I’ve been seeing an increasing number of PCs come into the shop that have needed to undergo the p2v process for one reason or another: maybe their computer died right before payroll had to run, or maybe they lost the installation disks to that application they just can’t live without. Whatever the reasons, I’m seeing a bit of an increase in need for the very involved process of taking an ancient relic PC from the early 2000s, make it into a VM, and then make it easy for the end user to use.

Today I think I came up with a method that doesn’t involve 20 hours of nail-biting waiting. But first, a couple of the methods I have used in the past:

-used vmware server, attached the physical disk via (s/p)ATA to USB adapter, used a Ghost boot diskette image to mirror the physical disk to a virtual hard disk

-pulled the drive, installed it in a physical box, used disk cloning software to make an image to an external hard drive. used VirtualPC to create a dummy VM with two hard drives, booted an OS on the main drive, formatted the second drive, and used drag-and-drop to copy the clone image file to the second virtual drive. Then scrapped the first virtual hard disk, created a new one, and used cloning software to clone from the image file on the second virtual hard disk

-used dd to make a sector-by-sector copy of the original disk to a .IMG outfile. Then used vboxmanage convertfromraw to create a VDI, and then copied the resulting VDI to the end user’s computer and installed VM software of their choice.

They all worked perfectly, but oh, the stress and the fuss involved. Not to mention the waiting. It’s one of those jobs that is only worth doing because of the credibility it gains you or your company for pulling off what seems impossible to your customer.

In a datacenter world this task is easy. You have an ESX server chugging away waiting for more VMs so it can display its prowess in the data center. You run P2V directly from the physical box to the VM host and you’re done (give or take a few hours of waiting for SAN volumes to move, or terabytes of flat disk files to move from one place to another over SCP connections). But in a single-computer world it’s a bit more complicated. The customer doesn’t already have a VM host waiting to give up CPU cycles and RAM blocks. So you have to be creative…. hence the horrors listed above.

Today I found a procedure that has proven to be the quickest method I’ve used so far, and it was the product of dumb luck and the fact that i listened to the right podcast on the right day. So early this morning while i was comforting a screaming baby and trying to maintain sanity i listened to an episode of mike tech show (www.miketechshow.com) (and by the way I found him by listening to another podcast – podnuts – www.podnutz.com) that mentioned a ghost/acronis-style disk cloning utility called ShadowProtect. I checked out the website and thought to myself. Hrm, will have to remember that the next time a need comes up.

Didn’t think another thing of it until later in the day when I was exasperated on a P2V project that I had already sunken too many hours into, where I thought perhaps I’d have better luck using VMware’s P2V product to send the physical drive into virtualness and later just break down and install VMware server on the server or something of that nature. During the process I noticed that the supported disk image formats included this new software. After failing at Acronis and Ghost imaging on the drive I thought I’d give ShadowProtect a shot as a last ditch effort. To my surprise the 30-day trial requires no activation and will, in fact, allow you to back up an entire disk to an image. For the convenience any customer would gladly pay the $79 for the package, but in this case it seemed unnecessary since we were only using the product for one run. anywho, I then ran the VMware P2V converter, pointed it at the ShadowProtect image file, and waited about 30 minutes. The entire procedure took about an hour.

I installed VMware player on the customer’s computer and launched the VM to test and all is well except for the Windows repair and activation move I’ll probably have to go through once we fire it up in production. ***NOTE*** When you repair Windows, if the physical machine was running OEM Windows, you’ll have to purchase an XP upgrade, and you’ll need this floppy disk image:
you can get it here: http://www.vmware.com/download/ws/drivers_tools.html



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