Convert a Physical Machine to a Virtual Machine

VMware has a free tool called VMware vCenter Converter. It allows you to convert a physical machine into a virtual machine; for instance you could virtualize a bunch of desktop computers or some servers and it can be as easy as just a few mouse clicks.

One of the ways to convert your computer to a virtual machine is by installing and running the vCenter Converter on the physical machine that you want to convert. When you run the Converter, choose “Convert machine”. This will bring you to a 4-step conversion wizard.

1) Select “This local machine” on the Source System screen.

2) On the Destination System screen, you have to choose in which VMware environment your new VM will run. An example would be VMware Player. You also need to select a location where the VM will be saved. It is best to choose a location somewhere on the network, or if possible, a location directly on your VMware server.

3) On the Options screen you can change the hardware characteristics of the new VM. You can leave these values as they are and change them later on your VMware server. Keep in mind that if you’re converting a Windows machine and you change the hardware on which it is installed significantly, you may need to activate it again.

4) The Summary screen gives you one more chance to review and change your options. Once you click the Finish button, the conversion process will begin.

If you are saving the new VM over the network, make sure you have enough bandwidth available. For instance a 100GB system could take over 16 hours on a bad wireless connection, but via a wired connection it may be completed in about an hour or less.

Also if you have exported a system that runs Windows, you will need to activate your Windows again once you start the new VM, that is because Windows is now running in an environment with different physical characteristics. You also need to check your Windows license to make sure you are allowed to run more than one copy of your Windows with the same product key, or you need to discontinue using Windows on the physical machine that you converted. If you need to change the product key for your Windows on the VM, you can do so during the activation process.

The conversion process will create a vmdk file, which is the VMware image taken from your physical machine, and a vmx file, which contains the settings and characteristics of your new VM.

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