Move or transfer Windows 2008/2008R2 virtual machines between vSphere/ESXi hosts using Windows Backup

Posted on March 1, 2012

Something to note, this will work regardless of your ESXi versions. Because we are relying on the windows backup instead of vMotion or other tools, the VM host/datastore is not relevant.

1) Create a network share

This share must reside on a server or PC accessible to you virtual machine, and the user you will be used to connect to it must have full/read.

2) Log onto your existing virtual machine

Verify you can access this network share by IP or hostname (ie. \\computername\sharefolder). Do not proceed further until you can see and write to this folder from 1). 

3) Install the Windows Server Backup tools 

Load the Server Manager > Features > Add Features > Windows Server Backup Features (everything) > install 

4) Load the Windows Server Backup tools

Load the Administrator Tools -> Windows Server Backup 

5) Create a backup and dump your image to the network share you created 

Windows Server Backup > Backup Once > Full Server (recommended) > Remote Shared Folder > \\computername\sharefolder > Inherit 

You will be prompted for credentials.
MAKE SURE you use credentials that have full read/write access to the folder your shared!

START the backup! 

6) While the backup is running, create an empty VM on the new vSphere host

Load up your vSphere client ->CTRL-N

Configuration: Typical
Name:  You tell me!
Storage:  Choose the location for the new VM
Guest OS: Windows 2008 R2 64bit

Network:  Pick 1 network card, the correct network, and E1000 with Power On. DO NOT CHOOSE ANOTHER TYPE OF NETWORK CARD!
Windows 2008 R2 will recognize the e1000 with it's native drivers. You can change the network settings later.

Disk Provisioning: The size of your virtual disk size should be AT LEAST the size of the old VM virtual disk size.
I should note that you can also use this opportunity to INCREASE the size of your partitions. If your old VM is running out of space, crank it up here and Windows will increase the size of your partitions on restore.

Finish: Choose to "edit the virtual machine settings before completion" and click continue.

7) Verify your VM settings 

Make sure the RAM, CPU and other settings are verified for your old VM. This would be an excellent time to beef it up if you need to.

8) Configure the CD/DVD to mount and boot off of a Windows 2008/2008R2 Server image

Click the "New CD/DVD (adding)" devices -> side window -> Datastore ISO File or Host Device or Client Device > Find the ISO or DVD for windows server 2008 / 2008R2
Enable the "Connect at power on" option at the top.


9) Check the status of the running backup from earlier. Do not proceed until the backup is completed and successful. 

Once the backup is complete, power down the old VM. If you turn it back on, you run the risk of IP address, DNS and hostname conflicts.

10) Start the new Virtual Machine and start the Windows 2008 installation process

Choose your default language, time, keyboard -> next
Choose "Repair your computer" (bottom left)
Choose "restore your computer using a system image that you created earlier" > next
Choose "cancel" when it reports "Windows cannot find a system image on this computer"
Choose "select a system image" > next
Choose "advanced" > "Search for a system image on the network" > "yes"

You will now be provided a field to enter the network path to the backup share we created earlier. Make sure to type it in exactly as your testing value.


Click OK (it will now attempt to access that folder)
Enter the login credentials for the share you created.

If everything you entered and shared is correctly setup, you will be provided a populated table with the backup completed earlier.











Choose Next, Next

11) If you wish to increase the size of the partitions from the old VM, this is your chance.

12) Finish it up and get the restore started

This process could take minutes to hours depending on the size of your old VM.

13) Finish the new VM configuration and take it live

At this point, the snapshot of your previous VM is now live on the new VM.
The last steps include:

- Install the VMware tools using the built-in tools
- Adjust any network settings , network card types (i prefer the VMXNET3 drivers myself)
- Double check all services and applications are live after you reboot (vmware tools and network changes should be followed by a reboot)