

Wrap-up ^

I hope that you've enjoyed this little tweak and that it will help you to stretch your knowledge further about VMware virtual infrastructure technology.

VMware has many advanced settings, and they always make sure to apply the best and most secure options. However, for the sake of simplicity or lab testing, you may want to know how to overcome these limitations.


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  1. Gyz 2 years ago

    Hi Vladan, thanks for this great and useful tip! This is something I was missing for a long time. Do you have any idea if this could also be accomplished from PowerCli?  Many thanks


  2. Filip Vagner 2 years ago

    Hello Vlad, I was trying to set one VM with parameters but after configuration it still does not work.
    Are there any prerequisites? In my case does not work Copy neither Paste in any way.

    Environment :
    vCenter version 6.0.0
    Tested via vSphere client version 6.0.0 and VMware Remote Console version 10.0.3
    VM HW configuration 11
    OS Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard
    Tried logged in virtual machine as local administrator also as domain user with administrator's priviledge (under same account logged in OS where I am running console)


  3. Author

    Hi Gyz,

    It seems that there are some additional params which are needed in vSphere 6.7.

    I just quickly tested it with vSphere 6.7 on "per-VM" level. Hope it helps.


    • Filip Vágner 2 years ago

      I just tried to add another configuration line and still no luck.
      Might be caused by older version.


  4. gyzmos 2 years ago

    Hi Vladan,

    Thanks, I managed to get it working from Powercli with Get-AdvancedSetting / Set-AdvancedSetting cmdlets. However it didn't work before PowerOff/PowerOn of the VM, Restart-VM was not sufficient.



  5. Ahsan 2 years ago

    Hi Vladan,

    I am using 6.7 and I have added one line mentioned in your post to the config file of the host but I am not able to copy/paste.

    Do I need to add these 3 lines too to the config file in addition to the one added earlier ?

    isolation.tools.copy.disable  FALSE
    isolation.tools.paste.disable FALSE
    isolation.tools.setGUIOptions.enable TRUE



    • Author
      Vladan SEGET 2 years ago

      Hi Ahsan,

      Only those 3 lines are necessary. That's all.

      Hope it helps.


  6. Ilya 2 years ago


    isolation.tools.copy.disable  FALSE
    isolation.tools.paste.disable FALSE
    isolation.tools.setGUIOptions.enable TRUE


    That method doesn't work!



  7. Fred 3 months ago

    I'm using ESXi ver 6.5.0, Win7 VM, and  running Win10 connecting to the VM through Firefox browser.

    The 3 lines stated above made Copy & Paste work from VM to host, but it doesn'y seem to work the other way, Host to VM.  Is it NOT suppossed to work going the other way?



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