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VMware Converter, Fusion, and Boot Camp

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VMware ConverterAt some point, you might want to convert your Boot Camp volume to a true VMware virtual machine using the VMware Converter.

Murphy’s first experiment with VMware Fusion was to access his Boot Camp install of XP while running Leopard. Fusion made it easy. After installing Fusion it was a simple task to add Boot Camp to the list of Virtual Machines on Murphy’s Macbook Pro.

VMware suggests getting away from Boot Camp unless you have a compelling reason to boot into Windows at startup, suggesting that Fusion performs better with non-Boot Camp virtual machines. There are other reasons to do this as well.

First, you don’t get all the features of Fusion with your Boot Camp partition. You can’t suspend the virtual machine and resume it later. In other words, if you’ve quit Fusion you need to go through a Windows reboot next time you use it. With a regular virtual machine Windows opens up right where you suspended it after your last session, saving lots of time. Adding this functionality would have caused a conflict between the VMware session and the state of Boot Camp when it was selected at startup.

Second, a regular virtual machine adds flexibility to your system. You can offload the virtual machine to another drive or a different computer when you need to free up disk space. Moving a Boot Camp partition isn’t so simple, nor is it a supported feature.

Murphy’s going to play around with Fusion a little more. Then he’s going to reclaim the space Boot Camp has been taking up by deleting the partition.

The screencast shows how to covert a Boot Camp partition into a regular Fusion virtual machine. Here are the basic steps Murphy followed:

  1. Enable Windows sharing on your Mac hosting the Boot Camp partition.
  2. Run your Boot Camp install under Fusion.
  3. Install the VMware Converter utility under Windows.
  4. Use the Converter utility to create the new virtual machine in a folder on your Mac, writing it via Windows sharing.

You’ll probably want to make sure everything you do in Windows works well before you delete your Boot Camp volume.

Related links:

Get a trial version of VMware Fusion.

Download the VMware Converter.

Buy Fusion from Amazon$41.99 at the time of this post after a $20 rebate.

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19 comments to “VMware Converter, Fusion, and Boot Camp”

  1. Good stuff as usual!

  2. Uh-oh. I tried this & got a “failed” message from VMware Converter. Say it isn’t so — but it appears that FAT32 won’t suffice; that NTFS is required for the SOURCE (ie Boot Camp) partition. Any thoughts before I ditch my Boot Camp FAT32 partition & start over?

  3. …and I just found the answer to my own question here. Sorry to waste your space! Check this thread for insight. I found another potentially easier suggestion — give the source an NTFS volume via USB key! I’ll try that & see…
    http://communities.vmware.com/thread/79450

  4. This is silly. Having boot camp allows you to run all application at maximum speed (far beyond anything any Virtual machine can run at). Plus you get all the maximum graphics support/acceleration when you need it if you have Boot Camp installed. It just makes no sense at all to abandon boot camp just because you want to save a few seconds booting and shutting down VMWare. Pointing out limitations of the VMWare software package is not a reason to abandon boot camp. Most users should just install Boot Camp along with VMWare and just wait until VMWare gets around to fixing these limitations in their software (shouldn’t take them too long). That way if you ever need the speed or the graphics you will have them with Boot Camp.

  5. Everyone uses Windows in a different way Enlade. I don’t think you can say what’s best for most people.

    In my case, the benefits mentioned in the post made it worth eliminating Boot Camp. Now I can just copy it on and off the disk when I need to. And I can suspend Windows. Of course my case doesn’t apply to everyone.

  6. I searched about converting a FAT32 into NTFS, and found there is an MS-DOS command available. Inside the bootcamp’d WinXP running inside VMware Fusion. Get a DOS prompt ” Start -> Run -> type ‘cmd’ into the box and hit enter”

    At the prompt C:\, type “convert /?” for help
    The actual command I ran was this: “convert C: /FS:NTFS”

    then I got an error. I told it NO do not force a dismount, and then it asked me if I wanted to schedule it to run on next boot which I said Y for YES… I rebooted, and then it ran a disk check, and then ran the conversion tool. It rebooted again. Booted normally (whew!). I went into the disk manager and it now reports the volume is NTFS and not FAT32. I hope that helps. I’m going to go run the VMware Converter tool again and see how it goes…

  7. Very helpful, thanks! :-)

  8. This is my first visit to your site. Great info, great site… I can’t wait to check out your screencasts. I happen to love screencasts!

    I find it useful to have both a bootcamp windows partition and also a smaller virtual vmware one. I configure the bootcamp vm with 2GB RAM and both cores. The vm only has 512MB RAM w/only one core used mostly for browser testing and put to sleep between uses.

    Would *love* to get rid of the bootcamp partition but for games it’s unfortunately still necessary.

  9. murphy, have noticed a positive difference in converting your boot camp partition into a virtual machine? i am considering doing the same so that i can suspend windows instead of having to boot into it, but am worried that the windows virtual machine may not run that fast. (i have a macbook c2d with 4GB of ram.)

    does the windows virtual machine feel as “fast” as the boot camp partition virtual machine did?

    thanks.

  10. It feels the same to me. I don’t do much with Windows, but I use some flash creation – editing tools from time to time. They were the only thing I was worried about before I converted and they perform without any problems.

    In general use I notice no difference.

    I’m using Fusion on a Macbook Pro with 2GB of RAM. Core 2 Duo. Running XP.

  11. Hi,

    I think Parallels is good but I had so many problems with it. I am an IT Tech at a College and have had work orders for parallels because parallels kept crashing on MacBook Pro’s. I told the many instructors to use boot camp instead of parallels. Well of course they don’t listen. I had this one work order come back to me three times. I finally told the instructor, let me install boot camp. So he finally agreed and guess what, I never heard a complaint from him again. I have my Mac Pro 8 core configured as a daul boot system and I love it. I play online games and its flawless. Thats my 2 cents :O) If you have a Intel base Mac and want to learn how to install Apple Boot Camp, here’s a website that will not only tell you but has a nice video to show you how.

    http://www.squidoo.com/ways-to-install-windows-on-a-mac

  12. After creating the VM, will you have to reactivate your Windows installation (on the VM)? Also, is it legal to keep both the VM and the Windows installation, or will you be required to delete the Windows installation once the VM is made?

    Thanks!

  13. Wonderer –
    http://excitedcuriosity.wordpress.com/2007/08/30/vmware-fusion-apple-boot-camp-and-windows-activation/

  14. Great info thanks.
    Had MacbookPro running VM fusion with Windows XP 1st installed on Bootcamp partition.
    Mac OS crashed the other day and I lost all Mac stuff, but fortunately I found my Windows Bootcamp install unaffected and was able to save all my Windows data.
    Is it normal that a Mac OS crash would not effect your Windows Bootcamp install? If so, that seems like a good safety catch but I never see this listed as a pro Bootcamp feature. Perhaps what happened was a fluke. If Mac OS crashes with only VM installed do you also loose the Windows partition?
    Would love to start over without the Bootcamp to save time with windows reboots, but would sacrifice that if I knew having Bootcamp provides a safety to Mac OS crashes.
    Thanks!

  15. Murph…

    I’m trying to convert my boot camp to a VM but in your tutorial the button in the converter is import machine… on my copy of vmware converter which I just downloaded, the button is convert machine… and there is no way to pick a destination.

    Any ideas?

  16. I’m trying to convert through a Fusion Shared Folder on an external FIreWire HDD (HFS+) that has 40GB+ of free space.
    The converter would need about 13GB but keeps complaining it hasn’t got enogh space on the destination.
    Looked at the logs, nothing enlightening.
    Help welcome!

  17. VMware Fusion 2 onwards simplifies this whole procedure by providing an “Import… ” command on the “File” menu.
    Version 1.x users can upgrade for free to version 2.0.2 (current at time of writing).
    For details on the procedure search for “Importing the Boot Camp Partition” in the help that comes with Fusion 2.x
    Before I discovered this, I did actually try the above method using VMware converter. Using “Import…” is lots easier, plus VMware converter has changed quite a bit since the original post (that is what has thrown joesuburbs).
    Two things I love about using a VM rather than native Boot Camp
    1. Trackpad Tap to click and secondary (two finger) tap to click. You can’t do this when you boot into the Boot Camp partition
    2. Using spaces and having Windows in one space then CTRL arrow back to my Mac ( when waiting for Windows to do something 😉 )
    What I love about using a true VM rather than Boot Camp VM:
    1. Being able to take snapshots and backup easily to TimeMachine. No need to maintain backup disks formatted with FAT32 – bleah FAT32.
    2. Easily put my Windows partition on a Firewire drive and move it around, not taking up space on my MacBook

    BTW nodje I couldn’t write large files to Firewire disks even when booted into the Boot Camp (native Windows) partition. The write would always fail. (I was trying to back it up prior to importing). The same drive (has usb and firewire) worked using USB.

  18. When the “specified destination” on my Mac was reported to have “insufficient space to contain the virtual machine” I first played around with disk space allocation but always got the same message so I plugged in an external USB drive and changed the destination to it. Huh? 215GB is insufficient space? I don’t think so. The BootCamp partition itself is ~50G and the XP installation takes up ~10-12G of that… VMware Converter won’t let me continue so I’m at a loss what to do now.
    I realize these are all old entries, and most before Snow Leopard, but so far I haven’t had any luck getting a separate VMware machine running in my Mac (my Windows disc is packed away somewhere 2500 miles away) so I could use some help. Yes, VMware will run OFF OF BootCamp, but it’s very slow compared to running BootCamp itself so I thought this sounded great. Does anybody have any pointers?
    VMware Fusion 3.1.2 on OS X 10.6.5 Snow Leopard; Windows XP Pro in BootCamp.

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