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Migrating a VMWare Fusion 4.1 instance to ESXi 5

A VMware Fusion instance originally created as a side project may grow in importance and need to be housed on a production (i.e. ESXi) server.

Rather than undertaking the painful process of re-creating an instance, it’s easier to migrate the .vmdk files to the ESXi server.


In this example, we’re migrating a Windows 7 instance (named w7_64bit_base_10-12-11_updated_IE9) to our ESXi server (server name: esxi2) (new instance name: windows7_2). First, we log into the ESXi server and create a temporary holding directory, then copy the Fusion .vmdk files over:

ssh root@esxi2
mkdir /vmfs/volumes/datastore1/windows7-tmp
scp ~/Documents/Virtual Machines.localized/w7_64bit_base_10-12-11_updated_IE9.vmwarevm/*.vmdk root@esxi2:/vmfs/volumes/datastore1/windows7-tmp
ssh root@esxi2
cd /vmfs/volumes/datastore1/windows7-tmp
vmkfstools -i w7_64bit_base.vmdk -d zeroedthick windows7_2.vmdk

We’ll then need to create a new instance. For this, we use vSphere:

  • File → New → Virtual Machine
  • Configuration: Typical
  • Name: windows7_2
  • Select a datastore for the virtual machine (i.e. datastore1)
  • Guest Operation System: Windows; Version: Microsoft Windows 7 (64-bit)
  • Choose your network connection
  • Virtual disk size: 32GB Thin Provision

Now move the .vmdk file into place:

ssh root@esxi2
cd /vmfs/volumes/datastore1/windows7-tmp
mv -i windows7_2*.vmdk ../windows7_2/

You should be able to boot

Clean up the old files:

ssh root@esxi2
rm -r /vmfs/volumes/datastore1/windows7-tmp


You’ll need to make sure that inbound ssh is enabled on the ESXi server.

In the case of Windows, you will need to manage the licensing (e.g. re-activating).

It would be more efficient to keep one terminal session logged into the ESXi server rather than continually ssh’ing in & exiting.


John Kastler provided the crucial vmkfstools command.

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