I searched the vmware forums for quite a long time looking for a way to migrate VMs from a 2.5 server to a 3.01 server without using VirtualCenter. After digging around and getting help from everybody, I thought I would complile all the steps I used for those of you that might be looking for the same answers.
Scenario: I have two ESX servers. The first server is an 2.5.2 server that is not SAN attached. All VMs are stored on local disk. The second ESX server is a brand new ESX 3.01 server that IS SAN attached. I was unable to use the upgrade method on the 2.5 server due to too many errors on the preupgrade script. My method was to install 3.01 on the new server, migrate the VMs from 2.5.2 to the new 3.01 server, and upgrade each VM from the new server. The only quirk is I don't have VirtualCenter. Here are the steps I took to complete this task:
1) Due to my partitioning scheme and lack of storage on the 2.5.2 server, I had to export the virtual machines to an ext3 partition. This has to be done using vmkfstools: vmkfstools -e /path/to/save/export.vmdk /vmfs/ Development. Use the long string of characters instead of 'development'. For example, vmkfstools -i /import_temp/exported.vmdk /vmfs/volumes/324123423wefqwf23r23r12r/import/
5) After the vmdk was imported, I connected the VI client directly to the ESX server. From there I created new VM just like you normally would. Although, instead of selecting 'typical' I chose 'Custom'. Follow the wizzard, but be sure to select 'Use an existing disk'. Select the name of the disk you imported in step 4 (import.vmdk in my example).
6) The VM should now be function on your 3.01 server, but you will need to upgrade the hardware. While the new VM is powered off, right-click on it and select 'Upgrade Virtual Hardware'. This should only take a second or two. You can verify the version (2.5 vs. 3.0) by right-clicking and choose 'Edit Settings'. In the top-right corner you should see, 'ESX 3.x Virtual Machine'.
7) You will now need to ugprade VMware Tools. Power on the virtual machine and install Vmware Tools like you normally would (i.e. log into the OS, right-click on the virtual machine, then click Install VMware Tools).
8) Run through the VMware Tools wizzard, then restart the VM. You should now have a fully functional and converted VM-3 without needing VirtualCenter or SAN attached storage.
I'm sure there are many other ways to do this, but I was not able to find any documentation that had step-by-step instructions. Feel free to add any comments if there is a way to complete this task more efficiently, but please elaborate on your explanation.
PS - Don't forget to update the name of your networks if they are different.
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