Cool Solutions

The Virtual alphabet, from P to V…


December 12, 2006 1:36 am





Oh, all right, it’s nothing to do with the alphabet, but it is about P to V – physical to virtual: one problem you may come across when trying to create virtual machines from physical ones.

I had a customer who needed to send me a copy of their PC: so they took a ZEN image, put it on a DVD and posted it to me (it was about 3.5gb, and uploading that to was going to take just a bit too long). I used the DVD to create an image in VMWARE, but immediately got a BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death) saying INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_DEVICE. I slapped myself around a bit, for forgetting that VMWARE, when creating new virtual disks, likes to create SCSI disks, which wasn’t what I needed! So I deleted the disk, created an IDE one and repeated the process – same problem 🙁 What was happening was that W2k (in this instance, but XP does it as well) had only installed the disk drivers for the controller in the original PC, and so couldn’t find my virtual disk. So at this point, I did what most people who work in IT would do: I used a search engine… lots of hits, but the most succinct was this Move an IDE Drive w/Windows 2000 or XP to A New System which shows that you need to add at most four files to your image plus some registry entries to make it work on all standard IDE controllers.

The sneaky thing that I did was rather than ask the guy to send me the whole updated image, I sent him the .reg file from the web site, asked him to apply it to his PC, then re-image it, but delete everything from it except c:\winnt\system32\config\system (obviously with XP that would be c:\windows\…) which is where HKLM\system is physically stored. I used image explorer to replace the system file in the image, added the device drivers, and the image boots just fine!

Now all I need to do is fix the problem that led him to send me the image in the first place…

Stop Press: See the post from Klaus Arpe, where he points out that you can load the “system” file into regedit under a temporary hive, which would have saved me even more work – thanks Klaus!

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Disclaimer: This content is not supported by Micro Focus. It was contributed by a community member and is published "as is." It seems to have worked for at least one person, and might work for you. But please be sure to test it thoroughly before using it in a production environment.


  1. By:Marcus


    Have you used the next version of VmWare’s P2V called Convertor, it’s supposed to work while the original box is still running unlike P2V where you boot from a Knoppix based image.

    Went on the Virtual Infrastructure 3 course a few weeks back in Toronto, very good fun.

    have fun


  2. By:Shaun Pond

    Yes, I had a quick look at it, it certainly looks interesting – of course, in this instance I didn’t have the physical server, but I guess, if it deals with the drivers, it would be a good option to get people to use before they send an image of a windows box.

  3. By:David Rickard

    I’ve tried imaging in Virtual PC 2005 – it sucks! It takes an AGE to do it, and usually falls over anyway. I pulled an image from our servers for our student PCs, which took about 8 hours. After all that imaging, it wouldn’t boot. Just a blank screen! I think I’ll try VMWare this time. I only used Virtual PC because it was free.

  4. By:Shaun Pond

    I used to use Virtual PC – before MS bought it: I had to give up because it didn’t support NetWare as a client. I have a windows and Linux workstation VMWARE license I use, and I took out a VMTN subscription (with my own money!) so I can install what I like in my lab without worry.

  5. Great post. I’ve had this problem but didn’t have the time or energy to track a solution down. I’m gonna put this in my Scrapbook (firefox extension)

  6. By:Gavin

    It would generally just be easier to change the Disk Controller to Standard in XP and then take an image.

    This is what you do when using any imaging that goes across different machine types.

    This generally solves all those translation issues.

    BTW VMWare Server is free – Works fine on XP/2003 and Linux.. Far better than the MS offerings.

  7. By:Dennis Crowther

    Cool. I have done the P to V thing a couple of times, but I have had to repair/reinstall from the Windows CD to get it to work. This looks like it will be much easier.

  8. By:Shaun Pond

    Thanks Grant, you can imagine how I felt after I got the image and it Blue-screened on me – he’d sent it over 9,000 miles after all!

  9. By:Klaus Arpe

    You could have done that locally too. Regedit allows to directly edit Registry files. Use the Function “Lode Hive” and load te Registry file from your Image. Do the change an with “Unload hive” the file is saved back. This works for HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE and HKEY_USERS. You must give a temporary name for the Sukey.

  10. …and NetWare! The Free VMware Server solution running on both Windows and Linux is the best solutions for testing purposes. I use it all the time.

  11. By:Shaun Pond

    True, but of course I already had the image, and didn’t want the guy to have to ship another DVD half-way across the world 😉

  12. By:Shaun Pond

    I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was!

  13. By:Shaun Pond

    Hey that’s good – to be honest I had presumed that the file “system” was not readable outside of a running windows environment! Looking at the file, you get ControlSet001 and ControlSet002, so a slight change to that .reg file to import to the temporary hive under ConstrolSet001 would have done the trick. Much easier, thanks!

  14. By:Joel Garrett

    If you are using VMware Workstation 5.x don’t forget that you have the option of using the built-in VM importer feature, which can read Ghost 10 image files directly – requires an extra step, but Ghost 10 is one heckuva lot easier to swallow for folks on a tight budget. VMware Workstation and Server also both come with command line utilities which can be used to mount a virtual disk image so that you can add/delete files from an image without booting it and even do cool things like resize virtual disks, convert from IDE to SCSI, etc. (granted, for the resize you’ll still need something like Ranish Partition Manager or Partition Magic to actually resize the OS partitions) This comes in handy when you are importing an image from a physical machine’s Ghost image which had a disk size of like 80 GB and you want to pare down the max size of the virtual machine’s virtual disk.

  15. By:Chris Hopp

    I’ve had good success doing P2V with Personal Backup Appliance:

    It uses Partimage and other Open Source tools to create an easy to use imaging system. It is not as sophisticated as ZENWorks or Ghost. But, for a free (GPL) product, it works surprisingly well. Good documentation, too.

    Discussion forums are here:

  16. By:Andrew Armstrong

    The Vmware P2V utility (now called converter) will automatically fix drivers within an existing virtual machine. I use the zen imaging utility to create a clone of a physical machine, then run the P2V utility against the vmware disk files. Fixes any issues with disk (and other) drivers. Would have saved some hassle….

  17. By:Joel Garrett

    P2V/Converter are NOT free. The V2V/importer built into Workstation 5.x does many of the same driver fixups at no additional licensing charge.

  18. By:Bert Hoogendoorn

    I used the VMware Virtual Machine Importer 2 once for a altiris w2k3 image works excellent, don’t know for windows XP.

    BTW it is also free.