Update: Please read this review about VMware's free P2V solution, VMware Converter 3.0 and check out my first impressions about VMware Converter 3.0 final.
We are currently setting up a new VMware server and want to migrate several physical Windows servers to virtual machines. So far, I know six different ways doing this.

1. VMware P2V Assistant
VMware offers a tool for this purpose. The only problem with this option is that the VMware P2V Assistant is quite expensive. Prices start at about $2,500 for the VMware P2V Assistant Starter Edition which allows 25 migrations. The VMware P2V Assistant Enterprise Edition costs more than $6,100.

2. PlateSpin PowerConvert
Platespin PowerConvert seems to be a more sophisticated tool since it allows any kind of conversion. It not only supports VMware but also Microsoft's format. Prices start at 2,619 Euro.

3. Ultimate-P2V plug-in for BartPE
BartPE helps you to boot Windows XP/2003 from CD-ROM. It is similar to Microsoft's Windows Preinstallation Environment. Ultimate-P2V, a plug-in for BartPE, allows you to clone a physical machine to a virtual machine. BartPE and Ultimate-P2V are free, but you need a cloning tool like Symantec's Ghost which is not free. Compared to solution 1 and 2, it is much cheaper though. I didn't try Ultimate-P2V. At first glance, this option seems to be only for advanced system administrators.

4. Use a cloning tool with boot CD
This option is quite similar to 3, however, you need a cloning tool that supports creating boot CDs, where you can store the image. Using an imaging solution means that you have to exchange the HAL with one that suits the new "hardware" environment. This site has a detailed description.

5. Microsoft's Virtual Server 2005 Migration Toolkit

The Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 Migration Toolkit is free, but it only helps you to convert physical machines to Microsoft's virtual machine format. However, you can import this format in VMware Server or VMware Workstation. The problem with this solution is that the Migration toolkit requires Windows Server 2003 Automated Deployment Services (ADS), although for free, only runs on Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition. The whole procedure to migrate a physical server to a virtual machine is quite complicated. Check out this white paper to learn how it works.

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6. Install a new virtual server and restore a backup
If you only have a few physical servers that you want to convert to virtual machines then this might be the fastest way. Of course, you don't have to install Windows for every new virtual machine. If you have VMware Workstation you can clone them and if you only have VMware Server you can just copy the folder containing the virtual machine of your master server. Don't forget to run sysprep afterwards to get a unique Windows Server, then restore a backup of the physical server to the new virtual machine. Don't restore the hardware specific settings of your physical server.

  1. Frank Rundatz 16 years ago

    You might want to take a look at Leostream’s offering. They have a robust P2V application that works with both VMWare’s suite of applications as well as Microsoft’s Virtual Server. It’s very easy to use and doesn’t require even rebooting the source physical server.

    I’ve used it with great success on a number of P2V conversions. Another great feature is the ability to automatically and easily resize the partitions.

  2. Michael Pietroforte 16 years ago

    Yes, you are right. I missed Leostream in this article. Check out this post for more P2V tools.

  3. mr.rosh 15 years ago

    In part 6, there’s an alternative to running the sysprep. You can use NewSid from http://www.sysinternals.com or alternativly from microsoft’s site. NewSid creates a new SID for your pc, ser ver or on any vm, and also allows you to rename your pc,server or vm. This is far better than sysprep, where you have to start over by entering all the details from username, to license keys to what not.


  4. Chrissy 15 years ago

    Dang, your blog is endlessly useful. Thank you!

  5. TxWx 15 years ago

    Converter 3.0 works wonderfully. I’ve been able to convert 2000 Server and Workstation, 2003 Server, XP, all with no problem. One of the keys to success is getting sysprep properly set up.

  6. izzy 13 years ago

    What about Virtual to Physical???
    I have tried and had some success. Does anyone have an true and tried method?

  7. Jake 11 years ago

    There is a easy and free way to do this. This forensic tutorial goes through it, step by step:

    First you image with DD, then use Live View to create a VMWare Virtual Machine. It was much easier than I thought.

  8. me 11 years ago

    p2v from vmware is FREE

  9. raju 11 years ago

    it is very useful blogspot for us

  10. doug crana 6 years ago

    once you have successfully converted from physical to virtual, can you restore your data from a backup?

  11. Author
    Michael Pietroforte 6 years ago

    You can restore data, but I would be careful with restoring system backups.

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