How to Convert VMware Workstation Virtual Machine to ESXi Server

This guide shows how to export or convert VMware Workstation virtual machine to an ESXi server using the vCenter converter. Sometimes you need to move/migrate a pre-configured server OS virtual machine to VMware vSphere (ESXi) to save time by avoiding installation and configurations.

We can use any virtual machine with configuration file VMX and disk files here. I have a working ESXi server and Windows 2003 enterprise OS (already configured as Domain controller) as a virtual machine in the VMware workstation. Though this setup was done in 2010, it is applicable in recent times also.

Here is the working OS.

Working VM on VMware

Steps to Convert VMware Workstation VM to ESXi Server

1) Uninstall VMware tools from guest OS. I’m not sure whether workstation and server VMware tools are the same, but removing them and installing them later is better.

2) Shut down the virtual machine and remove floppy drives and USB and sound devices. The converter will remove them if you are not removing them with a warning message later.

3) Ensure network connectivity is working and firewall ports are opened between VMware workstation and ESXi host. Go to File on the menu in the workstation and select Import or Export.

See Also: Convert Physical Computer to Virtual by VMware Standalone converter.

4) Select Virtual Appliance in source type.

desktop virtualization software

5) Browse the virtual machine’s configuration file VMX on the next screen as shown below. Since the VMX file has the details of Snapshots VMDK files, it will take care of them while converting.

VMX file of VM

6) It should detect the configurations of the virtual machine properly. On the next screen, you can select and resize the disks which should be exported.

Select the disk of VM

7) Now time to select a destination. Select ‘VMware Infrastructure Virtual Machine’ and click next.

8) Provide the IP address of the VMware ESXi server with the root user name and password. The exact details used to connect through the vSphere client.

Convert VMware workstation to ESXi

9) It should log in without issues and ask for a VM name. Give a name and go to the next step.

10) Select the resource pool to export if more than one is available. Otherwise, select the localhost and press Next.

11) Choose a datastore to move the virtual disk. My server has single data storage as below.

Data store on the server

12) Next is to select network cards. Network Cards can be added during export by choosing the number of NICs.

NIC Selection while exporting

13) Selecting both options on the next screen is highly recommended. Customizing the identity of the virtual machine is very important in a production environment due to unique machine ID, hostname, licensing and domain networking.

System restore checkpoints are useless after converting since any time we can’t restore to earlier checkpoints because of the different hardware environment.

Summary screen

14) After completing the customization steps, check the summary before starting the process. Select the Power on the new VM after the creation (Optional) option and click ‘Finish’ to start the procedure.

Power on the VM

15) Conversion and export should run smoothly and complete successfully. Warning messages can be seen in the progress dialogue box.

It failed initially because of space issues on my VMware ESXi Server. There was no space on my host computer to grow the VMDK file.

Export succeeded after fixing the space issue. Since I selected the power-on option, the exported virtual machine was up and working on the server after the conversion was completed.

Migrated virtual machine

It is a straightforward method if all settings are correct. This will help configure and test Operating Systems on the local computer before exporting to live VMware ESXi servers.

Bonus Method:

The latest VMware workstation (ver 16 and later) supports direct connectivity to the ESXi environment.

If the VMware ESXi host can accept the connection from the Workstation console, we can establish the connectivity by providing proper credentials. Once the connectivity is made, converting or migrating the existing VM from the VMware workstation is easy.

Select the virtual machine, go to ‘VM’ on the menu and ‘Manage”. Here select the ‘Upload’ option. Select the ESXi host we connected previously and start exporting the VM.

You can find the detailed steps here.

If any of the above solutions did not fix the Windows PC issues, we recommend downloading the below PC repair tool to identify and solve any PC Issues.

Dinesh is the founder of Sysprobs and written more than 400 articles. Enthusiast in Microsoft and cloud technologies with more than 15 years of IT experience.

11 thoughts on “How to Convert VMware Workstation Virtual Machine to ESXi Server”

  1. Hi, Nice job on the explanation. I finally have a virtual machine on my esxi 4.1 server. I installed Leopard fine and built the CDR from the retail. Lacking a DL DVD, I had to install macdisk on the PC running the VSphere client. Then just attached an external mac formated USB to the virtual machine and voila Snow Leopard on the ESxi server.

    But this is not very satisfying – I am still struggling with trying to get OS X onto a home brew system. Looks like the rest of the day will be spent researching that little project.


  2. Nice article. File->Import or Export. seems to be missing in VM Ware Workstation 8. Any idea how I can do it in that version?

  3. I made a conversion from ESXi5 to Workstation 7, didn’t remove the tools.
    Well so I do it again… you better remove the tools as described. (You can only UPdate not DOWNdate)

  4. Hi,

    Please help me,, recently i have created one VM workstation 7.1 for Windows XP OS.

    In that VM workstation i am running Oracle Database .

    I wanted to Migrate this Windows XP from Workstation to VM server , Is it Possible ??

    What are the thinks i have to do. without down the Windows XP Os because User accessing the DATABASE.

    Workstation Installed in Windows 2008 R2


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