Mac: Converting a VMWare Fusion Virtual Machine to Parallels Desktop

I’ve been using Parallels Desktop for Mac for nearly 2 months now as my day to day virtualization platform for SharePoint development, having shifted over to Parallels from VMWare Fusion 4, I have to say I’m very happy with the experience and the pro’s I outlined in a previous post have all continued to be borne out;

  • Parallels as a virtualization engine is stable
  • Parallels is consistent
  • Suspend and Resume are reliable and consistent
  • My guest OS’s are still blindingly fast
  • Its coped well with my Macbook Pro having a major meltdown and endured many and increasing spinny beachball kernel panic’s (which is another unrelated story of bad ju ju ending happily with the arrival of a new Intel Series 320 SSD)

2 problems with Parallels still niggle (an update to version 7.0.15054.722853 is available which I haven’t yet applied), 1 more so than the other;

  • While Parallels main windows honor Mac OS X preferences for opening in a preferred window (a la Snow Leopard spaces), guest OS container windows do not (i.e. when not in Coherence or Modality view modes)
  • Keyboard handling for stickey/modifier keys – as an example when you hold CTRL+SHIFT and RIGHT ARROW to select words, then release the CTRL key and move the cursor back (without releasing SHIFT), then the selection you’ve just made is lost and your cursor is back where you started from – Parallels you really must fix this)

In this post I’ll describe my experience of converting a guest OS from VMWare Fusion 4 to Parallels. The VM in question is a Windows 2008 Server Std R2 x64, with SharePoint 2007 and related development tools installed. Also installed in the guest OS is the VMWare Tools service.

The Parallels documentation doesn’t much describe the nitty gritty of this process, and simply says that you can convert existing virtual machines (from other vendors) to Parallels – so I decided to take them at their word.


  • I left VMWare Tools Installed (I’ve seen other posts which suggest that you should uninstall it)
  • Ensure AutoRun is enabled
  • Shutdown the virtual machine
  • Deleted existing snapshots

Converting the VMWare Virtual Machine.

Open Parallels and click File – New;

New Virtual Machine
New Virtual Machine

Click on “Add Existing Virtual Machine” and then click Continue.

Next navigate to an existing VMWare virtual machine (.vmwarevm) and select it. Parallels will now begin converting this virtual machine to a Parallels virtual machine.

Note: converting an existing virtual machine does not affect or change the original virtual machine at all, effectively it copies the virtual hard drives, converts them and builds a Parallels virtual machine around the converted copies, incidently keeping most of the original virtual machines configuration settings such a network, memory etc.

It’s also worth noting, and this surprised me somewhat, that Parallels converted all virtual hard drives from the original virtual machine and not just the 1st or system virtual hard drive.

How long the conversion takes, depends on how many virtual hard drives you have and their size, but for me (with 3 VHDs @ 50GB, 30GB and 20GB) it took around an hour and a half.

Once this stage is complete you’ll be presented with the following dialog;

Stage 1 Complete
Stage 1 Complete

The message displayed here is quite important if you want to streamline your conversion process as during the next stages Parallels performs some upgrade processes which rely on AutoRun being enabled (which if it isn’t you’ll have to complete manually), most notable of which is installation of the Parallels Tools into the guest OS.

With AutoRun enabled the upgrade process completes automatically;

Upgrade Stage
Upgrade Stage

as does installation of the Parallels Tools;

Installing Parallels Tools
Installing Parallels Tools

Once complete, you’ll be presented with the final dialog, after which your virtual machine is ready to use;


Having completed the conversion, logged into the new virtual machine and kicked its tyres, I did a shutdown and then went into the virtual machine configuration to edit the sizes of the virtual hard drives, I made the system drive bigger and reduced the sizes of the 2 additional virtual hard drives.

Fortunatley Parallels makes this easy, first you must shutdown the guest OS and ensure that there are no snapshots, then use the configuration editor to edit the hard disk sizes;

Editing Virtual Hard Disk Sizes
Editing Virtual Hard Disk Sizes

Final Observations.

Once all the conversion and VHD editing shenanegans was over the (now Parallels) virtual machine works perfectly and seems as fast as if I’d built a new Parallels VM from scratch, the VMWare Tools service is still installed but obviously not running and so can be uninstalled. Surprisingly the guest Windows OS didn’t need reactivation either.

Published by

Phil Harding

SharePoint Consultant, Developer, Father, Husband and Climber.

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