Converting a physical machine to a virtual machine in VMware

I needed to take a laptop and create a VMware image of it. The laptop had roughly 7.5 gigs worth of data on it and a 40 gig total drive. The difficulty was generating an image of just the data and not the entire drive that could then be loaded onto a virtual machine. All of which needed to be done within the limited confines of the laptop. I found solutions suggesting dd and netcat and finally one that worked involving a tool from VMware.

I knew the first thing that I needed to do was to isolate the data and create a new partition with the extra free space to store any images that I created. I used ntfsresize to resize my 40gig ntfs partition into a 9gig and 31gig partition. I booted the laptop off of a Knoppix Live CD to get access to ntfsresize. (Quick Tip: If you are comfortable with just the Linux command line, enter “knoppix 2” at the “BOOT:” prompt to enter knoppix in init level 2).

Worth mentioning about ntfsresize, your ntfs journal has to be pristine for the tool to work. That means, run a chkdsk on the C: drive (which requires a reboot), and then cold boot into knoppix: shut windows down (do not restart) and then power the computer on to get into knoppix.

I found a few articles on TechRepublic suggesting the use of dd and Linux which sounded like a great solution. The first article suggested using netcat and dd to create an image file and the second article showed how to use dd images with VMware. Unfortunately, these did not work for me. I THINK it was because they wanted images of the entire drive, not just a partition and in my scenario, I only wanted the first 9 gig drive. Whenever I tried to start up the virtual machine with my image file, it would get past the bios screen and then just hang on a black screen. I tried several variations with no luck.

After some Google searching, I found that VMware was working on a product to suit my needs. The beta of VMware Converter allows you to take a snapshot of a physical machine (even the one you are running the tool on) and convert it to a Virtual Machine in VMware. This product is critical to organizations that are looking to take their physical machines and convert them to virtual machines.

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