How to Convert a Physical Server to a Citrix Xen Virtual Server (P2V)

The Citrix Xen Server is a free enterprise-class server virtualization solution that is a direct competitor to VMware ESXi. Both are free and it’s actually quite hard to tell which one is better.

Some people swear by VMware because of longer experience with virtualization technology while others say that Citrix has a better product. I’m not really sure, but in this post I’m going to talk about one feature that the VMware product does very well: converting a physical server into virtual server.

It’s pretty much the easiest thing in the world to virtualize a physical server using VMware, but a bit more involved using Citrix Xen. Actually, it’s not a difficult process, it’s just not as easy to find for some strange reason, than the tool for VMware.

Note: There are two tools for physical to virtual conversion (P2V) when working with Xen, either Linux to Xen or Windows to Xen.

Move Windows server to XenServer Host

To import a Windows machine, you will need the XenConvert tool, which comes in 32-bit and 64-bit flavors. You can use this tool to perform the following type of conversion:

Convert a single VHD or an entire virtual machine to a XVA or XenServer (VHD to XVA)

So where do you find the XenConvert tool? Well, it’s not exactly in the most conspicuous place known to man. In order to download it, you have to log into MyCitrix and then click on Downloads and finally click on XenServer 5.

When you click on XenServer 5, you will see a link in the Helpful Resources section to XenConvert for 32-bit and 64-bit. Kind of a pain and not really sure why they don’t have it on the main site since it’s a free download!

physical to virtual xen server

Move Linux server to XenServer Host

In order to P2V a Linux server to a XenServer host, you need to reboot the machine you want to convert and boot from the XenServer Installation CD.

When you see the Welcome to XenServer screen, select OK and the installer will do some hardware detection, etc. After that, you will get four choices, one of them being

Convert an existing OS on this machine to a VM (P2V)

linux to xen server

And that’s it! Follow the rest of the prompts and the server will be virtualized. After it is complete, you will need to attach a VIF in order to have external network connectivity.

If you are having issues converting either a Windows or Linux server to XenServer, post a comment and I’ll try to help out! Enjoy!

Comments [14]

  1. Hey,

    Does this also work if I want to convert a normal Win XP Pro System into a VMWare image?


  2. Hi,

    when starting a P2V from a Debian Etch Server (Skolelinux 3.0r1), i always get an error, that this machine could not be converted. The Citrix Xenserver Forum says, that their tools do not support Debian!

    Is there another way or tool to P2V a Debian?



  3. Hi Asseem,

    I'm a newbee with Citrix Xenserver. I tried to convert a Debian Sarge 3.1 Server (old hardware) with the convert tool (tried 5.0 and 5.5)

    During boot from the CD-with convert tool, I see that several .img files are loaded from cd

    Than a very short message that contains 2 of blocks of numbers a blank screen and then the server reboots.

    I suspect that the old HP hardware causes this problem but I'm not sure, because I don't see messages or logs.

    Hardware details server:

    HP LC3

    Pentium II 450Mhz

    256Mb ram

    Phoenix bios 4.0618

    Netserver Man Contr a05.04

    Adatec AIC 7880 SCSI Bios V131s2

    HP Netraid adapter Bios version A04.01. OCT 98


    ext 3 FS

    Hopefully you can give me a Tip or something.

    Thanks in advance!


  4. Hi Aseem,

    I am looking at this feature as a potential solution to remotely regaining control over a Windows 2008 server that is experiencing network connectivity issues. I have been testing the idea locally, to see if XenServer can "undercut" a windows installation and convert it to a virtual machine all in one, but I am having trouble at the conversion stage. The prompt asks me to enter the host, username, and password for the XenServer that I want to move the virtual machine to-be to. Does this mean that I have to have another XenServer already setup for the Virtual Machine? In other words, can XenServer undercut a Windows Server 2008 installation and convert it to a virtual machine on top of itself all within the installation process?



  5. laney,

    When you open XenConvert you will notice the options to and from. You would choose the first option which would be "This machine (server 2008 machine)" , and what you're converting it to, choose the Xen Virtual Appliance, instead of the first choice. This will allow you to choose a destination to store the converted file(s) which will output a "ova.xml" file, and a folder called "hda" containing chunk.gz tar files.

    Once this process is complete you can open XenCenter and go to import a VM, click browse and when the window opens, in the "Files of Type" drop down menu choose "Xen Virtual Appliance Version 1 (ova.xml)". This will allow you to browse to that "ova.xml" file XenConvert created and will import your machine (hypothetically). They don't tell you that XenConvert only makes XVA Version 1 files, not Version 2 which would be VM.XVA . Hope this helps!

  6. Hi,

    Taken a project on setting up Xenserver on Presently working windows 2003 with Active Directory and Domain controller.
    also has microsoft vm installed for server and terminal clients licensing.

    Could you guide me how to setup Xenserver and Virtualize windows 2003 with active directory system along with Microsoft VM. Also planning to deploy additional vms Ubuntu Server, Zimbra Mail Server. My hardware platform is DELL R710 Raid 5 with 16GB Memory, 300GB HDD.

    Thanks in advance.


  7. Hi. I´m trying transform a windows physical machine in a virtual machine using the XenConvert program, but in the medium of instalation appear this error message for me: "the specified storage repository has insufficient space". My storage have 130Gb of open space and my VM have 18Gb. What i have doing to resolve this problem? I´m from brasil and excuse me for my bad english! :P

  8. This does not seem to work if the Linux server is installed on an mdadm raid.

  9. Hi to everybody.

    Does any of you have any error converting Windows 2008 from physical to virtual with XenServer Converter?

    I can't start a conversion. Tried on both a Windows 2008 with domain and databases and on a simple 2008 standard. After a couple of minutes, it stops with errors.

    Thank you for any answer.


  10. I converted a live server , Windows Server 2003 SBS, to import XenServer (It has enough resources HDD 1.2TB, 32GB) using XenConvert, done successfully. I install the XenConvert in the SBS live server, then run from SBS to transfer to Xen. Now, when I start the server 2003 in the XenServer, it produces a blue screen.

    Can you please help me? How can I fix this issue?

  11. Hi, hopefully you have a suggestion for me. Thanks for this article, there's not much info in regards to migrating a Linux server. What I'm having trouble with, is I don't see the option to "Convert an existing OS…"

    After I choose the keyboard layout, I am sent directly to a page that warns installing XenServer will overwrite my hard drives and to back them up. I never have the option to convert. Any help will be appreciated!!

  12. Hi, I have same problem as colegue. If I want migrate a physical Linux server I boot from install CD Citrix XenServer 5.6.2 I never have the option to convert. Any help for me please?

  13. Awesome, exactly what I was looking for!

  14. i want to increase the size of /var/opt partion so that i could save the iso image into this, as i tried doing by LVM but it won’t allow me to increase the xenserver in built partion as the default size is very less, so please give me some solution that how i could increase the default size of xenserver partition or please give me any correction.

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