For some time I have been using VirtualBox to run the few Windows applications I still need. While being generally very usable there were still some issues with networking, sharing folders and sometimes the VM would crash when shutting down the guest OS.
Yesterday I decided to give VMware Fusion a chance. I downloaded and installed the trial version. Because I did not want to reinstall Vista and go through the whole update story again I looked for a way to reuse the existing VirtualBox VM. Unfortunately VMware cannot open the VDI files directly.
There are some How-To’s on the web which usually include some trickery with Linux or at least involve several steps, but all those seemed a little too much hassle for me and I kept looking for an easier way.
Turns out, VMware themselves offer the solution for free: Fusion’s main menu bar includes a “Migrate your PC…” option that will just open browser and take you to http://www.vmware.com/download/fusion/windows_to_mac.html.
There you can first have a look at a video which shows the process of downloading and installing the VMware Converter started edition. This tool is designed to create a new Virtual Machine from a running physical PC.
I imagined that this tool would not really mind whether I was running Vista on a physical piece of equipment or inside a different virtualization product, so I downloaded it into the Virtual Box Vista VM and installed it.
From there everything was really simple. I just had to click through the conversion wizard and point to a directory (I used an external USB drive) where the new VM was to be created and stored.
Conversion of the Vista installation with approx. 18GB of used space on a 20GB virtual hard disk took about some hours – I let it run over night. In the morning I could simply open the newly created machine with Fusion. Booting took some time and once I had logged in Vista detected tons of new hardware and installed the necessary drivers. One time I saw a wizard come up and ask for drivers for a “Base system device”. As I could not do anything about it I just ignored it. Later I installed VMware tools manually again which seems to have fixed whatever was missing.
Through the Control Panel I uninstalled the VirtualBox Guest additions and VMware Converter which of course migrated itself over.
So far I have not seen any problems – the integration experience is really good. I just set up some shared folders with no problems at all. Right now I am writing this post in Windows Live Writer in Unity mode, creating screenshots in Mac OS and simply importing them through the shared folders. Something that seems to be a problem of Live Writer was an exception message when I tried to insert a PNG by going through the UNC Path to the host which starts with \\.host\… This brought up an error where the stack trace said something about problems parsing the host name. I just mapped a drive letter to get around that.
From what I have seen so far I think I will just buy a license after the end of the trial.