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I created an image of a Windows Server 2008 system using the free VMware Player and set the maximum hard drive size to 100GB. I then gave those image files - 30GB at the time - to a server hosting company. A few weeks later I asked them for a copy of them back; the image should not have changed much in size, but the files I got back were the full 100GB size.

I am not a VMware expert at all, so I have two questions:

  1. How/why did they expand the whole dynamic disk?
  2. Is there any way I can somehow shrink this image down to the size that actually contains data?

I tried the VMware converter, and it can't seem to read my image (vmdk) file; it just outputs a generic error.

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2 Answers

I don't know about VMWare Player, but VMWare Workstation ships with vmware-vdiskmanager.exe command line utility. Find it C:\Program Files\VMware\VMware Workstation folder.

Here are the command line options:

    VMware Virtual Disk Manager - build 385536.
    Usage: vmware-vdiskmanager.exe OPTIONS <disk-name> | <mount-point>
    Offline disk manipulation utility
      Operations, only one may be specified at a time:
         -c                   : create disk.  Additional creation options must
                                be specified.  Only local virtual disks can be
                                created.
         -d                   : defragment the specified virtual disk. Only
                                local virtual disks may be defragmented.
         -k                   : shrink the specified virtual disk. Only local
                                virtual disks may be shrunk.
         -n <source-disk>     : rename the specified virtual disk; need to
                                specify destination disk-name. Only local virtual
                                disks may be renamed.
         -p                   : prepare the mounted virtual disk specified by
                                the mount point for shrinking.
         -r <source-disk>     : convert the specified disk; need to specify
                                destination disk-type.  For local destination disks
                                the disk type must be specified.
         -x <new-capacity>    : expand the disk to the specified capacity. Only
                                local virtual disks may be expanded.
         -R                   : check a sparse virtual disk for consistency and attempt
                                to repair any errors.
         -D                   : make disk deletable.  This should only be used on disks
                                that have been copied from another product.

      Other Options:
         -q                   : do not log messages

      Additional options for create and convert:
         -a <adapter>         : (for use with -c only) adapter type
                                (ide, buslogic, lsilogic). Pass lsilogic for other adapter types.
         -s <size>            : capacity of the virtual disk
         -t <disk-type>       : disk type id

      Options for remote disks:
         -h <hostname>        : hostname of remote server
         -u <username>        : username for remote server
         -f <filename>        : file containing password
         -P <port>            : optional TCP port number (default: 902)
         -S                   : specifies that the source disk is remote, by default
                                the remote options are assumed to refer to the
                                destination.
      Disk types:
          0                   : single growable virtual disk
          1                   : growable virtual disk split in 2GB files
          2                   : preallocated virtual disk
          3                   : preallocated virtual disk split in 2GB files
          4                   : preallocated ESX-type virtual disk
          5                   : compressed disk optimized for streaming
          6                   : thin provisioned virtual disk - ESX 3.x and above

         The capacity can be specified in sectors, KB, MB or GB.
         The acceptable ranges:
                               ide adapter : [1MB, 2040.0GB]
                               scsi adapter: [1MB, 2040.0GB]
            ex 1: vmware-vdiskmanager.exe -c -s 850MB -a ide -t 0 myIdeDisk.vmdk
            ex 2: vmware-vdiskmanager.exe -d myDisk.vmdk
            ex 3: vmware-vdiskmanager.exe -r sourceDisk.vmdk -t 0 destinationDisk.vmdk
            ex 4: vmware-vdiskmanager.exe -x 36GB myDisk.vmdk
            ex 5: vmware-vdiskmanager.exe -n sourceName.vmdk destinationName.vmdk
            ex 6: vmware-vdiskmanager.exe -r sourceDisk.vmdk -t 4 -h esx-name.mycompany.com \
                  -u username -f passwordfile "[storage1]/path/to/targetDisk.vmdk"
            ex 7: vmware-vdiskmanager.exe -k myDisk.vmdk
            ex 8: vmware-vdiskmanager.exe -p <mount-point>
                  (A virtual disk first needs to be mounted at <mount-point>)

You can get a free VMWare Workstation trial.

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My speculation is that when they created the VM from your image they pre-allocated the full size of the images (this can have better performance). When they exported them you got the full image.

I doubt you can shrink the images with VMware player. VMware Workstation comes with vmware-vdiskmanager that can apparently convert from a fixed size disk to a growable disk reducing the size of the image. I have never tried this so I cannot say how well it works.

The manual is here: http://www.vmware.com/support/developer/vddk/vddk12_diskmanager.pdf

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I think you can do the same type of conversion with VirtualBox command line tools. –  Joe Internet Aug 16 '11 at 7:02
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