Convert Virtual Machine to Raw Images for Forensics (Qemu-Img)

This is a very handy little application. It’s been developed by the QEMU team. The software is very useful when dealing with virtualization, Qemu-img is available for both windows and Linux. Its function is to give you the ability to change the format of a given virtual disk file to the majority of the popular virtual disk formats that are used across platforms. Let’s say you are using virtual box in Windows and want to migrate the virtual disk to be used on a mac, in parallels, you can use this simple program to achieve this with minimum effort.

Our purpose of writing about this today is slightly different from Qemu-img’s mainstream usage, we want to focus on how we can use this application to convert a virtual disk image, whole or split into a .raw file that can be used with most of the popular forensic frameworks that are available.

Let’s start up Qemu-img on our Linux machine

At the terminal prompt type “qemu-img –h”

This will show you all the options that can be used with qemu-img

Right at the end of the information that is presented after the command given above is used, we can see all the formats supported by this application.

Here is a list of all the formats that are compatible with Qemu-img

Now let’s see how this application comes in handy for use in forensics.

In a situation where a virtual disk is part of the acquisition and further dedicated analysis is required, the virtual disc can be converted into .raw format.

Let’s begin.

Since our goal is to analyze the virtual disk, we are using the image file from Windows 7 installed on VMWare. The file in question is in .vmdk format.

Just a heads up, when you convert a virtual disk file to a .raw file, the size of the converted file can be quite big, so make sure you have enough space.

Here is our .vmdk file

For ease of use, we have placed the .vmdk file in a folder named Qmeu on the desktop. The terminal is opened from within the folder.

At the terminal prompt type “qemu-img convert -f vmdk -O raw Windows\ 7.vmdk win7.raw”

A breakdown of the command that we just gave:

qemu-img convert  is invoking the convert function of qemu-img.

-f is the format of the input file, which in this case is .vmdk

-O is the format of the output file that we want, a .raw file.

Windows\ 7.vmdk is the name of the input file that we have in our folder.

win7.raw is the name we have given the output file with its file extension.

Give it a few minutes and check the folder, you will find the converted file.

As you can see, the size of the .raw file is 10.7 GB and the size of the .vmdk file was 6.0 GB, that’s quite a jump in size!

We can now use Foremost to carve the .raw file to see what’s inside.

At the terminal type “foremost -t jpeg,png -i win7 -o output”

With this command we are carving the .raw file for .jpeg and .png files which will be collected in a folder named output. If you have any doubts about foremost you can refer this article.

As you can see, our .raw file has been successfully carved, the results are visible below

We have successfully carved a .raw file made from a virtual disk, now let’s mount the .raw file to view its contents. We will be using a Windows for this operation.

Now we will mount this .raw file using FTK Imager to see its contents. The image mounting option can be found under the File menu. Navigate to the .raw file from within the mounting menu.

Select Mount, leave the other options as they are and the file will appear on the Mapped Image List.

Next we navigate to My Computer and we can see that the .raw has been mounted as a partition.

The windows file system can be seen within and explored for content.

Qemu-img is a very simple application with a high potential. It can be a very valuable tool in your forensic toolkit due to its large list of compatible formats. It will make sure that the format of the acquired image does not keep you from using your forensic tool of choice to run your investigation or carve out data.

We hope you enjoy using this tool.

Have fun and stay ethical.

About The Author

Abhimanyu Dev is a Certified Ethical Hacker, penetration tester, information security analyst and researcher. Connect with him here

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