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I'm thinking of migrating a Desktop machine (Windows XP) to a VM solution (VirtualBox or MS Virtual PC). The reason is that I need a new hardware anyways and I don't want to (cannot properly) reinstall all the "business" apps on there.

So my plan goes as follows: I'll pull an image of the machine and restore it to a Virtual Machine using Acronis Universal Restore or some other tool that can restore to dissimilar hardware. (The process is largely irrelevant for this question I think.)

Once I have this virtual machine properly running I'll move it to a new PC.

So the question now is. Are there any caveats wrt. to Windows (XP?) being installed in a VM and the VM machine being moved around on different host computers? Can anything break in the OS inside the VM? Will there be troubles wrt. to Windows activation?

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I suggest using VMware converter to create a VM from thesystem It will make a VM that is ready to load in Player or another free VMware product. I think MS has a similar tool but have not used it.

We use this often and it works very well and has saved significant grief with some specialized software that does not run on WIN7

As @timbrigham notes, there can be issues with activation. Be prepared for that. Sometimes an easy fix, sometimes a bit of a challenge.

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We also do this when moving to a new machine, we have some users that have moved to Kubuntu and have thier old Windows install (volume licensed) running under VirtualBox – deveneyi Nov 16 '11 at 17:30

I regularly do this. The only caveat I've had problems with is Windows activation. Try using Magic Jellybean or similar to verify that you have a VLK on your system. If so you should be good. If you have an OEM licensed copy of XP you will have some extra work cut out for you.

In that case you need to convert to a VLK either before or after the process completes. If you do it afterwards VLK media can be used to do an 'in place upgrade'. As long as you are at SP3 and have SP3 media (and don't mind reinstalling all your windows updates) you should be good.

Not all apps need to be reinstalled - an in place upgrade with VLK media replaces the core windows files and converts to a VLK which functions correctly in a VM environment. If you do not have a VLK key an off the shelf license works as well.

Unfortunately since the upgrade process replaces core windows files it is likely that a hundred plus windows updates will need to be reapplied. For detailed instructions see here.

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you will have some extra work cut out for you -- would it be possible to provide that sentence with some link / reference as to what extra work will be needed? :-) – Martin Nov 17 '11 at 8:58
That is the second paragraph. :) – Tim Brigham Nov 17 '11 at 13:55
so that means if the PC has an OEM license installed, I Will be forced to completely reinstall Windows and all apps?? – Martin Nov 17 '11 at 13:58

If you mean if the VM will broke if you move/copy the VM over several different hosts, then the answer is NO (as long as you move all the file structures needed and use the same version of the VM software, that is). You can even move the VM over different OSes. In fact BackTrack (a Linux distro) for example is downloadable as a VM image.

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