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Creating a VM control file from a forensic image

In general, VM software needs both an image and associated control files.

There are a number of ways to create the VM control files needed to run an image as a VM instance. At present, this article primarily provides a series of tools that can create to VMDK VM control files.

Creating a VMDK file from a forensic image

By hand

VMDK files are simple text files. They can be created by hand and then the VM run to allow registry values and passwords to be set as needed prior to boot.

Jimmy Weg has written a series of blog posts that detail the process. See the list of blog posts under external links below.

Linux tools as included in SIFT

Via the SIFT workstation (free), use the following steps: a terminal window 2.sudo su 3.mkdir /mnt/ewf1 (Encase Image file path) /mnt/ewf1 5.qemu-img convert /mnt/ewf1/(encase image file name) -O vmdk (give_a_name).vmdk


use EnCase (Commercial) to mount the E01 image as an emulated disk (you need to have the Physical Disk Emulator (“PDE”) module installed), then VMware to create virtual machine from the emulated physical disk. Guidance software has a good guide on how to do this in their support portal.

Note – EnCase v7 hasn't been proven to support this, just EnCase 6

Forensic Explorer

Forensic Explorer is a commercial forensics tool which contains a feature called "Live Boot" for booting of forensic image files (E01, EX01, DD). Live Boot works with VMWare Workstation, VMWare Player and Oracle Virtual Box. Refer to for more detail.

Paladin 4

Paladin 4 (free) can create VMDK files for DD and E01 images.

Live View

Live View (opensource) is reported as not reliable, but it does work with some images.

VMware Standalone Converter

This may be an option. Reports of success here and what the steps are would be great.

VFC - Virtual Forensic Computing

VFC was written and created by MD5 Ltd who specialise in digital forensics, eDisclosure and software development.

VFC (Commercial) is reportedly very good, but troubles with booting Windows 2003 servers have been reported. It's a little pricey (\$1350 for a Corp license), cheaper for law enforcement and Government. It WORKS the vast majority of the time and the developer provides excellent support and continuous updates. It works on all versions of windows up to windows 8 enabling an investigating officer to virtualise a suspects machine in seconds directly from a hard drive, from a forensic image (e01) or a raw DD image.

Creating a KVM image

From the linux command prompt

kvm -hda myimage.dd

memory can be set as an option, cd drives can be presented, etc., and there is an option equivalent to the VMware non persistent mode.

Warning: It has been determined that using kvm's non-persistent mode can still result in an altered image. Always, always, always work from a copy.

Using the VMDK file

Once you have the VMDK file, you can create a virtual machine in Virtualbox or VMware Workstation and use the VMDK as an existing hard disk for the virtual machine. I prefer to use VMware Workstation because it has a non persistent mode which allows you to write changes to a cache file rather than the forensic image itself thus maintaining integrity.