How to vMotion a VM without vCenter

Well here I am… again…

In short, you figure… “Ummm just vMotion the VM in vCenter” and for the most part I would agree, however what do you do if you need to move a VM, for example vCenter, and it just so happens to be on an ESXi host that is not within a cluster with other similar ESXi hosts, or in a cluster without EVC? (In most cases rare, sure) However I happened to be just in that situation recently.

First thing I thought I’d just copy the files via ESXi console, using the CP command, and it for the most part it seemed to work for one smaller VM. However when I went to do it against vCenter. It seemed to be going longer then I had expected. After nearly an hour… I decided to see what was going on… but since I was just using CP command how do I find out the processes time?

Yes, by running stat on target file and local file, and get a file size,

i.e stat -c “%s” /bin/ls”

Oh neat, so when I went to check the source was 28.5 Gigs…. and the target was 94 Gigs… wait wait what??? I can only assume something messed up with the copying cause the files were thin provisioned… not sure stopped the process and deleted the files…

Now I began to Google search and I wasn’t searching properly and found useless results such as this: Moving virtual machines with Storage vMotion (1005544) ( then I got my act together and found exactly what I was looking for from here: How to move VMware ESXi VM to new datastore using vmkfstools | Alessandro Arrichiello (

So basically I liked this, and it was what I needed, I was just slightly annoyed that 1) there wasn’t a nice way to do multiple VMDKs via his examples, just for all the other files, so I took the one liner from the other files trick, and found out how to get the path I need from the files in question.

Low and behold here’s how to do the magic!

1) This assumes a shared datastore between hosts (if you need to move files between hosts without a shared datastore, follow this guide from VMware arena.) (I’m not sure but I think you can leave the VM’s registered, but they have to be powered down, and that there are no snapshots.)

2) Ensure you make the directory you wish to move the VM files to.

mkdir /vmfs/volumes/DatastoreTarget/VMData

3) Copy/Clone VMDK files to target.

find "/vmfs/volumes/DatastoreSource/VMData" -maxdepth 1 -type f | grep ".vmdk" | grep -v "flat" | while read file; do vmkfstools -i $file -d thin /vmfs/volumes/DatastoreTarget/VMData/${file##*/}; done

4) Copy remain files to target.

find "/vmfs/volumes/DatastoreSource/VMData/" -maxdepth 1 -type f | grep -v ".vmdk" | while read file; do cp "$file" "/vmfs/volumes/DatastoreTarget/VMData/"; done

Once done cloning and copying all necessary files, add the VM from the new datastore back to inventory.

In the vSphere client go to: Configuration->Storage->Data Browser, right click the destination datastore which you moved your VM to and click “Browse datastore”.

Browse to your VM and right click the .vmx file, then click “Add to inventory”

Boot up the VM to see if it works, when asked whether you copied or moved it, just answer that you moved it. In this case it all depends on if you want the VM DI to stay the same as it is known within vCenter. As long as you properly delete the old files and removed it from the host inventory, this will complete the VM migration. If you don’t plan on deleting the old VM, or do not care about VM IDs or backups, then select “I copied it”.

Hope this helps someone.

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