Migrating Windows 7 from VMWare Fusion to VirtualBox

Virtualbox logoI recently had to start using Windows to connect to a client’s VPN network. Their VPN solution only works (or is supported) on Windows, plus the need to test a few things on Internet Explorer 😦

Previously I had used Amazon EC2 whenever I needed to use windows, to avoid license costs, 20GB of my drive wasted and the CPU/RAM overhead, but this time there was no way out, didn’t seem cool to store the VPN credentials on a public cloud instance, although it’s probably as safe. So I bought Windows 7 online and downloaded the 3GB iso image and VMWare Fusion for OS X which happens to have a 30-day trial. Got Win 7 working there with no problems, which is not what I can say about the VPN setup.

Then I got good recommendations to try VirtualBox, which is both open source and free as in beer, and was glad to see there are ways to easily move your VMWare images to VirtualBox.

Step by step instructions

To move the Windows 7 image to VirtualBox 4.1 just needed to

  1. Uninstall the VMWare tools and shutdown windows
  2. Copy the disk files from VMWare image to a new folder
    1. In Documents/Virtual Machines right click on the image, Show package contents
    2. Copy all *.vmdk files to a new folder
  3. Create a new VirtualBox machine with the same characteristics
    1. Make sure you choose Windows 7 64 bits if that’s what you used
    2. On Virtual Hard Disk, choose the main vmdk file you copied in previous step (although you’ll need to change the default storage config later)
    3. Customize created VM settings:
      1. General: Windows 7 64 bits
      2. System/Motherboard: set the same amount of base memory as the VMWare one
      3. System/Motherboard: Enable IO APIC
      4. Storage: By default VirtualBox adds it to SATA controller but you have to remove the SATA controller, and use IDE PIIX4 without host I/O cache, attaching vmdk to primary master IDE, leave CD/DVD drive
  4. Boot the VirtualBox VM and follow any prompt to restart Windows to install new devices
  5. On the VirtualBox Devices menu, click on install guest additions


Several things went wrong before I got it working, so just in case you have the same problems

  • Stuck in “Windows is loading files” black screen, rebooting continuously: make sure you have selected 64 bits Windows and enabled IO APIC
  • Blue screen of death: Remove SATA, SCSI and any other non-IDE controllers from Storage, attach vmdk to IDE and make sure PIIX4 is selected
  • Windows needs to be repaired / Cannot repair windows: same as previous one, make sure disk is attached to IDE

48 thoughts on “Migrating Windows 7 from VMWare Fusion to VirtualBox

  1. Pingback: Migrating from VMWare Fusion to VirtualBox: networking | Carlos Sanchez's Weblog

  2. Thanks for your note on converting from Fusion to Virtualbox. I have been stuck with the BSOD and the solution was removing the SATA Controller and attaching the VMDK to the IDE Controller.

  3. “remove the SATA controller, and use IDE PIIX4” You are my hero!!! health and long life to my Lord!! Thank you!!!!

  4. Yes!!! Exactly what I was looking for. I was stuck with the black boot screen “Windows is loading files”.

    Fixed with using IDE Controller
    -> uncheck host I/O
    -> removing SATA
    -> adding the VMDK as Disk to IDE Controller.


  5. Hi. Thanks for the pointers – I too am lookgin to move from a vmware fusion image to virtualbox. One question so far – When I choose VMDK for the disk type it’s not asking me for a file, instead it seems to be creating a new disk image. Am i missing something? Thanks.

      • Excellent and thanks. I found that and do now have it attached. I’m running XP and now that I have that set up when I boot up my vbox it immediate says “error loading operating system” in the black box after the Vbox spalsh screen. I did notice that my version of vbox does not have the default SATA drive config so I guess i don’t need to remove that. I also noticed in fusion that it shows my disk as SCSI and it is broken up into 2gig pieces. Does that matter? Any other ideas?

  6. I just did this for a VMware Fusion 3 Windows XP guest with a Virtualbox 4.1.6 on 10.7.2 host. I ticked IO APIC (didn’t test it without this), IDE was already selected. All its short is looking inside the .vmwarevm file. Thanks a lot for the HOWTO; it saved me upgrading to VMware Fusion 4 because of video refresh issues on Lion.

  7. Thanks so much for this information. Helped immensely and saved me HOURS of doing a fresh install and re-installing all my apps.

    I was running into an issue with VM Ware Fusion 3 when I would ‘command-tab’ off of my Windows 7 VM, the screen would go dark and would never come back forcing me to perform a ‘forced shut down’ on my mac. I didn’t want to pay to upgrade to Fusion 4, so after recommendations to try VirtualBox I am giving it a shot!

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge with the web.

    Thank you! Thank you!

  8. Many thanks, I run into the same problem and spend more than an hour trying to figure out what was going wrong until I saw your post!

  9. yet another happy camper – had the same (BSOD) issue and your blog entry was exactly was I needed 🙂

  10. Thanks a lot for the information! This information allowed me to migrate a Windows XP VM from vmware 3 (not supported on Mountain Lion) over to virtual box.

  11. Thanks for your bluescreen troubleshooting tip. Removing the harddisk from SATA and attach it as IDE worked for me. 🙂

  12. Ditto to Eduardo, the way VMware have left Mountain Lion users sucks. Thank you so much for your help here – saved me a lot of trouble!

  13. Thanks, your tip did the trick for me – migrating a Windows 7 VM from VMware Fusion under Snow Leopard to VirtualBox under Mountain Lion.

  14. Thanks a lot! The hints in this post worked wonders for some similar trouble I had with Parallels: Choosing PIIX4 and replacing SATA with an IDE controller fixed a BSOD when migrating from Parallels 6 to VirtualBox 4.1.20.

  15. This is great! Thank you for the step by step. I had been working on this for a week now! Something so simple but dumbfounding if you are a nub!

    • and I was angry by spending one day on this issue… ufff so you say it wasn’t that bad. Thank’s!

  16. Thanks from me too. Read a few other articles on pulling in Server 2008 VMDKs but they never pointed out this crucial step.

  17. Worked perfectly to convert a Windows 7 vm from Fusion 3 which had been disabled with OS X ML upgrade. Thanks so much!

  18. Ah, thanks for the tip! It’s curious that Windows 7 is fine with the VirtualBox SATA adapter when you install from the Win7 ISO but it causes a blue screen when you use it on an existing VMWare image. Does anyone have any good ideas about how to re-introduce the SATA controller?

    I’m very pleased to be able to ditch VMWare – Server is unusable on any modern configuration and Player is annoyingly limited.

  19. Great post. Thanks for the tips.
    Do you remember if you got your files and applications back when you did this? I tried this once and it seemed to work, but I didn’t see any of my personal files on there. Since then I made a royal mess and I’m restore the backup of my original VMware disk image from Time Machine before I try again. So I just thought I’d check if this method brings over apps and files too, or just the operating system.

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  21. I read a lot of migration tutorials and allways failed. (boot loop, bluescreens) Deleting the SCSI controller and attaching the VMDK file to the IDE controller did the job.
    Thank you for pointing it out! Helped me a lot to be able to use my Win7 image created with VMWare convert in a Linux installation.
    Now I can install Linux natively on my machine! YAY! One step closer to a Windows-free machine. Just needed my old Win7 installation for backup in case I might want to look up something of forgot to migrate data/setting from my old Win7.

    Thank you!

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