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Deploy a Virtual Machine from Oracle VirtualBox to VMware ESXi 5.5+

If you've recently attempted to deploy an .ova straight from VirtualBox to VMware ESXi, you're probably familiar with the "this OVF package requires unsupported hardware" error.

This article provides a step-by-step procedure for exporting virtual machines from Oracle VirtualBox, and deploying them to VMware ESXi 5.5 (and above) without any hardware compatibility issues.

#1. Export the VM to OVA with VirtualBox

Begin by exporting the virtual machine using VirtualBox (File > Export Appliance and select the machine you want to export.) This'll create an .ova file in your chosen directory.

Ensure Open Virtualization Appliance 1.0 is selected (selected by default) to prevent unsupported StorageItem errors when deploying to VMware ESXi.

#2. Convert to OVF with VMware's ovftool

Next, convert the .ova file to an .ovf package using VMware's Open Virtualisation Format Tool (ovftool.)

You can download this tool directly from VMware by following this link (requires an account.) Register or sign in, select the respective version for your OS, and follow the installation guide. Verify the installation with:

> ovftool.exe --version
VMware ovftool 4.6.0 (build-21452615)

We can then convert the file to an .ovf package like so:

> ovftool.exe --lax path/to/source.ova path/to/destination.ovf
Opening OVA source: source.ova
Opening OVA target: destination.ovf
Writing OVF package: destination.ovf
Disk progress: 1%

Once the conversion is complete, you'll get three new files in your chosen path. An .ovf descriptor file, a .vmdk virtual disk file, and a .mf manifest file.

#3. Edit the OVF's Descriptor File

Let's crack open the .ovf file in a text-editor so we can make a few changes. Using a default editor like Notepad will suffice here.

First, replace the VirtualSystemType from virtualbox-2.2 to vmx-10:


If you're using an earlier or later version of ESXi, see this post for the respective virtual hardware version. ESXi 5.5 supports up to vmx-10.

Next, replace the SATA Controller with SCSI. Look out for the following container...

<rasd:Description>SATA Controller</rasd:Description>

... and replace it with the following:

<rasd:Description>SCSI Controller</rasd:Description>

Lastly, make the sound card optional by adding ovf:required="false" in the <Item> tag:

<Item ovf:required="false">
<rasd:Description>Sound Card</rasd:Description>

Save and exit to apply the changes.

#4. Update the SHA-256 Key

Since we've made changes to the .ovf file, we'll need to update the SHA-256 value in the manifest file.

*nix users can use sha256sum to generate the new hash value, for example:

$ sha256sum path/to/source.ovf
120d430aaa2118951c5fccf3a817a6d1e150b3afda1ee054d10965fcadd52610 source.ovf

For Windows users, the quickest way to do this is by using PowerShell's Get-FileHash to generate the hash. Open PowerShell and run:

> Get-FileHash -Algorithm SHA256 path/to/source.ovf
Algorithm Hash Path
--------- ---- ----
SHA256 120D430AAA2118951C5FCCF3A817A6D1E150B3AFDA1EE054D10965FCADD52610 ...

You can also use Microsoft's File Checksum Integrity Verifier (fciv), a command-line utility for generating and validating checksums.

Once you have the key, open the .mf file in a text-editor and replace the existing .ovf value with the new one. Again, save and exit to apply the change.

#5. Convert OVF to OVA with VMware's ovftool

The last step is to convert our .ovf package back to an .ova file. Once again, we can use ovftool to do this.

> ovftool.exe --lax path/to/source.ovf path/to/destination.ova
Opening OVF source: source.ovf
The manifest validates
Opening OVA target: destination.ova
Writing OVA package: destination.ova
Disk progress: 1%

You can now deploy your machine to VMware ESXi without any hardware issues.

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