Cold cloning without the Enterprise VMware Converter Boot ISO

I needed to convert a physical Windows XP Professional machine running ZENworks into a VMware virtual machine, but only after removing the unique identifiers like the Windows’ SID and ZENworks’ GUID, so that I could later make multiple copies of the VM without them all writing to the same ZENworks object. After weighing my options, I decided that it wouldn’t be practical to hot clone the physical machine. The best method would be to unregister the ZENworks object, uninstall the Adaptive Agent, pull it off the network, reinstall the Adaptive Agent, and then sysprep -reseal -shutdown the machine. This would leave me with a hard drive with a XP installation ready to generate new IDs the next time it was powered on. But as you well know, the VMware vCenter Converter Standalone app can only perform P2V hot cloning. Cold cloning requires the VMware Cold Clone Boot ISO, which is only available to VMware Converter Enterprise license-holders.

After some Googling around, I came across this thing called MOA, Multi-Operating system Administration. Basically, it creates a LiveCD that runs the free VMware Converter on top of a Windows Server 2003 kernel. It’s very, very nice and developed by an obvious super-genius. Just how cool is it? How about the ability to boot a physical box and start the originally installed system as a virtual machine?

Here are the steps I took to build my free cold clone boot CD.

Creating the cold clone boot CD

This builds a LiveCD using Windows Server 2003 that can then run VMware vCenter Converter Standalone 3.0.3 (previously known as VMware Converter Starter Edition) in order to cold clone a hard drive.

Caveats

The version of Windows running in the LiveCD should be the same as, or later than, the version of the Windows machine you want to convert to a VM.

VMware recommends, when cold cloning using their boot CD, that the source physical machine have 364MB of memory, with a minimum of 264MB. MOA recommends, for the Bandit version ISO, that the physical machine have at least 512MB and preferably 1GB or more.

Required files

Download moa241-setup.exe (2.7MB) from

http://sanbarrow.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=1544

You will need to sign up at the forums to gain access to the download.

Download X13-05665.img (596MB) (Windows Server 2003) from

http://download.microsoft.com/download/E/5/C/E5C2CA69-28C9-492A-8F57-BDA0010616E5/X13-05665.img

Download VMware-converter-3.0.3-89816.exe (30.1MB) from

http://download3.vmware.com/software/converter/VMware-converter-3.0.3-89816.exe

Put all three files in the same folder (with no spaces in the folder name) on a NTFS-formatted disk. MOA will refer to this as the ‘building directory’.

Assemble the ISO

Run moa241-setup.exe.
In the application menu, click moa -> create MOA core.

If you have put the X13-05665.img file into the root of the building directory, MOA will extract the files automatically. If the X13-05665.img file is in a different location or if you are using a different OS to build the LiveCD, MOA setup asks for the location of your Windows-sources. This must be a 32-bit OS, like XP or Server 2003. If you have the files on a CD or mounted using Daemon-tools, just select the drive letter; if you have them extracted somewhere on your hard disk, point to the directory one level higher than the I386 directory.

The MOA setup app asks a few questions about the environment you want to build. Answer these very quickly, as they appear to have a default answer which will be selected automatically after a very short timeout (maybe like 10 seconds).

The MOA setup runs a nifty little DOS app that downloads another 20.34MB of core files. It will ask if you want to download drivers, which is another 17MB download. After another few questions, it runs PE Builder v3.1.10a.

The MOA setup then asks if you want to install VMware Converter 3.0.3 (the default is no, so quickly click yes). After which, it asks you if you want the converter to autostart (default is no, which is fine).

A standard image ISO is created automatically. You can also create a Bandit image ISO, which seems to be what most people use. In my case, the standard image is 374,622KB, while the Bandit image is 296,810KB. The Bandit version should also be faster than the standard version.

The ISO files are saved to iso-out. Burn to CD or DVD using whatever method you prefer.

Booting from the LiveCD

When booting from the Bandit image, you will get the following message, “can’t find vmware – starting plan B”, which makes it seem like something is wrong.

An Open File dialogue box then opens in the ramdisk vm folder and displays “can’t find vmware files in default location – please select a different path”. It’s looking for a Workstation or VMware Player installation here, not the Converter. Just click Cancel.

Another Open File dialogue box will open, stating “still can’t find VMware – you may want to mount a wim”. Click Cancel again.

After a few more seconds, MOA will be finished booting up and the GUI will minimize. Click the taskbar button to open it back up, then right-click the button with the image of the desktop PC with the VMware logo on the screen and select “start converter” from the menu. A Browse for Folder dialogue box will open. Browse to X:/moahome/vm/converter/ and click OK. VMware Converter will launch.

If things are not going as expected, the developer has made a video tutorial showing a boot into MOA followed by a cold cloning operation, located at http://sanbarrow.com/moa23/coldclone-howto/coldclone-howto.html

I saved my new virtual machine to a second physical disk, then put that drive into another machine with VMware Server 1.0.9 already installed and copied over the three vm files.

I started VMware Server and clicked Open Existing Virtual Machine, but when I tried to add the new vm to the inventory, VMware Server Console popped up an error: Unable to add virtual machine “D:Virtual Machinescoldclonetestcoldclonetest.vmx” to the inventory. Configuration file was created by a VMware product with more features than this version.

Some quick Googling led to the fix:

Open the virtual machine’s two ~1 KB configuration files in a text editor.

In the *.vmx file, change

virtualHW.version = "6"
to
virtualHW.version = "4"

In the *.vmdk file, change

ddb.virtualHWVersion = "6"
to
ddb.virtualHWVersion = "4"

After I made those changes, the virtual machine powered on and booted into XP, running all the expected install scripts and generating unique Windows and ZENworks identifiers. I’ve also successfully cold cloned a Windows 2000 machine using the same boot CD.

MOA on a bootable USB drive

If you would prefer to use a bootable USB drive instead of a LiveCD, here are some tips for getting MOA onto a USB drive: http://sanbarrow.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=1250

27 thoughts on “Cold cloning without the Enterprise VMware Converter Boot ISO

  1. Matthew

    OK I tried it. It did not work for me. The converter said it would “only” work for remote machine, I could not select a local disk. Tested it on a second drive after having no luck on the first. The first drive, is now in a state of non booting, the second drive, is in the same state.

    So this all sounds good, but does not seem to work.

  2. ardamis Post author

    Hmm, it has worked for me a number of times. I’ll see if I can figure out why the Converter is protesting.

  3. waikh

    I tried and it worked for me. Thanks! :)

    For my case, I created all the 3 iso images:
    – moa24-bandit.iso (296,810KB)
    – moa24-std.iso (372,556KB)
    – moa24-max.iso (493,470KB)

    and used moa24-max.iso. After MOA finished loading, VMware Converter launched automatically so no need to specify path. My *.vmx & *.vmdk files were in version “4” so no need to change as well.

  4. Ulli

    Hi
    looks like you started Converter directly – this will only allow remote-hot-clones.
    You must use the right-click function of the moa.exe GUI – this will launch in ColdClone Mode

    Ulli

  5. Ulli

    Hi the max-iso needs the largest amount of RAM of this three versions.
    In most cases the standard-iso is fine for the task. It can boot on systems with more than lets say 160 Mb of RAM
    Ulli

  6. Adam Chen

    I follow the steps to make the ISO file, but the converter is not put into the iso. I cannot find the converter folder under vm.

  7. midders

    Great guide; thanks a lot. If you have trouble finding the converter after creating the disk, it’s worth noting that it’s been moved to the _sfx_ folder.

    With the latest version of VMWare Player as of 22 Jun 2010 (under Linux) there is no need to modify the vmx or vmdk file as described in the last section of the guide.

  8. Ben

    This has been really useful, i just wondered if anyone had managed to figure out a way to put vmware tools as part of the created image rather than installed after the fact, as many users (including me) do not have admin rights (and i’m not interested in cracking the password)?

  9. stuckinstandby

    Thanks for the guide. I’ve been looking for some info about the legality of MOA – I’m sure it’s fine – VMware/Microsoft would have pulled it if not – but I’ve not seen any statements which refer to it.

    I want to use it as cold clone CD in a commercial setting but want to check which licenses are required. The procedure uses a trial version of Server 2003, so does that mean I can legally only use the CD for 180 days before requiring to buy an extra Server 2003 license?

    Thanks

  10. wil

    I had a hard time to get access to an exernal usb-hdd. Finally I got it running by Diskmngt (MOA-Desktop-Tool): Activities-AllTasks-ChangeDriveLetter&Path.
    Maybe this was allready mentioned somewhere, at least I did not find any helpful hint on that.
    So, (re)assining (win-) standard letters to partitions and drives worked for me.
    Above all: great project!

  11. Sean

    @wil
    I found that the usb hard drive had to plugged in before booting the CD, then assign the drive letter.

    The MOA software does not work with Server 2008. It seems that the setup looks specifically for an I386 folder which is no longer present in Server 2008.

  12. Wayne

    I seem to be having an issue here that I haven’t been able to sort out.

    I go through all the steps above and end up with a 34KB iso image at the end.

    This has happened on two different machines, so it must be something I’m doing.

    Has anyone run into this? Does anyone have any suggestions?

    Thanks!

    -w

  13. Keith

    when it says “Browse to X:/moahome/vm/converter/ and click OK. VMware Converter will launch.” i dont have a “converter folder under vm”…therefore my “converter” will not start and yes during the .ISO creation i selected yes to install converter.

    any ideas?

  14. Mat

    I have the same problem that Keith pointed out. I selected the converter during the installationm but I don’t find any folder in X:/moahome/vm.

    Suggestions ?

  15. jason

    i’m having the same issues as wayne and jon and I downloaded manually the prebuilder and put it in the same folder as moa241-setup-v3.exe. It still didn’t fix the problem? Could you please be more specific in what we have to do? Thanks.

  16. Jacques

    I managed to get all of it to work and done a cold clone on Server SBS 2008, but when i start up the VM it complains that winlogon.exe is corrupt, as well as the memtest.exe. Did i do something wrong in the cloning process? or is it because it must use a later version of the converter?

  17. senthil

    Thanks! 1ton. I had the same problem as Wayne and Jon Lski. Manually downloading pebuilder solved the problem!

  18. skinnafrog

    Wayne, Jason, et al:
    I realize your posts are quite old, but for anyone else having an issue with a resultant 34KB ISO file being created, this may be because you’re running moa-2.4.1-v3.exe on a 64-bit OS instead of a 32-bit edition. Try creating the ISO inside an XP VM instead. I did this using a clean XP SP3 (x86) and it worked a treat, whereas it had caused the aforementioned issue on Windows 7 (x64).

  19. spctrbytz

    I cannot provide that file, but the filename you want to try and find is named “VMware-converter-3.0.3-89816.exe”

    HTH

  20. Ken Almond

    I’ve been struggling to convert my old laptop with XP into a VM for permanent archival/access. After many IDE ‘driver’ explanations with no solution, I ran accross this article.

    All went well with this article until I kept getting 34KB .iso(s) that would not boot – AGH.

    >download it manually from this link: http://www.nu2.nu/download.php?>sFile=pebuilder3110a.zip and put it in the directory where you initially put moa241-setup->v3.exe and your problem should be solved!
    This comment (above) saved me and it worked and I WAS SUCCESSFUL in creating an XP VM running unter VMware Player 5.0.1.

    BTW – I tried MOA under 32-bit Windows 7 and 64-bit Windows – 7. Didn’t make any difference. I was successful under 64-bit Windows 7 with the pebuilder3110a.zip added to my working dir.

    Thanks to you-all. Its a few years, at least 10 attempts to get this and today I succeeded!

  21. Gilles

    Hello

    I need help. I dont understand why i get an moa24-std.iso with just 34ko. I read you post and i dont find something wrong i did.
    Thanks for your help

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