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Converting existing PC into a VM with Virtual Box

I have XP currently installed on my work machine, which is getting a bit outdated and sluggish. I was hoping to install Ubuntu 32-bit through Wubi and use VirtualBox to run XP.

Would it be possible to mount my current XP installation?
Would this even be advisable in order to speed up the XP applications I need to access?

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marked as duplicate by Mechanical snail, ChrisF, Diogo, Indrek, 8088 Oct 1 '12 at 23:31

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4 Answers

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Would it be possible to mount my current XP installation?

Yes, there are several NTFS drivers available for Linux.

While it is possible to use the NTFS partition as the boot partition for VirtualBox, it may not work because of different drivers.

Would this even be advisable in order to speed up the XP applications I need to access?

Even if it works, it won't make XP faster. The only way to speed up XP is to reinstall it. On the positive side, you can now make a backup of your XP boot disk and create an image from that on Linux. Try to install as many of your XP apps as possible and configure the system to your liking and create an image.

Whenever something wrecks your XP install, you can reload the image in a few minutes without reinstalling everything.

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Thanks a lot for the help. Which Linux app do you use for creating the XP image? –  NoCatharsis Aug 19 '10 at 14:25
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You could also try using Wine on installed windows programs. Some may work. –  AndrejaKo Aug 19 '10 at 14:44
    
Well I'm an engineer trying to use AutoCAD Mechanical 2011 and several searches proved that this is not really compatible with Wine. Good suggestion though. –  NoCatharsis Aug 19 '10 at 15:33
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@NoCatharsis: If you use a dedicated disk for XP, try dd. Otherwise, it's a file in your home directory which you can simply copy. Backups have never been easier :-) –  Aaron Digulla Aug 20 '10 at 13:20
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For installing WindowsXP inside of Ubuntu I would suggest using VirtualBox now owned by Oracle: http://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads

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It seems to be better than the other options and the opensource version of VirtualBox is missing some functionality. –  Andrew Stern Aug 19 '10 at 15:55
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I second Aaron, it should be possible but it definitely will not speed things up.

It will slow down... don't know how much, but it certainly will.

The best solution from my experience:

  • I keep a clean, minimalist install of XP in its own partition.

    (Open control panel and uninstall Windows components: Certificates, IE, Outlook, Network, Media Player, Messenger, then install your hardware drivers, then your applications.)

  • I boot XP very seldomly, when I need to do something that is not available for Ubuntu.

    (Which means only unusual iPhone operations and TomTom GPS updating.)

Whether you want to primarily use XP or not, anyway you should do the following:

Create your partitions, including a small NTFS for XP installation and a big FAT or NTFS for the personal files you want to access from XP.

The WindowsXP NTFS partition should have the smallest possible size that will make all the installation/configuration possible. (It should be just big enough so that XP installation accepts its size, and there is enough room for you to cut XP's fat and then install and run your applications.) I mean something between 4GB and 8GB, depending on how big your applications are.

Keep your files in the other big partition so you can restore this image after XP gets too slow again without losing data.

Creating / restoring the XP image

After your XP is ready for the snapshot, boot your computer from Ubuntu LiveCD or from Ubuntu's own partition, so that the XP partition is not being used at all.

Then carefully run a command like this:

cd /path/to/imagefile/
df .
sudo dd if=/dev/sda1 of=FreshWindowsXP.img

Make sure that

  • the XP partition really is /dev/sda1 or replace it by the correct partition.
  • /dev/sda1 it is not mounted (run mount to find out).
  • there is enough free space (the df . will tell you that).

After some minutes it will finish and FreshWindowsXP.img will be a 4~8GB file with a perfect copy of the whole XP partition.

When you want to restore this image, all you need to do is run the same commands with if and of switched.

But be careful, dd is a powerful command and if you do it wrongly you may have serious data loss.

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If you put some work into it, you might try to migrate your existing Windows XP to be suitable for VirtualBox. For more information, see How to migrate existing Windows installations to VirtualBox. Note: I haven't tried that myself and I don't know if that procedure could hurt your installation. As mentioned in the Howto, backup your data! But as you'll be working with a dd'ed image, all should go well.

If you are afraid of doing that, installing Windows in VirtualBox is done in no time.

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Have you ever had any problems authenticating your version of Windows installed on a VM? Moreover, the copy of XP Pro I have is OEM from Dell, so is that going to cause issues with installation inside of VirtualBox? Thanks a lot for the help. –  NoCatharsis Sep 14 '10 at 3:51
    
I don't have any experience with OEM versions of Windows in a VM. I guess that you can't install an OEM version in a VM, but I don't know that for sure. –  evnu Sep 15 '10 at 10:39
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