You would think that exporting a virtual machine from VirtualBox and importing it into VMware Fusion or VMware Workstation was a straightforward process right? Especially because you can use the ubiquitous OVF format, also right?

Well, not really, unfortunately. If you try to import a VM into either Fusion or Workstation after exporting it with VirtualBox, it is very likely you are going to receive an error message. Simply exporting and importing will not always work (in my experience, an exception to this is when you export from VirtualBox on Windows and import in VMware Workstation). You will either get errors about size mismatches or corrupted OVF files or something else entirely.

The official VMware documentation was not helpful at all. Even if you tried following the multiple articles on this topic, you would still keep receiving the same error messages. For reference, these were the articles I followed:

Judging by the ratings of these articles, I suspect I am not the only one who found them unhelpful ;)

Luckily, it is indeed possible to do this, but the process involves some manual work. This is what you should do if you want to export a VM from VirtualBox and import in into VMware Fusion or Workstation.

  1. Shutdown your VM in VirtualBox if it’s still running;
  2. File > Export Appliance…
  3. Important: select OVF 1.0 and Write Manifest here. Using OVF 2.0 will not work, I haven’t found a way to make it work yet, not even following these steps
  4. Open the exported appliance with an your favourite zip program
  5. Now you need the command-line tool vmware-vdiskmanager to convert this appliance into a format that VMware will be able to import
    1. If you are using Fusion on a Mac, you will find this under /Applications/VMware\ Fusion.app/Contents/Library/vmware-vdiskmanager
    2. If you are using Workstation on Windows, you will find it under C:\Program Files (x86)\vmware\vmware workstation
  6. Run
    vmware-vdiskmanager -r <exportedDisk>.vmdk -t 2 <newDisk>.vmdk
    1. I had some issues simply overwriting the exported .vmdk file with the new one, so I created a new -vmdk file with this command and then deleted the old one. Perhaps this will work but I haven’t gone back and attempted this again.
  7. Launch VMware Fusion or Workstation and create a new virtual machine using an existing disk
  8. When you are prompted to select what disk to use, select the new .vmdk file you have just converted
  9. If you are prompted to keep the existing disk format or to convert it, choose to convert it
  10. Finish creating the VM and launch it

If everything went fine, your virtual machine should now start in VMware Fusion and Workstation.

At this point, just remember to uninstall the VirtualBox tools if you had them installed and install the VMware Tools in their place. You could also uninstall the VirtualBox tools before you export your VM if you prefer.

Kudos to WoodyZ and to TwoScoops72 from the VMware Community for helping out with this one. It took me a lot of time to find that discussion on Google, so I thought about making a post on this to hopefully make the search easier for everyone in the future.