Using VMware Converter

So, you’re running VMware Server, and have made a few machines.  It runs great.  But you’ve got this old machine running an ancient OS or application, and you don’t have the install media anymore.  Or perhaps your software maintenance expired, and you can’t get the tech support you need to deactivate the license on one machine and move it to another.  That’s where VMware Converter comes in.  VMware Converter takes care of transitioning your physical machines to VM images, and updates the drivers on the system to use the virtual hardware (network, video, SCSI, etc).

To get started with the conversion, click on Convert Machine on the toolbar.  Most of the options are self-explanitory.  Since you are converting the local machine, you will need local admin rights.  You’ll notice that by default, the swap and hibernation files are ignored.  These will be recreated by Windows the first time you boot the VM, and would just make the conversion take longer.

Since we’re using VMware Server, and not ESX, the Destination Type needs to be set to Other Virtual Machine. Enter a name for the VM and choose where to save it.  Set the Type to VMware Server 1.x.  When asked about Disk Allocation, I set it to Expand.  I’ve run into issues when Allocate All Space is selected, that brings disk IO for other VMs to a screeching halt.

For most people, 1 network card in bridged mode will be all you need.  This will cause the VM to act like a machine plugged into one of your switches. If you are converting several machines for testing (such as an ActiveDirectory controller and Exchange box) you might find the Host-Only option useful instead.

Once the conversion has finished (it’ll take a while depending on the size of the disk), open up VMware Console.  Go to File – Open, and find the .vmx file that was created by the converter. You may want to review the settings for the VM before you start it (in my case, I dropped the RAM from 2GB to 512MB, and the number of CPUs to 1).

The first time you boot the VM, it will install all the necessary VM drivers. Reboot after it installs everything, and you should now have a VM of the original machine.  You may still need to install VMware Tools to get mouse integration working properly.