Executive Summary:

With virtualization becoming more common, administrators can find help developing and managing virtual environments with some of these free utilities. Converting physical systems to virtual machines (VMs) is one of the most common virtualization tasks, but you'll might also need help converting between Microsoft Virtual Server and VMware VMs. Other utilities can help you resize or benchmark your VMs.


With virtualization technology making deep inroads into almost every aspect of IT, assembling your virtualization toolkit can really help you be prepared to deal with the wide variety of situations that you’re likely to encounter. For instance, what do you do if you want to convert a virtual machine (VM) from Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 to VMware? Or what if you’ve created a Microsoft Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) image, but it’s run out of space and needs to be expanded? I’ve come up with a list of some of my favorite free virtualization tools for working with Microsoft or VMware VMs that can solve these problems and more.

10 Ultimate-P2V—Converting physical systems to VMs is one of the most common virtualization tasks. The Ultimate-P2V utility is essentially a plug-in for BartPE that creates new boot VM images by ghosting the physical image and then injecting drivers into a VMware VM image. This utility is far simpler to use than a tool such as Microsoft Virtual Server Migration Toolkit (VSMT), but it requires another third-party tool—Symantec Ghost or Acronis True Image, for instance—to create the disk image. You can find Ultimate-P2V at www.rtfm-ed.co.uk/?page_id=174.

9 Virtual Floppy Drive—Virtual Floppy Drive is another helpful tool; it lets you mount a virtual floppy drive from a VM. Creating a set of virtual floppy drives can be handy for loading storage drivers and other software for your VMs. Virtual Floppy Drive can be found at chitchat.at.infoseek.co.jp/ vmware/vfd.html.

8 ISO Recorder—ISO Recorder is my favorite free utility for working with ISO images, and ISO images are really handy for installing the OS and other software on a VM. ISO Recorder integrates into Windows Explorer’s context menu, and it lets you create ISO images and burn ISO images to CD-ROM or DVD. You can download ISO Recorder from isorecorder.alexfeinman.com/isorecorder.htm.

7 VMware Converter—This is my favorite conversion tool for VMware. VMware Converter is an easy-to–use, wizard-based tool that can convert either physical machines or Microsoft VMs to VMware VMs. VMware Converter works with Windows Server 2003 (32-bit and 64-bit), Windows XP (32-bit and 64-bit), Windows 2000, and Windows NT 4 (SP4 or later). You can download VMware Converter from www.vmware.com/products/converter.

6 VMDK to VHD Converter—If you’re looking for a tool that can convert the other way—from VMware to Microsoft images—then you’ll want to check out vmToolkit’s VMDK to VHD Converter. Because most free tools seem oriented toward making VMware images, this is a welcome addition if you need to deal with both VMware and Microsoft VMs. You’ll find the VMDK to VHD converter at vmtoolkit.com/files/folders/converters/entry8.aspx.

5 VMware Workstation 5.5 Disk Mount Utility— This utility lets you mount a VMware virtual hard disk file (.vmdk) on a Windows host. The virtual hard disk file is mounted as a drive, and you can read from and write to the .vmdk file. You can get VMware Workstation 5.5 Disk Mount Utility from www.vmware.com/download/eula/diskmount_ws_v55.html.

4 Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1’s VHDMount— VHDMount is Microsoft’s answer to VMware’s Disk Mount Utility. VHDMount is a commandline tool that lets you mount a VHD file (.vhd) as a local drive. VHDMount is included as part of Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 (which is itself free).

3 VHD Resizer—Expanding an existing virtual hard drive has always been a problem for both Microsoft and VMware VMs. VHD Resizer can expand and shrink Microsoft’s VHD files. It’s also able to convert between Fixed and Dynamic file types. VHD Resizer is found at vmtoolkit.com/files/folders/converters/entry87.aspx.

2 VMmark—Does it seem like VMware has too many entries in this list? It’s no wonder they’re the market leader in virtualization. VMmark is another powerful and free tool; this one lets you benchmark applications running in VMware VMs. You can find VMmark at www.vmware.com/products/vmmark.

1 Virtual Machine Remote Control Client Plus—VMRCplus lets you manage, configure, and connect to Microsoft VMs. Unlike Virtual Server, VMRCplus doesn’t require Microsoft IIS. VMRCplus can manage up to 32 VMs. You can download the Microsoft VMRCplus client from www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=80adc08c-bfc6-4c3a-b4f1-772f550ae791.