Error loading operating system after vmware converter

Today I performed a p2v conversion of a Windows XP workstation into VMWare ESXi using the free VMware Converter. This tool is really wonderful, but sometimes it likes to leave windows in an inconsistent state – especially if you resize the partition.
This case is complicated by the fact that the source computer has the Dell recovery partition, which I decided to bring along as well. After conversion, I shut down the source PC, and power on the VM, only to get Error loading operating system.

The internets failed me. Plenty of people have had the problem, but most of the solutions involved Linux or Vista+ (or reformatting. Obviously not an option). Additionally, I have encountered this problem when performing a p2v on a Server 2008 box…

I tried using the windows XP cd recovery console with fixboot and fixmbr. It didn’t work. I fooled around with the UBCD. Again, didn’t work (and wasted a lot of time) Finally, I fell back on previous experience, and found my solution: use the server 2008 CD to fix windows XP! (This would probably work with the Vista or windows 7 images as well)

So here are the steps to fix the “Error loading operating system” issue (with Windows XP ONLY) caused by vmware converter:

  1. Boot with a Server 2008 disk (Vista, Win 7 might work as well)
  2. At the language screen click next
  3. At the “Install windows” screen, click “Repair your computer” to the lower left
  4. The next screen “System Recovery Options” will have an empty list, but that is ok! Click Next
  5. Click “Command Prompt”
  6. At the command prompt, type the following:
    bootsect /nt52 ALL /force /mbr
    note: in my case, using “ALL” instead of “c:” or “SYS” was what finally solved it
  7. exit out and reboot – with any luck, windows XP will now boot!

If you still have a problem, my only other suggestion would be to use diskpart to ensure that the correct partition is active. If that diesn’t solve it, maybe the other Google results will

Good luck, and please leave a comment if this helped!

9 thoughts on “Error loading operating system after vmware converter

  1. Hey oneofakind,
    Sorry to hear it didn’t work. I would suggest you also try running bootsect with the following options:
    bootsect /nt52 c: /force /mbr
    bootsect /nt52 SYS /force /mbr

    There is a possibility that the startup repair option on a Vista or windows 7 disk might be able to help, but I’ve never tried.

    • That is odd… glad you found a workaround though!

      Actually, the startup repair on the windows 7 disk can be a lifesaver on server 2008 as well

  2. Thanks, you saved my day. I even mounted VM drive to another WindowsXP and tried to fix it with tools there, but the only thing that really worked was Windows7 bootable medium.

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