Network adapter disappears when migrating a virtual machine from Windows XP to Windows 7

One of the key Horizon Mirage’s use cases is the migration from Windows XP to Windows 7. Testing and optimizing the migration process using physical PCs and notebooks can be cumbersome so you may want use virtual machines for this task.

VMware ESXi, Workstation and Fusion are emulating different hardware (network adapter, disk controller) for virtual machines based on the operating system. As you can see in the picture below a standard Windows XP VM does have other hardware than a Windows 7 virtual machine.

VMHardwareXPvs7

Windows XP is using the “Flexibel” network adapter by default while a Windows 7 VM is using the “E1000” adapter.  Now, if you deployed your VM using the default settings and you try to migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7 your virtual machine ends up having no network adapter.

Normally Mirage is capable migrating Windows across different hardware platforms and thanks to the driver layer it is even possible to inject new drivers during the migration process. In this case it is unfortunately not a missing driver but rather an incompatibility between Windows 7 and the “Flexibel” network adapter which causes the problem.

To fix this problem and getting the migration process to work is pretty straight forward. Just choose a network adapter which is compatible with Windows XP and Windows 7. The following network adapters will work on both operating systems:

  • VMXNET3
  • E1000

For each of this adapter you have to consider one additional step.

VMXNET3

When using the VMXNET3 adapter the VMware Tools have to be installed on your Windows XP VM and your Windows 7 base layer you want to test.

E1000

Unfortunately Windows XP doesn’t include drivers for the E1000 out of the box. You have to download the driver from Intel and install them inside your VM.

On a Windows XP Professional 32-bit guest, the e1000 NIC driver is not automatically available even though the e1000 vNIC is supported
The e1000 vNIC is supported and can be selected for the Windows XP Professional 32-bit guest. However, Microsoft does not provide the e1000 driver with the Windows XP 32-bit releases. The driver must be downloaded separately.
Source: http://kb.vmware.com/kb/1016456

When installing the driver on Windows XP you only need to install the driver itself. You don’t need to install the Device Manager or Advanced Network Services feature.

E1000DriverWinXP

After choosing the right network adapter migrating virtual machines from Windows XP to Windows 7 using Horizon Mirage works like a charme. This guide should also work with 64-bit versions of Windows, but I haven’t tested it yet.

Sources: VMware, VMware (2)

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