How to Fix: Virtualize Dell Windows Server 2003 (PERC RAID)

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Fabian A. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I have a very old Dell Windows 2003 Server with a PERC RAID card set up for storage. We are trying to convert this old server into a virtual machine, then migrate to Windows Server 2016. I tried using the utility Disk2VHD to image the C drive into a .VHD file, then run the .VHD file using Oracle VirtualBox. Unfortunately, I keep getting 'a disk read error occurred' every time I try to boot the virtual machine. I have read your credentials and am very impressed with your knowledge, and was wondering if you could help us convert this server? Any help would be appreciated! "

My response:

I asked Fabian if he would like me to connect to his server using my remote desktop support service, and he agreed.

Converting an old Windows Server 2003 to a virtual machine is not always an easy task for a few reasons. First, many Windows disk imaging / p2v (physical to virtual) programs I came across simply would not work on Windows Server 2003 or required insane licensing fees. Secondly, Fabian was using a PERC RAID card, which complicated the issue greatly because most virtual machine software runs off either IDE or SATA, with limited support for SCSI (or RAID).

I spent a few days going over this problem and I'll discuss some of the situations I came across.

How to Fix: Virtualize Dell Windows Server 2003 (PERC RAID)

As Fabian mentioned, the disk2vhd failed to convert his C drive to .VHD properly. When I tried mounting the .VHD inside of Oracle's VirtualBox, I received an error that 'a disk read error occurred'.

After researching disk2vhd 'a disk read error occurred', it was suggested that the MBR (master boot record) was not copied during the disk2vhd conversion. I believe this was likely an issue with older releases of disk2vhd; I made sure everything was selected the second time around, but the conversion still did not work. I also booted from Windows Server 2003 media to fix the MBR (master boot record) but that did not work, either.

At this point, I took the .VHD file and placed it onto a Windows 10 machine and attempted to mount the .VHD using Disk Management, which then reported that the drive was in RAW format (as opposed to NTFS). RAW format basically means the MFT (master file table) or the entire drive is corrupted. This should not happen, obviously.

I decided to abandon disk2vhd in search of another physical to virtual (p2v) conversion program.

Alternatives to Disk2VHD with Windows Server 2003

After some more research, I discovered other utilities that are still kept up to date and accessible and free to use. Here is a list:

  • VMWware vCenter Standalone Converter - this works on Windows Server 2003 R2 and above. Unfortunately Fabian is not using the R2 version. For almost all p2v (physical to virtual) jobs, this is my go to program. It creates files ready for VMWare Workstation, but those files can easily be converted to .VHD if you need to run Oracle VirtualBox, for example.
  • Clonezilla - this program requires a reboot to run in a Linux environment. As such, virtualizing a machine by remote in this manner is out of the question unless the server supports IPMI or if you're in physical contact with the server. That said, it is 100% free, and from what I've heard, works wonders.
  • Macrium Reflect - this runs from the Windows Server desktop environment. It has a 30 day trial for Windows Server editions, so if you plan to virtualize the main server, make sure you do it within the 30 day time limit, otherwise you will need to purchase the program if you intend to use it later. Not cheap!

I decided on Macrium Reflect because it was the only option that allowed me to convert Fabian's server by remote without having to reboot the machine. To get the job done, I made a regular disk image backup (archive) of the server's C drive into .mrimg files, then used 'Other Tasks -> Convert image to VHD' option inside of Macrium Reflect. IMPORTANT: when I selected the 000.mrimg file to convert to .VHD, the img2vhd reported it was "unable to convert." I chose the 001.mrimg file and it worked. I am not sure why - but if this happens, try the next file in the series.

How to Fix: VirtualBox Error 0x0000007b

After the .VHD was created, I used Oracle VirtualBox to boot the virtual machine. Windows Server 2003 started to boot as normal, but after about 10 seconds I was greeted with a blue screen of death (BSOD) boot error 0x0000007b.

After much research I discovered that this error was related to the Dell PERC RAID card. Basically, VirtualBox set the boot drive to use a SATA port, and Windows Server 2003 was expecting it on the PERC RAID configuration. When it was not found, Windows Server 2003 failed with boot error 0x0000007b.

Here is how I fixed it:

  1. First, I needed to specify that VirtualBox use IDE ICH6 interface. I shut the virtual machine down, then right clicked the virtual machine and selected "Settings".
  2. The "Settings" window appeared. Initially the .VHD file was located under "Controller: SATA". I clicked the green icon that says "Adds new storage controller" and added an "IDE" controller. Once the IDE controller was added, I changed the "type" to "PIIX4" (which is apparently ICH6 compatible), then clicked the blue disk icon with a green plus sign to add the .VHD to the IDE controller. Once that was done, I removed the old SATA controller and .VHD file attached to it, then booted the virtual machine without any issues!
  3. After a bit more research, I read that an IDE controller, even when in a virtualized environment will run slower than SATA or SCSI. To fix this you need to add the SATA / SCSI controller, then boot Windows (under the IDE interface) so the new SATA / SCSI controllers are added into the Windows Registry. I did just that; however, in Fabian's case, the SATA controller would not work - but worked fine with the SCSI controller, which was recognized as an LSI controller. I made these changes and the virtual machine is running fine.

Job complete! I hope this helps anyone else struggling with this issue.

Additional 1-on-1 Support: From Dennis

If you are trying to convert a Windows 2003 Server - or any machine for that matter - to a virtual machine, I can help using my remote desktop support service. Simply contact me, briefly describing the issue and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question -- or even a computer problem that needs fixing -- please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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