How to Convert Physical Machines to Virtual Machines with VMware Converter: Part 2

by David Davis - January 8, 2009

In the part one of this two part series, we learned what VMware Converter can do for us, how to download it, and how to install it. In this article, we will demonstrate how VMware converter can assist you in migrating a physical machine to a virtual machine.

Using VMware Converter

When VMware Converter starts, you will be asked if you want to enter a license (to use the Enterprise version) or move into Starter mode. To go into Starter mode, click Continue in Starter Mode.

There are two purposes for VMware Converter:

1) Import a Virtual Machine from a physical machine or other type of virtual machine

2) Configure Virtual Machine to make an existing image bootable

In our case, we are going to demonstrate how you can import a hard drive from a physical machine (while that machine is running), change the drivers on it to be VMware drivers, and boot it in VMware. The first step of this is importing the virtual machine.

Importing Virtual Machines

To Import a virtual machine, just click on the Import Machine button the top left side of the interface. Next, you'll see the Import dialog box come up. Click Next twice. Select the type of source to import from: In our case, we selected physical computer but notice all the different sources you can import virtual machines from. You could import an existing virtual machine, a physical machine that this program is running on, or a remote machine over the network. We filled out the remote IP address and administrator username/password, then clicked Next. The VM Converter will connect to the remote machine over the network at this time. You will get the message that the VM Converter agent needs to be installed on the remote machine. Click Yes After the agent install is done, you will see a window that looks like this: Here you need to select the volumes you want to convert and if you want them to be resized. I chose to only convert the C drive and to reduce the size to the smallest size possible. After doing that, click Next.

Next you will need to choose a destination, click Next.

We will choose to put this physical machine on our standalone VMware Server (as that is all we have installed).

Click Next.

Now you will need to specify a name for this virtual server and a shared folder that is accessible to both virtual machines. To do this, I created a folder called C:\SharedVM and opened it up to full control for everyone (see below).

After you fill out the new name and the share, click Next.

Now, take the default to allow the disk space to grow (that is really up to you).

Click Next.

Take the default network options and click Next. Take the default on customizations and click Next.

You are now ready to import the virtual machine!

Click Next


Monitoring & Verifying the Import

The import will now begin. Here is what it looks like:

In my case, because I chose to transfer a physical machine over the LAN (with one device using wireless), it took me 2 hours and 6 minute to transfer the complete 8GB image. When it was done, here were the results:

There was also the Task Progress Tab on the bottom. Here is what it told me:

Also, if you go and look at the C:\SharedVM folder, you will see that there is indeed a folder there with the name "Converted Win2003 Server". Inside that folder, is your VMware VMDK virtual disk and a basic VMware VMX configuration file.

Configuring the Machine

The next step it to make this image you have created a bootable image. This involves installing drivers in that cloned OS to make the virtual disk, network, and CPU all VMware devices. To do this, click on the Configure Machine.

Click Next, then select that you want to use this on VMware Server.

Click Next

Browse to the path of the new VMX file and click Next.

On the next screen, if you click the Customize checkbox, you will be given the option to change a long list of computer settings. For example, the Windows license, time zone, network settings, or workgroup & domain info.

If you choose to customize a virtual machine in this way, you will need to have sysprep files. You may want to change the IP address of this new server before bringing it up on the network. You want to make sure that you don't have an IP address conflict if the cloned machine had a static IP address. As an alternative to this, I could put this machine on a VMware private network and just bring it up with the old IP address or shutdown the old machine before you bring up the new machine.

In our case, we will choose NOT to customize and click Next.

On the Converter console, you should now see this:

Booting the new Virtual Machine

At this point, you can boot the new virtual machine with VMware. Go to your VMware Server console. Click on File, Open, Browse, and browse to the VMX file for the new virtual machine (you may want to move the VM from the SharedVM folder to your default VMware folder).

You should now see that it is a virtual machine inside VMware Server, like this:

Press the Start button to boot the new VM.

You may get this message.

If so, just click Create and Ok.

Here is what our new server looks like when booted.

After logging in, I can tell that our custom applications and server changes are still here!

Summary

VMware Converter is an amazing product. To be able to quickly, with a few points and clicks, bring a physical server (or other imaged server) into VMware and boot them is really fantastic! The best thing about this conversion was that the physical source computer never had to be brought down to make this virtual image. Also, you never had to login to that physical computer or boot it to a CD for cloning purposes. I believe that VMware Converter has a strong future, helping us all convert to a more virtualized data center.

To learn how to download and install VMware Server, see our article on How to Install VMware.

Do you have questions or comments about VMware scripting? Checkout our VMware Discussion Forum!

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