Is is possible to convert a .vdi file into a .iso that can be burned to a cd or dvd and make it like an installer. Or Is it possible to convert virtual machines to physical environments?

  • 3
    This answer on AskUbuntu.com probably applies to a lot of environments running on Linux host machines: askubuntu.com/a/32506/31592
    – blong
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 2:42

9 Answers 9


Yes, and no.

You can convert a VDI into a disk image with the VBoxManage tool. This command clones a registered virtual disk image to another image file. If you want to convert your virtual disk to another format, this is the official VirtualBox tool to use[*].

VBoxManage clonehd file.vdi output.img --format RAW
  • If you're using a dynamic VDI, and you have an older version of VirtualBox, clonehd may not operate properly. VBoxManage's internalcommands tool includes converttoraw, which can convert a dynamic VDI into a raw disk image (source)[+].

VBoxManage internalcommands converttoraw file.vdi output.img

But... that output IMG file isn't an ISO image, and the OS that's installed will not be configured to run from a bootable CD/DVD. You can "burn" (write) the IMG onto a hard drive, and it might boot on bare hardware (eg not in a virtual machine). But it might not, because the OS installed on that IMG is expecting to see the virtual hardware that VirtualBox provides, and you're booting it on real hardware that it isn't expecting.

Some versions of Windows do not handle this situation well; some Linux distributions do. It is sometimes possible to configure an OS (beforehand or afterwards) to migrate it from one environment to the other like this, but specific steps depend completely on the OS being migrated.

On Windows, you may need to specify the full path to the program:

"C:\Program Files\Sun\VirtualBox\VBoxManage.exe" [...]

Add C:\Program Files\Sun\VirtualBox to your PATH to use the short version.

[*] I'm assuming the "--format RAW" option will convert to a standard disk image, as if you'd used the dd command on a physical harddrive. But frankly, I haven't found any documentation that backs this up, so be aware this may not be correct.

[+] I've just tested both commands under VirtualBox 3.1.2. Both output files are identical according to md5sum, but I haven't fully tested the output files.

See also the "All about VDIs" tutorial at the VirtualBox forums.

  • 4
    What about the size of the VDI? Does that matter? Let's say the VDI size is 20GB and the actually HDD size is 200GB... What would happen?
    – Pwnna
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 17:49
  • That first method "clonehd" seems awefully slow. But the second worked a treat.
    – hookenz
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 23:16
  • 1
    Also note that if you manage to get a windows os to booting you will have to reactivate it in most cases.
    – Kimmax
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 8:55
  • What if you were to sysprep /generalize the virtual install first? This would surely prepare the install to be installed on new hardware (or physical hardware in this case)
    – Robula
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 9:13
  • 1
    @Pwnna You're copying an img of a hard disk (not just a partition but an entire partition map with partitions). I've done this in the past and remember seeing what this answer describes, unused/unpartitioned space at the end: serverfault.com/questions/268889/…
    – sudo
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 7:34

If your vdi file contains partitions and you want to extract only one of them use the following:

First, as quack quixote said before, convert the vdi file to a raw image file:

# VBoxManage clonehd file.vdi file.raw --format RAW

Then set up a loop device for the image:

# loopdev=$(losetup --show -r -f file.raw)

Use kpartx to create devices for each partition in the raw file:

# apt-get install kpartx
# kpartx -a $loopdev

See which devices we have now. In this example, there's only one device as there's only one partition in the raw image:

# ls /dev/mapper/loop*

Now mount it to verify that all works properly:

# mkdir /mnt/part1
# mount /dev/mapper/loop0p1 /mnt/part1
# ls /mnt/part1
# umount /mnt/part1

Use dd to copy the partition contents to a another target partition:

# dd if=/dev/mapper/loop0p1 of=/dev/sda2 bs=1M

After you're done remove the device mappings again:

# kpartx -d file.raw
  • Is that possible with Windows?
    – Ehsan
    Commented Jul 24, 2016 at 14:46

The answer is a definite yes, in case your host and guest system is Linux. It's done with the packages qemu and TKLPatch. You can use both VDI or VMDK files.

Read more:

  • 3
    +1 "definite" with the caveat "..as long as your guest is linux". and their (your?) solution relies on some TurnKey Linux tools. but the procedure looks sound. (welcome to Super User!) Commented Feb 28, 2010 at 10:54

I tried the VBoxManage clonehd file.vdi output.img --format RAW from the accepted answer but without much success.

What worked for me with a Windows 8.1 virtual machine on a Windows 7 host is this:

  1. Make a Windows 8.1 machine in VirtualBox, install and use is as you would normally do with a VM.
  2. Convert the Virtual Box .vdi hard disk to Windows VHD with VBoxManage clonehd source.vdi target.vhd --format vhd
  3. Mount the VHD in the host Windows machine as a drive (you can mount a VHD in the disk manager in Computer Management.
  4. Clone the VHD (mounted as a drive) to a another new hard disk (a USB attached laptop HD in my case) DriveImage XML or a similar disk cloning tool. You now basically have cloned the virtual hard disk .vdi to bare metal.
  5. Install the new hard disk in a machine. (in my case swap the laptop HDD)
  6. Insert a Windows 8.1 install USB/CD, boot from it, choose Advanced Options and Automatic Repair. The automatic repair will make the new hard disk bootable.
  7. Boot from the new hard disk with the cloned Windows 8.1 and run Windows Update. This will download drivers for your computer's hardware which were not know when you ran Windows in VirtualBox. You will have to install missing drivers manually if any.
  8. Uninstall VirtualBox Guest Additions. Optionally install VirtualBox so that your bare metal Windows 8.1 can be a VirtualBox host.
  • 1
    From @sum: You can try BootICE to replace the 6th step and be sure to install the correct MBR.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 17:24
  • Thanks. Is BootICE more reliable in some wat than the Windows 8.1 install? Will step 6 I described possibly mess up the MBR?
    – Jan H
    Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 12:26
  • 1
    This was posted as an answer by a new user (I believe superuser.com/users/523958/sum). It was going to be deleted because it didn't qualify as an answer, so I copied the post and saved it as a comment so it wouldn't be lost. I'm not personally familiar with it.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 16:49

I do this process in a very fast, with just two lines of command in Linux:

#VBoxManage internalcommands converttoraw your_disk_virtual.vmdk your_disk_virtual.img


#VBoxManage internalcommands converttoraw your_disk_virtual.vdi your_disk_virtual.img

# mv your_disk_virtual.img your_disk_virtual.iso

My full article: http://www.previsioni.com.br/jailsonjan/?p=389

  • Would the .img in this case be bootable?
    – Pumphouse
    Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 2:53
  • I think no. I've seen similar answer from 0-rep user, that seemed easy way, however, turned out useless.
    – T.Todua
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 22:45

For newer Virtualboxes the VBoxManage command changed a litte.

Now the correct syntax for cloning a vdi file to raw is

VBoxManage clonemedium inputfile.vdi outputfile.img --RAW

Be patient during the conversion!

Note: For compatibility with earlier versions of Oracle VM VirtualBox, the clonevdi and clonehd commands are still supported and mapped internally to the clonemedium command.


The titular question is whether it is possible to convert a VM to a physical drive (V2P). The answer is yes.

Several answers to this question take an external approach. That is, treat the VM like a single file (i.e., a VDI), and convert it as such. External approaches seem to have been less successful overall. They certainly were for me.

Most V2P efforts use internal approaches. These involve running software or a command inside the VM. Relevant software may be installed in the VM (e.g., Systemback), or it may pre-empt the installed system at boot time. For example, the user may attach a Clonezilla ISO to the VM, interrupt bootup to prioritize the Clonezilla ISO, and use that to image the installed system. As a different example, I have had good results using a Lubuntu ISO inside an Ubuntu VM -- again, preempting the bootup of the Ubuntu system -- to run dd commands to convert that Ubuntu VM to a physical environment, either through direct cloning or through creating an image file.

If you can run the VDI as a VM, I think you will find better results from an internal solution than from an external conversion effort.


On Ray Woodcock's edit over abu_bua's message (erroneous for me in 2023 on VirtualBox 6.1), VBoxManage clonemedium inputfile.vdi outputfile.img --RAW

should read --format=RAW (both "format" and "=" required)

VBoxManage clonemedium vdisk.vdi disk.img --format=RAW

optionally identical output (checked with diff) with (from Basj superuser.com/questions/1721151/from-virtualbox-vm-vdi-file-to-a-usb-bootable-iso-image)

VBoxManage internalcommands converttoraw file.vdi output.img

skipping the deprecated version become alias (no "=" before RAW)

VBoxManage clonehd file.vdi file.raw --format RAW

Sidenote: Debian11 Etecher-generated usb-key with Monterey12.6.4/MacbookPro2015 failed MackbookAir2014 boot after above instructions.

(insufficient reps to comment, ignorant about platform-PM Woodcock)

  • 1
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    – Community Bot
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 10:21

Use the following command to convert:

VBoxManage clonehd CactiEZ-disk1.vmdk output.iso --format VMDK

Here is the output:

Clone hard disk created in format 'VMDK'. UUID: 7f297ac6-95eb-4814-9237-1acfd6be976c
  • This command did produce an ISO, but multiple tools (i.e., Rufus in Windows, Etcher in Ubuntu) indicated that it was not bootable. Etcher elaborated: "The image does not appear to contain a partition table." Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 2:26
  • 1
    it's not an iso. file file.iso gives file.iso: VMware4 disk image
    – srghma
    Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 16:03

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