VMware Converter

I start with a neat piece of software from EMC called VMware Converter.

http://www.vmware.com/products/converter/

The basic problem this solved for me is the age old "hardware creep" problem. You know, those older computers that you’ve build but now use infrequently, or at all. Sure, I can backup these machines to tape, compressed files, MOZY, or even use Microsoft’s Home Server as a restore sources and backup mechanisms. However, these options require that I have the original hardware — which is the essential problem. 

In the end having access to those older files and working applications feels better and keeps everything within context.

VMware Converter simply takes a snapshot of your machine and virtualizes it. I have two older computers that I can now sanitize and toss out because I’ve captured the “soul” of those machines into working VM images. Sure, it’s not the same thing as a compressed backup but I don’t care so much about drive space these days (well, maybe a little).

The steps are straight forward. To capture VM images of my machines I proceeded as follows

1)      Attach an external drive to the existing machine. 

2)      Installed VMware Converter on the existing machine.

3)      Run the converter wizard and note the progress.

4)      After a couple of hours it’s soup.

Of course this utility is not just for capturing older machines. It’s a great way to consolidate hardware in general. A note of caution, be aware this works best with machines installed by you (having licensed copies of the install disks). It will likely fail for machines purchased “off the shelf” because of restrictions by manufacturers. Both legal and technical. 

I happen to have a TechNet license and build lab machines all the time so this solution serves me very well and its FREE. 

Now, I did observe a few very minor issues.

  • If you capture an image from a 2 processor machine and you attempt to run it on a single processor machine then set the target VM instance to 1 proc. This is an obvious situation with a known solution but easy to miss.
  • In an earlier version, I noted that shutdown can be slow, or maybe it was that the VM had a problem powering off. Maybe related to power management features of the captured machine?? I’m not sure.
  • In an earlier version, I also noted that the VM would hang at the sign-on screen. The problem was resolved by restarting the VM.

This simplifies my physical space and helps me stay organized – not just for the IT Shop!.

Here is the link to VMware Converter http://www.vmware.com/products/converter/

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