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Is it possible to use the free VMWare player virtual machines Microsoft provides via in VMWare ESXi?

I downloaded a WinXP IE8 machine, from which I extracted a .mf, .ovf and .vmdk. I can open the .ovf in ESXi 5.5.0 no problem, but during this setup, there's no opportunity to use a pre-existing virtual disk, even if I have uploaded it to one of my ESXi datastores.

I tried finishing the template set-up and then replacing the .vmdk created by that process, however, this resulted in an unbootable machine.

I also tried converting the .vmdk using VMWare Converter (no option to do this) and seeing if I could export a machine after loading it in VMWare Player. No luck there, as VMWare Player doesn't see to have an export option.

Can someone help?

UPDATE - SOLVED, see my answer below.

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SOLVED - The answer was actually blindingly simple, and merely something I missed while deploying the OVF template. When choosing the disk provisioning strategy, you must select "thin provisioning" and then the .vmdk file supplied by Microsoft will be uploaded from the desktop (and presumably converted on-the-fly).

I missed this, as I chose the default option - thick provisioning, which resulted in an incompatible disk file.

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If that .vmdk file you downloaded contains the bootable OS for the XP machine, then you should be able to do the following:

  1. Create a new VM in ESXi, but skip creating a hard disk.
  2. Once the VM is created browse the database and copy the .vmdk file into the folder for the new VM
  3. Edit the VM's settings and add that .vmdk file to the VM.
  4. Try to boot the VM.
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I tried this too, and it complained, but in fact the answer was ridiculously simple (see above). – RCross Jan 7 '14 at 13:53

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