This post was inspired by Sonia Hamilton.
I too always find myself installing a Debian Guest into VMware, in my case it’s usually VMware Fusion. Although the VMware Tools package between all products is the same anyways. Of course each time I install a new Guest I always forget the packages I need to installed to make VMware Tools work without a hitch.
Eventually I wrote it down. Process below is what I typically use on my Debian Linux Guests.
Determine the linux kernel version, using uname -a. Make note of the release.
Then install the following packages; (assuming the kernel version from the uname -a is 2.6.18-4-686)
apt-get install linux-headers-2.6.18-4-686 linux-source-2.6.18 gcc make psmisc
Once installed you need to uncompress the kernel source in /usr/src and then symlink a directory /usr/src/linux to kernel source directory, which you uncompressed into /usr/src after the apt-get install above.
Now grab the VMware Tools tar.gz package, uncompress it and then run the install script. It should detect the kernel headers/kernel source and build everything without error.