How to Convert Norton Ghost Image Files .GHO / .GHS to .VMDK for Virtual Machine (2021)

How to Convert Norton Ghost Image .GHO .GHS to VMDK for VM (2021)

What is Ghost32.exe or Norton Ghost?

Ghost is a disk cloning and backup software tool. Older systems such as Windows 2000, Windows 2000 Server, Windows XP and as late as Windows 7 could have had backups created with Norton Ghost. The Ghost backup files is split depending on the size of the backup into .gho and .ghs files. Both the .gho and .ghs files are used to properly restore the ghost image backup. The backup files are used in the event the disk drive fails or the same system needs to be deployed onto another computer. Since these systems are old it is definitely worthwhile to convert the ghost image files into VMDK file format. The VMDK file can be easily attached to an Oracle Virtual Box or VMWare virtual machine. This will preserve the functionality of the system, such as old software, that is still needed. So how can you convert Norton Ghost Image to VMDK? The guide below details the process.

To read more on the Ghost utility, see the Wiki page here.

The process to convert the Norton Ghost image to VMDK is easy and anyone can do it.


First you will need the following to successfully convert the Ghost image to VMDK
      1. The ghost32.exe program.
      2. Ghost image files handy. File extension .gho and .ghs.
      3. Basic use of Windows command prompt.


Step 1 – Locate Ghost32.exe Program

Navigate to the location where ghost32.exe application is located. In this example it is located on the desktop in a folder named “Convert”. Note: The Ghost32.exe program will execute on a more recent version of Windows (i.e. Windows 10). This guide the executable is in a Windows 2000 Virtual Machine. It will work on newer version of Windows.

ghost32.exe location

Step 2 – Change Command Prompt Working Directory

Open up cmd prompt and change the working directory by using the cd command. If not sure of the location click on the folder properties where ghost32.exe is and its location will be listed in Location.

ghost32 location path properties

Step 3 – Identify Ghost Image File Source and Destination Path 

Locate the .gho / .ghs file location to be converted and decide where you want the new .vmdk file will be saved to.

Step 4 – Execute the Convert Command

In the cmd prompt execute the following command (make sure cmd is in the directory with the ghost32.exe application).


ghost32 -clone,mode=restore,src=”Your Location Path\FileName.gho”,dst=”Your Destination Path\FileName.vmdk” -batch -sure

You only need to point to the .gho file, the .ghs files need to be in the same directory to work.

If the command aborts put the location path and file names for src and dest within quotation marks and do not add spaces in between the comma separators.

Execute the command in the command prompt. The ghost application will launch and a progress bar will show up of the conversion process. A new file will be created with a .vmdk extension that can be used to bind to Virtual Box or VMWare as a virtual disk. The location of this new vmdk file is what you specified as the destination in the command prompt. If there is an error it will be written to the ghost32 log file. The most common reason for the converting process to abort is a typo in the cmd command.

If you did not get any errors – that is it! Your ghost image is now a vmdk file.

Example of ghost32 convert command
ghost32 command running example
ghost32 vmdk generated

Other Related Guides for Using a Converted Ghost Image File (VMDK) in a VM

Depending on the Operating System that was converted, the VMDK file that is now bound to a VM may have trouble booting properly. There is a guide here for a potential way to fix the inaccessible boot device stop code 0x0000007B. Read it here

If this converted Ghost Image to VMDK is for a Windows XP machine and you have the genuine product key, read the guide here how to activate Windows XP in 2021.

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8 thoughts on “How to Convert Norton Ghost Image Files .GHO / .GHS to .VMDK for Virtual Machine (2021)”

  1. the command is wrong it should say dst= instead of dest= otherwise you will receive an error Abort: 580, Unknown Keyword: dest

    1. Hi
      I tried this but it does not work for me it closes right away. I do not have a .ghs file so I am wondering if that is the reason?

      1. Do you get a output message showing you some error? The ghs file is created when image is larger than a certain size, as long as you have the full image it is possible to only have a gho file.
        Feel free to send me some screenshots or reach out on email.

    2. Thank you so much for this guide !!!
      I couldn’t find any other way to open some ancient .gho and .ghs files.
      After this conversion I just opened the VMDK file with 7-zip.

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