Converting a physical machine to a VMware Workstation VM

A week or so ago I ordered a new light fast notebook for my wife to replace her aging Dell XPS M1330. Aging as in 2 years old, but showing its age nevertheless. It came on Friday, and by Sunday I'd installed Microsoft Office on it and run the Easy Transfer app to copy over her documents and settings.

(Aside: Windows Easy Transfer (WET) is da bomb. Why, oh why, it took Microsoft until Windows 7 to create such a program I have no idea, suffice it to say it was a piece of cake to use and did the right job first time. It even produced a report showing the apps I had yet to install — yes, I'd forgotten a couple — to make the new machine (a Dell Studio XPS 13) as capable as the old.)

Hand with wrenchShe's happy with the new one, as well she should: it scores higher than my Dell XPS 1530 on the WIndows Experience rating, and is definitely faster than her old one. Of course, that leaves me with the M1330. I took a look on eBay: they seem to go for about $500 for the specs I have. But, of course, I first need to wipe the machine and reinstall Windows Vista, the OS it was shipped with in the first place. And, furthermore, just in case, I need to make a snapshot of the machine before I do so. Just in case. You know, for the highly improbable eventuality that some document was stored somewhere that WET didn't find. My butt has been chewed way too often, ta very much. So, just in case.

In the past I took a backup with Acronis TrueImage, but I haven't been using it for 6 months or so, ever since I bought a Windows Home Server (another "da bomb" product from Microsoft). This time around, I decided to convert the machine image to a VMware Virtual Machine. I'm really into VMs at the moment and the thought of being able to boot up my wife's old PC when she asked for something that hadn't been copied is just too much to miss.

For the Virtual PC users among you, there's Disk2VHD, a utility from the SysInternals guys. For VMware fans there's a similar free utility called the VMware vCenter Converter. Yes, I know, don't worry about the name, it works just fine with VMware Workstation 7. Although it's free, you still have to register it with VMware before they let you download it (geez, come on guys).

Install it in standalone mode and there are two options of import: Convert Machine and Configure Machine. Convert Machine is supposed to log into a remote machine that's running and perform the conversion, but no matter what I did it wouldn't connect to my M1330 from my desktop. Oh well, you can also install the converter program onto the machine you want to convert and it'll work just as well from there. A couple of hours later, it had finished and I had a new VM on the notebook's drive that I could then copy to my desktop.

And there the problems started. Ach. I ran the Configure Machine option, it seemed to do something, but when I booted the VM all kinds of issues occurred. First of all, I couldn't install the VMware tools (essential for the proper running of the VM). It seemed to be that the VM configuration had the OS description of "Other" rather than "Windows 7". I opened up the VMX file and fixed it and rebooted the VM again. The network adapters (of which there were three for some reason — the notebook had two, the wireless and the wired) didn't work. Opening up Device Manager showed that there were three "Ethernet Controller" drivers that had warnings. Removing the drivers and getting Windows to re-discover the hardware didn't produce anything better: the same old faulty driver warnings. The audio driver didn't work either. The fingerprint reader would pop up an error dialog saying the hardware couldn't be found (Duh). And then the VM suddenly got very slow.

I abandoned that VM and deleted it. I copied over the VM from the notebook again. This time around, immediately on booting it, I went into Programs and Features and uninstalled all the hardware drivers and programs that didn't make sense any more: the fingerprint reader, the web cam, the bluetooth, the ethernet adapters, and so on. I rebooted the VM. Still I had the problem of the three non-functioning network adapters, but at least the audio had started working. I tried the old trick of uninstalling the ethernet adapters from Device Manager and auto-discovering the new hardware, but the same non-functioning driver problem occurred again.

Bah. This time I tried the nuclear option. I shut down the VM, removed all virtual network adapters from the VM's configuration, and then rebooted the VM. Device Manager looked good this time, no faulty ethernet controller drivers (well, there wasn't any virtual hardware for networking). I shut down the VM, added back a single virtual network adapter set to NAT, and rebooted the VM. This time, the OS recognized the new (virtual) hardware, and installed the correct driver, and I had a fully functioning VM.


Now to repave the M1330's hard drive. I've still to decide whether selling it is worth it or not: it's a cute little machine.

Now playing:
Nelson, Willie - Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain
(from Artist's Choice: Sheryl Crow)

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1 Response

#1 Dew Drop – February 9, 2010 | Alvin Ashcraft's Morning Dew said...
09-Feb-10 6:17 AM

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