The question describes well what I need but here are some more details about the circumstances.

With Parallels Desktop 4 running under Linux, I have a number of Windows 7 Virtual Machines. Sadly, Parallels has not been upgraded for a while, so I am trying some other VMS and VirtualBox was highly recommended. Particularly, it is provided with the OpenSUSE Linux distribution. This will avoid the problem and allow me to keep up to date with the latest OpenSUSE.

So my question is, how can I convert a Parallels VM into a Virtual Box one?


4 Answers 4


VirtualBox can use Parallels (.hdd) disks in simple-format without conversion. If the disk does not use the simple format, it must be converted first using the Parallels Image Tool.

But I would uninstall Parallels Tools first (if you have it installed on the VM) and make a backup copy of the VM. Then create a new VirtualBox machine, matching the CPU and memory settings as closely as you can to the Parallels machine.

You may also refer to this article on migration, although it is a bit old and recommends using VMWare Converter, which I would avoid if you can.

  • It seems to be looking for .vhd, ,vdi or ,vmdk files... which my Parallels VM does not have. Do I need to rename something? I've got an empty .hdd file and .xml file in the directory of the VM.
    – Itai
    Aug 31, 2011 at 17:16
  • What version of VirtualBox are you using? And what version of OpenSUSE? It looks like Parallels disk support was added in 3.1.0.
    – seisyll
    Aug 31, 2011 at 17:22
  • VirtualBox is 3.0.6 and OpenSUSE is 11.2. I've been trapped at 11.2 because of Parallels.
    – Itai
    Aug 31, 2011 at 17:38
  • Getting closer, updated VirtualBox to which now sees the .hdd file but gives an error: NS_ERROR_FAILURE (0x80004005) - I tried with the VM not running and running, same error.
    – Itai
    Aug 31, 2011 at 17:56
  • I would guess that the disk is a newer Parallels disks (version 3 or 4). Try converting it down to version 2 disk and have another go. Sorry for the goose chase!
    – seisyll
    Aug 31, 2011 at 20:39

The procedure is like this: (Parallels Desktop 12)

1) Prepare the Parallels VM by removing the Parallels Tools and anything that is “special" (mounts, shared folders, etc)..

sudo /usr/lib/parallels-tools/install -r

2) Copy the HDD file from inside the PVM OS X package into the open file system (Finder, Right Click, Show Package Content). Generally, the first HDD file contains the bootable system.

3) Use this command line tool while being in the directory where the HDD file is located:

$/Applications/Parallels\ Desktop.app/Contents/MacOS/prl_disk_tool convert --hdd my-parallels-disk1.hdd --plain

4) The resulting HDD file replaces the source file and still is a package. So enter again and copy the HDS (not HDD) file into the open file system, best where the (empty) VirtualBox VM is located (You can use the “file” command on the HDS to verify that it is indeed a bootable disk image).

5) Rename the file giving it a HDD extension.

6) Add the file as (start-up) disk to an “empty” VirtualBox VM, (update settings), boot and enjoy.

More info here.

Hope this helps :)

  • This worked for me with Parallels Desktop 11 and VirtualBox 5.0.18. No other method seemed to work and it's a Linux VM so I couldn't use VMware Converter.
    – Ellis
    Oct 22, 2016 at 16:14

If someone is using Parallels 11, 12 or 13 and VirtualBox 5 - it is much much easier.

Step 1: Expand the Package Contents of the parallel's HDD

Step 2: Within that there is an HDS file, ideally there will be only 1 file containing the data (unless split option was used), just double check the size of the file which is a good indication of the file you are looking for.

Step 3: Copy the HDS file to a new location that VirtualBox can access, rename the file and change its extension to hdd.

Step 4: Attach the newly copied file directly with the VirtualBox.

Step 5: Test everything, this is good to go.

Step 6: Run the guest OS, uninstall old parallels tool and install VirtualBox guest tools.

These steps will get finished within minutes and no conversion needed.

I have just finished executing all of these steps day before and tested.

After this, I executed the below listed Optional steps, so that the hdd file gets converted into VDI file. With VDI file the VirtualBox gets more control: most important one being optimizing the free space, which i sorely needed.

Optional Steps: (Switch off guest OS before this)

Step 7: From within VirtualBox tool, Open Global Tools, it will list all harddisks

Step 8: Use Copy function, this will export the attached HDD file to any other compatible options: VDI, VHD, VMDK and more, after researching which is best option i chose VDI - since this is native to VirtualBox.

In future if i need to export the Virtual machine to some other format, then VirtualBox has export option and supports "Open Virtualisation Format".

Basically with the above procedure, you skip the parallels tool for conversion, somewhere VMware converter was proposed, you skip that too. You will only need 1 single tool: VirtualBox, to complete all the steps.

  • 1
    Just to note this works with Parallels 15 and VirtualBox 6 as well.
    – jkratz
    Sep 3, 2019 at 14:16

Not sure how this will go, but you could try this guide I found that uses the VMware Converter.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.