VMware Converter – Beware of OEM versions of Windows
I recently decided to virtualize my dying Exchange 2003 server to give it new life on new hardware. I’ve had bad luck running the VMware Converter from within Windows (hot clone) on a domain controller in the past. I’ve also performed a hot cone with no issues at all so it is really a crapshoot as to whether it will work. I decided to play it safe this time and I did a cold clone by booting from the VMware Converter CD.
The conversion process went smoothly, although it took 12 hours to complete. Upon completion, it automatically booted up the new virtual machine. I woke up the next morning and went to log in and I was prompted for Windows activation. I tried to activate online and it failed. I called the number for telephone activation and they told me my product ID was invalid and I would have to call support. I called support and they said I would have to pay for emergency after hours service (this was a Sunday). So I was out of luck.
I happen to own a Volume License version of Windows Server 2003 – it just wasn’t installed on this server which came with the Dell OEM version. I decided to boot from the CD and run a Windows repair with my VL CD. After 40 minutes, the install was complete and Windows was booting…and booting. It spent 1 hour on Preparing Network Connections and I finally got a login prompt. I logged in and waited another hour for my desktop to appear before giving up. I turned my old server back on.
Moral of the story – make sure you are running a Volume License version of Windows BEFORE you convert it to a virtual machine.