I have a windows laptop that recently died (dead motherboard). It being a 7 year old laptop, I decided to give Apple a try this time around and try to use VMware to access my old data if necessary.

In order to do this, I need to convert the physical drive to a VMware image. Googling around, it looks like I might be able to use VMware Convertor to do this.

My original thought was to plug the laptop drive into a windows desktop via an external USB enclosure and create the image that way, then transfer the working VM to the Mac. However, upon further investigation, it looks like VMware Converter only supports converting a local machine (the desktop) or a remote machine (via IP) but not a laptop drive plugged into the local machine. Obviously, if my original laptop was still functional, I could install and run vmware converter from there but that's not an option here.

So with that in mind, I'm looking for suggestions and help on how to convert this laptop drive into something I can use on my new Macbook Pro.

  • Obviously, if my original laptop was still functional, I could install and run vmware converter from there but that's not an option here. =( – jnman Dec 13 '09 at 2:22
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    This may be long after the original questioner needed an answer, but with 3k views over the years it has collected many people interested in an answer, but still yet to be answered comprehensively with a step by step solution. – Mark Booth Dec 29 '12 at 1:52
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    I would grab Disk2VHD by Russinovich to create Virtual Hard Disk of an attached drive to Windows machine and then create a guest in Virtual environment of your choice and then slip that VHD file into it. – Darius Jan 2 '13 at 20:09
  • @Darius - I presume that this just extracts the hard drive as is? If so then many machines will just refuse to boot (bluescreen), which is why I came looking here. On a machine (as opposed to a disk image) VMware converter strips the drivers from the image so that new drivers which work can be installed by Windows when it boots. – Mark Booth Jan 3 '13 at 15:33

We have just performed this operation on two PCs, a dead desktop and a dead laptop.

It was a long haul though, and most of the suggestion over at How to convert laptop drive (with a dead laptop) for use as VMware image? were of limited use.

What didn't work

We tried creating a new VM with both raw disk access and it's own virtual disk, cloning one to the other (using clonezilla) and then running the VMware convert utility on it, but that resulted in VMs which blue screened on boot, so that wasn't a solution.

We tried the create a new VM, attach the raw hard drive to the VM and convert method, but that just gave a cryptic error message with the current vmware-vdiskmanager program.

We tried looking at the solutions on ServerFault for Convert a hard-drive into a VMware machine but most of those solutions had too little detail to get us past the problems we had with those suggested solutions.

What worked

The solution that we settled on was in an answer suggested by Dave M on that question though.

  • We downloaded and installed the trialware version of Symantec System Recovery Server Edition (which at the time was Symantec™ System Recovery 2011 Server Edition FREE 60-day Evaluation! but is now Symantec™ System Recovery 2013 Server Edition FREE 60-day Evaluation!).

  • We then created a one-off backup of each target hard drive (one for the desktop PC hard drive we had, one for the laptop hard drive), creating two recovery points. Then we performed a one-off conversion of each to a virtual machine.

  • We selected the option to Run Windows Mini-Setup and Split virtual disk into 2 GB (.vmdk) files. The former substantially reduces the time to get the resulting VM up and running, while the second allows you to transport VMs around on memory sticks that don't support >2GB files/

  • We then booted each VM in VMware Player, the Windows mini setup ran through quickly, installing the new virtual drivers & replacing the old real drivers.

  • Finally we installed VMware tools on each VM and let the VMs pick up the new VMware tools optimised drivers.

The only downside with this method is that it does require re-activation of windows, so make sure you have noted down the product key of the dead machine before you start.

Note that we tried this procedure on a Windows 8 PC first, but couldn't get SSRSE to run after it was installed, so reverted to using a Windows XP machine (on the same hardware). We assume that when the trial gets upgraded from 2011 to 2013, this problem will go away.

Before this I've only ever virtualised running machines and the process has been quick and painless with VMware converter. I was amazed to find out that virtualising a dead system from it's hard drive alone would be so much more involved, I just assumed that VMware converter would just have an option to do it.

First step is to make the disk available on a functioning computer, then convert it to VMDK.

The dd2vmdk utility will work with a Linux Live CD and help you create the VMDK. This link is to a very detailed article with screenshots describing the procedure.

The process uses a browser-based application that will create scripts whose output you should feed back to the browser application. The idea is to copy (dd) the raw disk to a file and then build a VMDK file that uses that image as its disk.

Once you have done this, it is a matter of using the Ultimate P2V utility (linked at the end of the dd2vmdk article) to replace the HAL and prevent the bluescreen. Sadly the Ultimate P2V article is mostly hidden behind a registration wall, so this Bart PE forum post or this Guru-corner post might be more immediately accessible.

An alternative and perhaps simpler method, once the raw disk was copied to a file, is to use VirtualBox, through the VBoxManage convertfromraw command, to convert it to VMDK format.

The command may look like :

VBoxManage convertfromraw <filename> <outputfile> --format VMDK --variant Standard

With your hard drive plugged in via USB, you should be able to create an image of the hard drive as a VMDK file for use by a VMware Virtual Machine. T

If VMware Converter running on an OS with this disk attached cannot do it, you may be able to find a free converter out there (see link below) to convert a disk with a NTFS, Fat32, or other filesystem to a VMDK file.

You would create a new Virtual Machine with the same operating system as the same type installed on your previous laptop. This will create a Virtual Machine that you can add a virtual hard drive(VMDK) to (in this case you would point the Virtual Machine to the VMDK file you created via "Edit Settings" on the VM).

Try searching and/or asking on the VMware Communities: http://communities.vmware.com/ usually you will get a quick response, or find a post from someone who has done the same thing.

Good Luck!


  • I have a windows desktop and running vmware converter on it, the only option I get is to image the desktop, which is not what I want. – jnman Dec 13 '09 at 5:36
  • But I did repost the question over at the vmware forums. – jnman Dec 13 '09 at 5:42
  • Link here. communities.vmware.com/message/1437859 – jnman Dec 13 '09 at 8:13
  • We tried several ways to get this to work and failed with each one on both machines we wanted to image (one a desktop, the other a laptop). – Mark Booth Jan 2 '13 at 22:09

I also had a same problem and solved it by myself only...

Create disk image of C drive and run on VMware virtual machine

Of course you would be running on MAC so that extra searching you have to do for how to mount vdmk image in macbook but it would be damn easy to find so.

And ya my above give solution works for windows7 image also. Lemme know if you get any query.

  1. Make disk image with acronis home
  2. Convert that to an iso with poweriso
  3. Create bootable recovery media iso with acronis home
  4. Mount both images in VMware booting from recovery media
  5. Follow through with acronis recovery
  6. Let OS boot inside VMware.
  • A bit of editing will not harm to this post. – VL-80 Jan 6 '14 at 0:38

Another tool (paid though) is Image for Windows suite, which includes a script for P2V specifically for VMware, from a physical hard drive or an image backup. Link: https://www.terabyteunlimited.com/kb/article.php?id=434

Another answer (works as of 2017 and uses free and easily found tools only) -

  1. Create a VM with a hard drive (VMDK) and install something on it, or copy any existing VM - just enough that the VM has had its disk used.
  2. Use any tool to mount the entire disk as a disk on Windows (or whatever system you are using). Note that VMWare's "Map disk" and similar may NOT work - you need to map the entire disk as a device, not just one volume, in case partitions need altering. What I did was convert the VMDK to VHD using Starwind's free V2V tool, because Windows allows mounting of VHD as a disk natively. Then I mounted the VHD device as a disk using Windows Disk Management or Diskpart.
  3. Use the tool of your choice to copy the hard drive you want to virtualise, to the mounted virtual disk (VHD in my case).
  4. Unmount the virtual disk/VHD and if needed use V2V to convert it back to VMDK.
  5. Replace the original VMDK in your VM with the new VMDK.
  6. If needed modify the VMX file to add or remove the firmware="efi" line to match the source system, or else it won't boot.
  7. Fire up your VM and let it discover the new devices, and done.

Alternatively and equivalent:

  1. Create a .VHD (Windows virtual disk) and mount it using diskpart or disk management.
  2. Copy your HDD onto the VHD
  3. Unmount the VHD
  4. Use Starwind's free V2V to.convert it to a VMDK
  5. Overwrite an existing VMDK in a VMware VM with it.
  6. Check that the vmx file contains (or doesn't contain) the firmware="efi" line to match the source system, or else it won't boot.

What's nice about this is that inherently, it should pretty much always work and it's versatile and transparent. It also let's you modify the system as you would any hard disk before converting it back to VMDK.

Do you want to boot it, or just access the data? if its the latter, plug it into a USB drive caddy, image it with tools already in OS X, and access it as a disk image - i did a similar thing for a client, though using windows based tools - and OS X has most of what you need baked in - I'm not a mac user, but disc utility would likely do what you need if its a simple data recovery you need.

  • I have the drive from the laptop. I want to run it as a vmware fusion image. – jnman Dec 13 '09 at 5:35

I second the Disk2VHD path. Sometimes, Disk2VHD does not work. In that case I've used StorageCraft tools to image to VHD for P2V.

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