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Transferring Parallels VM to VirtualBox

I have been a Parallels user for some time now. Though I like the software and its ease of use, I am really tired of paying upgrade fees to download its new versions. For that reason, I decided to look into VirtualBox. Its from Oracle and most of my colleagues are happy with it.

I have had few VM(s) configured in my system. After installing VirtualBox, I wanted to preserve them and migrate everyone of them. First I was not sure how to go about. I looked at VirtualBox to see if they had conversion tools that might help. I found out that VirtualBox provides a command line tool called VBoxManage. Using this tool in your host OS, you can clone your existing virtual hard drives. The following VBoxManage control input shows that VDI, VMDK, VHD, RAW and other file types can be used in the cloning process.

                            [--format VDI|VMDK|VHD|RAW|]
                            [--variant Standard,Fixed,Split2G,Stream,ESX]

In my Mac, Parallels files were located under Documents/Parallels folder. They had the .pvm extensions. Right clicking on these files and selecting "Show Package Contents" from the context menu displays all associated files of the chosen VM. The .hdd file is also a package file that you can right click and view the contents of through "Show Package Contents".  When I did that I saw many .hds files large in sizes (5,6,7 GBs) and few XML files. I was not sure how to use these .hds files as I was not sure which one of these would work. I tried one and it did not work. 

I continued to research online and came across a very nicely written article that talked about how to convert Parallel VMs to VirtualBox through VMWare Fusion. This article can be found here.

Basically, you have to download VMWare Fusion and convert your Parallels VMs to VMDK files which then can be used by VBoxManage to create a VDI file. Steps are clearly states in the above linked article on how to install and convert your Parallels t VMDK. Once you have the VMDK, all you have to do this use the VBoxManage command line to convert the VMDK to VDI like:

VBoxManage clonehd --format VDI name_of_your_vmdk_file.vmdk name_of_your_new_image_can_be_anything.vdi

This command takes few minutes to complete. Once it is done,  you can copy it into any folder and use VirtualBox GUI to create a new VM from an existing hard drive. Again, the above link wonderfully explains how to accomplish it. 

In my case, I was transferring an Ubuntu image and it was a 64 bit version. You need to make sure to select Ubuntu(64) from the available list when you are creating your VirtualBox image. I originally forgot about this and selected Ubuntu which is 32 bit and it did not work as expected. 

Once I created and started my new VM in VirtualBox, guest Ubuntu OS started loading fine. I was able to see my files. I however was having problems seeing the menu bar. I was using Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. I did a quick research and found out that lots of people were having this problem and most everything I found online referred to this solution

I tried everything on that list more than few times but I could not get Unity to properly function. I even uninstalled and re-installed but it made no different. I ended up installing GNOME Desktop and use it instead of Unity. This fixed the problem for me. I now have access to applications an menubar etc. 

For Mac users CTRL + ALT + F1 combination only worked for me when I also pressed the FN key. If you are going to try the fix in the ubuntu forum, make sure you try fn + ctrl + alt + f1 to get to tty1.