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Ceate a Windows XP image with VMware Converter 3

In this simple guide I'll show how to create a Windows XP virtual image using the free tools offered by VMware.

I would like to remind you that a VMware Converter 3 guide is also available: Create a Windows XP image with VMware Converter 4.

What we need
  1. A physical computer with Windows XP installed. Also an old low performance computer is suitable (such as a 700 MHz with 256 MB of RAM).
  2. VMware Converter 3.0.3 or higher. We'll use this tool to create the virtual machine. You can download it for free from VMware website.
  3. VMware Player 2.0.5. This isn't the most updated version; anyway, it's the last (this guide was written on 1st June 2009) which allows to correctly install VMware Tools in the virtual machine. This instrument enables some useful operations in the virtual machine, like the quick screen resizing or the file drag'n'drop between the operating system and the virtual machine.
  4. Windows XP installation CD. We'll use it to take some files.

Step 1: VMware Converter installation
  1. Install VMware Converter on the PC to virtualize, choosing "Local Installation".
  2. Insert Windows XP installation CD. Take the file in "D:\support\tools\", and extract its content (you can use WinRar, which is available for free) in the directory "C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application data\VMware\VMware vCenter Converter Standalone\sysprep\xp". These files will be used by VMware Converter to personalize the operating system, in order to allow a better execution in the virtual machine.

Step 2: the conversion
  1. Start VMware Converter.
  2. Click on "Convert Machine". A guided conversion will start. This wizard is very detailed, you can read at every step the different offered options. In the left side of the window you can check the current conversion status. Click "next" twice (the first two windows are only informative).
  3. For the option "Source Type" select "Physical Computer". Click "Next".
  4. For the option "Source Login" select "This local machine". Alternatively we could specify a remote machine connected by network. Anyway this isn't the purpose of this guide.
    Click "next".
  5. For the option "Source Data", select "Select volumes and resize to save or add space". In this way we can select the dimension of the hard disk used by the virtual operating system.

    BEWARE: the value you are entering is NOT the final dimension of the virtual image file. It's simply the size of the hard disk that Windows XP will see when running in virtualization.
    I suggest to select "Maintain Size".

    Select also "Ignore page file and hibernation file", to reduce the space used by the virtual machine file.

    Click twice on "Next".
  6. At the option "Destination Type", select "Other virtual machine", because we want to build an image for VMware Player.
  7. At the option "Name & Location", write the name of our virtual machine, and where it will be saved.

    BEWARE: the partition where the virtual machine file will be saved must not be the same partition where the operating system that we are virtualizing is installed on. You can use another disk partition, or an external drive, or a network directory.

    Select "Workstation 6.x, VMware Fusion 1.x, Player 2.x, ACE 2.x".
  8. At the option "VM Options" we can select some properties of the machine.

    By selecting "Allow virtual disk files to expand", we will create a minimum size virtual machine. When needed, VMware Player will expand during the execution the space occupied by the machine to make space for the new files. The disadvantage is the lower performance of the virtual operating system when running.

    By selecting "Allocate all disk space now for better performance", we will create a virtual machine with maximum size, equal to the disk Windows XP is running on.

    As further option, we can specify "Split disk into 2 GB files". This option is useful when we want to save the Virtual Machine file on drives which use the FAT16 file system. This file system has indeed a 2GB size limit for one single file, and can still be found in USB pen drives or some hard disks.
  9. At the option "Network", select how the virtual machine network connection will be:

    • Bridged: The virtual machine will have its own IP address in the network, different from the hosting machine one.
    • NAT: The virtual machine uses the hosting machine IP to connect to the network.
    • Host-Only: only the host is connected to the network.
  10. At the option "Customization", we can specify the last details.

    Select "Install VMware Tools" to install VMware Tools, which allow to use more easily the virtual machine.

    Select "Customize the identity of the virtual machine" if we want to redefine Windows properties like the users, the network, the licenses, etc.

    Select "Remove all System Restore checkpoints" to save space.

    Click on "Next".
  11. We are at the last step: "Ready to Complete". A dialog window appears to resume the characteristics of the virtual machine that we're about to create . Click on "Finish" to end the guided creation wizard, and VMware will start to convert; from 15 to 60 minutes will be required.

Step 3: last details for VMware Player
  1. Install VMware player 2.0.5. As said before, it's not the last available version, but actually (1st June 2009) is the last which still includes the VMware Tool installation.
  2. Now virtual machine is ready. Start it with VMware Player. At the first boot VMware Player will automatically install VMware Tools, and Windows XP inside our virtual machine will reboot. Now our virtual machine is definitively ready.

Happy virtualization! :-)

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