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I have a 3 year old laptop running Windows XP that I used for business.

Although I have not used the laptop in over a year, I now want to re-commission it with Windows 7 and a fresh install.

Before I do the fresh install I want to create a Virtual Image of the laptop that I can keep and potentially run on my desktop machine should I ever need to access any of the old files/projects that it contains currently. I know that most people will say just copy the files over to your desktop, but my concern is the configuration of the laptop. I used to use it for development and it has older versions of Visual Studio, SQL Server, Active X controls etc, etc than I currently use so I really want to preserve the environment not just the files.

So really I am asking what is the best tool-set/method to achieve this?

I understand there are free VM tools available but I have never done this before and would appreciate any help.

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migrated from May 14 '10 at 8:00

This question came from our site for system and network administrators.

I would put Windows 7 on a new drive, and keep the XP drive for a spare. You can swap them if you need to get to old files, etc.

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yes this is quite a nice utility! – user33788 May 13 '10 at 15:27

If you have VMWare Server (or one of the paid-for VMWare products) running on another machine on your local network you can use the VMWare Converter to move an image of the physical machine into a VM. A short while ago I used this to backup a pair of machines (one running plain XP, one running the Tablet PC edition) before they were wiped and rebuilt.

If I remember rightly the procedure was completely painless and I think it claimed to handle any HAL changes that may be needed by the XP install:

  1. Install the converter on the machine to convert
  2. Run it and point it at the VMWare Server install
  3. Set what-ever other options are relevant
  4. Tell it to go, and find something else to do with your time while it churns (the process could take some time, for instance if the physical machine contains 35Gb of data this could take about an hour to copy over a 100Mbit network)
  5. Shut down the physical machine and test the VM.

I assume other virtualisation solutions, like VirtualPC or VBox, have similar tools.

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You can do this without any VMware server around and make it a VM to be run in VMPlayer. – Shannon Nelson May 14 '10 at 6:03

VirtualBox would probably be your best bet for this. If you search the virtualbox forums you can find out how to take an image of the XP system and migrate it to a virtual machine.

Quick, basic, guide:

  1. Take an image of the XP Machine using CloneZilla to a seprate Hard Disk
  2. Install Windows 7 and Virtualbox (latest release 3.1.8)
  3. Use CloneZilla in the Virtual Machine to image the virtual disk.

Things to bear in mind:

  • Try on another system to make sure your image works
  • You will need to make the virtual hard disk bigger than the total space used on your curreent hard disk to avoid problems. For example, if you have a 160GB HD and 90GB used, I would reccomend making the Virtual Hard Disk at least 100GB.

Good Luck.

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