I have an existing Vista installation on my thinkpad x200 and I want to install Linux on my machine. I've done this several times already but I usually format the whole disk and dual boot on Windows and Linux. Which means I have to reinstall and reconfigure everything I had on Windows. What I want to do is backup my windows installation (into an image) and start a clean Linux installation, and run the windows image thru Vmware or Virtualbox. Whats the easiest way to do this? any free tools available? I've seen acronis but dont wanna buy it for a 1 time session only.
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I believe the easiest way is to just keep the Windows installation. Most Linux installers will resize the existing Windows partition to make room for Linux.
That way, you can either dual-boot, or run Windows in a VM (most VMs let you run the OS from a real partition).
There are also tools to create a VM image from a partition, but this will be more work.
Here's a HOWTO: