Turn Your Old Mission-Critical PC Into A VM Before It Dies

Chris Hoffman 20-07-2012

virtual machines in cloudIf you’ve got an older PC What to Do With Old Computers: 10 Cool Uses for Used PCs and Laptops Read More running important software, one of the best ways to give that software a new lease of life is by ditching the hardware entirely – you can convert your existing system to a virtual machine and run it on another computer. The process is fast, and at the end you’ll have an image you can use in VMware or any virtual machine program that can import VMware disk images. This can be useful even if you’re a home user upgrading to a new computer 4 Things You Absolutely Must Check Before Upgrading Your Desktop PC Upgrading your desktop computer is an excellent idea. You can extend the lifespan of a PC indefinitely by changing out components over time. Absolutely everything can be replaced. Computers are complex, however, and this can... Read More – you can take your old computer, its programs, and its files with you on a virtual machine.


We’ll be using VMware vCenter Converter, an “enterprise How Enterprise Internet Connections Work Chances are good that if you’re at this site, reading this post, you already consume more data than the average 0.5 GB. But that’s nothing compared to what a corporation goes through. You may have... Read More -class” application that VMware offers free to everyone. VMware vCenter Converter can convert both Windows The Best PC Software for Your Windows Computer Want the best PC software for your Windows computer? Our massive list collects the best and safest programs for all needs. Read More and Linux The Best Linux Operating Distros The best Linux distros are hard to find. Unless you read our list of the best Linux operating systems for gaming, Raspberry Pi, and more. Read More systems to virtual machines How To Use VirtualBoxes Free Images To Test & Run Open Source Operating Systems [Linux] Quickly try out a wide variety of open source operating systems, some you're familiar with and some you aren't. You can start browsing now at Virtualboxes, a website that takes almost all the work out... Read More .

Converting a Physical Machine

First you’ll need to download and install VMware vCenter Converter on the machine you want to convert. While you can do a remote conversion with this tool, the easiest way to convert a machine is to do a local conversion. While it is free, you will have to create a free VMware account to download it.

After installing VMware vCenter Converter, click the Convert machine button on its toolbar to get started.


Select Powered-on machine as the source and This local machine as the machine to convert.



Assuming you’re using a consumer virtual machine program like VMware Workstation, VMware Player, or VMware Fusion – as opposed to a VMware server product – you’ll want to set VMware workstation or other VMware virtual machine as the destination type and specify your VMware product. After you do, you can name your virtual machine and specify a location for it.


You’ll find a lot of options you can customize in the Options section. For example, you can specify the partitions you want to copy if your system contains multiple partitions – you may only need to copy the C: partition. You can also adjust other options, such as the virtual machine’s virtual hardware or automatically perform actions like installing VMware Tools in the resulting virtual machine. After you’re done configuring your new virtual machine, click the Next button to continue.



You’ll see a summary of the actions that VMware vCenter Converter will perform. Review the actions and click Finish to continue with them.


You’ll see the progress and the estimated time remaining for the operation in the VMware vCenter Converter window.



Using Your New Virtual Machine

Once VMware vCenter Converter has finished converting your existing PC to a virtual machine, you can move the virtual machine’s files between computers using an external hard drive or over the network 5 Ways to Transfer Files From One Computer to Another Need to transfer files from one PC to another? Here's how to do that quickly and easily, using both hardware and software. Read More . Once you have, you can use the Open a Virtual Machine option in the free VMware Player, commercial VMware Workstation, or a VMware server product to open the virtual machine and run it.


You can also open the converted virtual machine in other applications – for example, use the Virtual Disk Manager in VirtualBox to import the virtual machine’s VMDK file – this file represents the virtual machine’s disk image. Once you have, create a new virtual machine and use the imported VMDK file as the virtual machine’s disk. For more information about using VirtualBox, check out our free guide to VirtualBox How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide With VirtualBox you can easily install and test multiple operating systems. We'll show you how to set up Windows 10 and Ubuntu Linux as a virtual machine. Read More .


Have you ever converted a physical machine to a virtual machine? Leave a comment and share anything you learned through your experience!

Image Credit: Virtual Machines in Cloud via Shutterstock

Related topics: VirtualBox, Virtualization.

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  1. Raghav Gupta
    November 5, 2012 at 5:13 am

    Best article on Virtual Machine

  2. Jack
    November 4, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    What if my old physical machine with application that looks for a specific hardware - Radeon video capture card.
    Do you have any advice as to how I can export to a VM and make it work on different hardware?

    • Chris Hoffman
      November 7, 2012 at 5:44 pm

      Unless the VM has this virtual hardware, it won't work.

      If it's USB hardware, you can plug it into the new computer and make it available to the virtual machine -- but otherwise it won't work.

  3. Nemo
    October 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Not so useful if you have Ubuntu 10.04 LTS :(

    • Chris Hoffman
      October 20, 2012 at 8:43 pm

      Why's that?

  4. pope
    September 29, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    Please help
    I downloaded VMware vCenter Converter Standalone, but it doesn't install into my computer: when installation progress reaches the last step, it gives the following message:

    "Error 1920, service VMware vCenter Converter Standalone Server failed to start. Provide that you have sufficient privileges to start system services."

  5. Vampie C.
    September 10, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Great idea.

    Need to think about doing that :-)

  6. Jay
    July 23, 2012 at 12:04 am

    Great read, and looks like a great backup app. Is there also a program that does the reverse, i.e. converts a VM (or even an already-installed system) to a LiveCD/USB/ISO image?

    If I've already installed some version of Windows or Linux in a VM or even on my HD and configured it the way I want it, and now want to boot as a "live" system from USB or CD, how would I go about doing that?

    I looked at things like BartPE and various remastering tools for Linux, but they're not exactly what I'm looking for. I'm looking for something that you can boot a preexisting system from USB or disc. Thanks in advance :)

    • Chris Hoffman
      July 26, 2012 at 5:24 am

      Wow, that's a great question. It seems like this would be a lot harder. There are some solutions, but they seem designed for businesses -- for example, Acronis has a solution ( ) -- but it costs $1800 a license!

      Honestly, I can't find a user-friendly solution -- it would probably be easier and faster to reinstall from scratch, sadly.

  7. manap hassan
    July 22, 2012 at 2:52 am

    love the tips

  8. Roger
    July 22, 2012 at 1:02 am

    Also look into Super Duper if you own a Mac.
    One of the most useful tools I own as a System Admin in a mac environment.
    Fully bootable backups means exactly what it says. You clone your dying hard drive into another one, and it seamlessly just works. You boot it up and its like you never changed your hard drive.
    Another plus is that you're not stuck with purchasing a VMware license in order to to run your VM.

    • Chris Hoffman
      July 24, 2012 at 4:06 am

      Thanks for the Mac tip, Roger -- but you don't have to purchase a VMware license in order to use your VM. VMware Player is free, and it's my virtual machine program of choice.

  9. Steve Laurie
    July 22, 2012 at 12:57 am

    Going to be very useful when I upgrade later this year (well, hopefully this year!). Might have to dry-run this and test on my wife's computer.

  10. Âdil Farôôq
    July 21, 2012 at 5:48 am

    Looks great let me try it :)

  11. Terry
    July 21, 2012 at 3:39 am

    I have been using this technique for a few years now, works great. I highly recommend it, especially for system migration.

  12. MerVzter Balacuit
    July 21, 2012 at 2:17 am

    another good article for vmware program, thanks for this guide :)

  13. Hasitha Chaturanga
    July 21, 2012 at 1:36 am

    this is quite usefull