Converting Parallels VMs to work with VirtualBox

As I find my need for virtual machines increasing and my satisfaction with Parallels new licensing options decreasing, I am working on converting much of my testing to use VirtualBox. Provided by Oracle and free, it does the things I need for testing environments. There’s a chance that I may try out VMWare Fusion for the ESXi integration that Rich Trouton writes about for a future project, but for now – getting my Windows VMs into a standard format is the task at hand.

We do this by prepping the image and then using VMWare’s Converter tool to live-create a VHD file out of the VM. There are other tools to do this directly from Parallels -> VHD without this intermediate step, but none that I have found on a Mac just yet.

You will need somewhere to store the image that is NOT on the C: drive of the machine you are converting. I used an existing SMB share from one of our Mac servers – you can also use a USB disk if that is easier for you.

  1. Make a backup copy of the Parallels image, just in case something goes terribly wrong. This is as easy as copy-pasting the pvm in ~/Documents/Parallels.
  2. Boot the VM you would like to convert.
  3. Shut down all programs you’re using.
  4. From the Control Panel, uninstall the Parallels Tools software. You may need to reboot after this (it will prompt you if so).
  5. Sign up for a VMWare account and download their (quite excellent) VMWare Converter.
  6. Install the VMWare Converter onto the VM
  7. Open the VMWare Converter. From the menu bar, select “Convert Machine” to start the conversion wizard. Use the following options:
    1. “Powered on machine” and “This local machine” tells the converter to look at the currently booted VM system
    2. Select your non-C-drive storage
    3. Depending on your space requirements, select either the minimum space (expanding disk) or max space (non-expanding disk)
  8. Let the converter run. This may take a while if you have a bunch of stuff on the VM.
  9. After the conversion is finished, open VirtualBox and create a new VM. When prompted about what to do regarding a hard drive, select the option to not create the drive.
  10. Select the newly created VM and go to its settings -> storage. Press the hard drive with the green plus icon under the list to add a new disk under the SATA controller and select “hard disk” and, when prompted, choose “Use existing disk.”
  11. Choose the disk you converted.
  12. Boot!

If you get blue screens on boot, it’s likely that you forgot to uninstall Parallels tools.