Moving VMs from ESX to Workstation

There are a few ways to migrate VMs around between VMware products including using vCenter Converter, 3rd party tools, and O/S tools (backup/restore) but one of the easiest ways is via the Datastore Browse utility.

I leveraged it a few posts back to move VMs around without vCenter (including vCenter) but here is a quick way to use it to export VMs to run under Workstation.


Step 1 – Open a vSphere client and shut down the VM you want to copy

Step 2 – Right-click on the datastore the VM resides on and select Browse Datastore

Step 3 – Highlight the VM directory on the left and hit the ‘Download” icon in the toolbar

Step 4 – Locate the location on your local machine to copy the VM to and hit ‘ok”

Step 5 – Hit Ok to acknowledge the overwrite message

Step 6 – Monitor the copy window

Step 7 – Launch VMware Workstation, and choose File/Open from the menu

Step 8 – Locate the vmx file for the downloaded VM and click Open

Step 9 – Check the VM settings and make sure your system can handle it (primarily CPU/memory)

Step 10 – Power on the VM. Leave “I copied it” selected which will create a new VMware ID for the VM and hit OK.

Step 11 – You may get a message depending on the OS and hardware configuration. Since you moved an existing, running VM you should have the drivers you need. Hit OK.

Step 12 – Enjoy the goodness of a copied VM.

Leave a comment for questions, suggestions, snark, whatever.

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19 Responses to Moving VMs from ESX to Workstation

  1. frank says:

    thanks!

  2. clcin says:

    Thanks for the share man . . .

  3. vlad says:

    Thanks man!

  4. Magesh says:

    Thanks for share man

  5. Toodles says:

    Thanks indeed!

  6. Doug Gougenheim says:

    While this works, it gives limited options…for example, if you have thin-provisioned disks, that are only using 10GB, but provisioned for something larger, when copying from the data store, you end up with a file size of the provisioned size. Using the vCenter standalone converter seems to be a better option imo.

    • Magnus Hansson says:

      Well the vCenter standalone converter documentation dosen’t say how to copy from esx to vmware workstation.
      Don’t want to test if I do wrong without guidens./Magnus

    • Latheef says:

      Any option to exclude some drives? For example, I have a vm with OS partition of 10 GB and another partition (Data)with 500 GB. Any option to copy the VM with only OS partition ?

    • Modak says:

      Does the vCenter standalone converter work for vm conversions between any versions of ESXi and Workstation? I need to copy a vm hosted on ESXi4.1.0 to Workstation 8. Any input will be greatly appreciated

  7. Latheef says:

    Any option to convert or copy a powered on VM in an ESX server to a VMware workstation? I have limitations to power off the VM.
    Also, please suggest if any option to exclude some drives? For example, I have a vm with OS partition of 10 GB and another partition (Data)with 500 GB. Any option to copy the VM with only OS partition ?

    • Clone the VM, then copy the clone. Or use Converter

      You can remove the VMDK from the VM to remove a drive or if you use converter you can select which drives to copy.

      • Latheef says:

        Thank you for the reply.

        Any option / tool to convert or copy a powered on VM in an ESX server to a VMware workstation? I have limitations to power off the VM., as it is in production.

        • JIrl says:

          I presume you’ve figured it out but for others…
          You can make a Snapshot on ESX then copy the original .vmdk, once the copy is complete delete the snapshot. I then create a new VM using the copied .vmdk, we use this technique for development testing VM’s where we need a quick copy of the live machine.

  8. Yavor Balabanov says:

    It is better to export and later import.
    This will always try to “compress” any unused blocks in the vDisk(s).

  9. Romulus says:

    If your ESX VM has several snapshots (delta files), will those be migrated to VM Workstation and work properly? A couple years ago I tried to get VM Workstation to work with the delta files without success.

  10. Tony says:

    Hey, thanks! I had a VM running that I need to clone locally and this work flawlessly.. Direct and simple. Thanks!

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