How to Move VMware Workstation Virtual Machine to VMware ESXi Server

This guide shows how to export or move a VMware Workstation virtual machine to an ESXi server. 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.

Any virtual machine with configuration file VMX and disk files VMDK can be used here. VMware vCenter converter required for this method and it’s a built-in feature in VMware workstation. I have a running ESXi 4.1 and Windows 2003 enterprise OS (already configured as Domain controller) as a virtual machine in VMware workstation 7.1. The host is Windows 7 with 3GB RAM. Though this setup was done back in the year 2010, it is applicable in recent times with higher hardware configuration also.

What I’m going to do is export a working Windows 2003 VM from Workstation to ESXi server via the network.

Here is the working OS.

Move VMware Virtual Machine to ESXi Server

Steps to Move VMware Workstation Virtual Machine to ESXi Server

1) Uninstall VMware tools from guest OS. (I’m not sure whether workstation and server VMware tools are same, but I think it’s better to remove now and install later in vSphere Client)

2) Shutdown the virtual machine and remove floppy drives, USB and sound devices. If you are not removing now, the converter will remove them with a warning message later.

3) Make sure network connectivity is OK and firewalls are opened between VMware workstation host and ESXi server.  In the workstation go to File on the menu 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

The latest version of the converter has the below settings. So, based on the version you use, select the appropriate source option.

browse and view details of vm

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. In 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 VMware ESX or ESXi server with root user name and password. The same details provided to connect through the vSphere client.

Move VMware Virtual Machine to ESXi Server

You may find the below screen option in the latest converter.

Enter VMware ESXi Server details

9) It should log in without any 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 available. Otherwise, select the localhost and press Next.

11) Choose datastore to move the virtual disk. My ESXi 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 selecting the number of NICs.

NIC Selection while exporting

13) It’s highly recommended to select both options on the next screen. Customize 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 environment later.

Summary screen

If the vSphere or ESXi server has more datastores, then you can select it here. All files related to this exporting virtual machine will be stored in selected datastore. So make sure it’s having enough space.

It’s always better to convert the virtual machine in higher machine version to get more features.

esxi storage details

14) After completing the customization steps, check the summary before starting the process. Select the Power on the new VM after 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 VMware ESXi Server. There was no space on the host computer to allow growing ESXi’s VMDK file.

Export succeeded after fixing the space issue. Because I selected the power-on option, the exported virtual machine is up and running on the server after conversion completed.

Migrated virtual machine

It is very simple and straightforward if all settings are correct. This will be helpful to configure and test Operating Systems on the local computer before exporting to live servers.

In case you face any difficulties with this method, feel free to share your comments.

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 Move VMware Workstation Virtual Machine to VMware 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


Comments are closed.

Pin It on Pinterest