Converting your old System to a Virtual Machine

using VirtualPC 2007

last update: March 11th 2008

Why not just upgrade or repave the system?

A few months before I wrote this article, I went through the process of upgrading my workstation hardware, which came with a new installation of Windows XP PRO. I could have just transfered the contents of my old hard drive to the new one and manually fix the hardware drivers differences later. Or I could just transfer my documents to the new system, install all the applications I need and kiss the old system goodbye.

As much as my old system (hardware and Windows XP installation) were in need of a cleanup, there were a huge number of things that I had to install on this system that took some time to find the correct version and configure tjust the right way. Nothing that I couldn't do all over again, but I know some of these utilities, drivers, or applications require a lot of effort to find the appropriate documentation or tutorial.

Add to that the desire to leave some of these same applications behind and replace them by new versions or even different products altogether. The problem is that there is always the chance that I'll need that precise older version when things don't work as expected in the new system.

Instead of keeping two physical boxes humming under my desk, I decided to try and transform the older system in a virtual machine running off an external hard disk or directly from the new system's hard drive, which as usual has much more space than the old one.

The plan

Here's what I had in mind: I would log on to the old system, create an image of the hard drive, go to the new system, create a new virtual machine, restore the old machine hard disk over the virtual machine's disk.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it is simple but there are a lot of details along the way that might make someone less stubborn to give up. I tried to capture as many of these details as I could in this article.


Software used

Although I made the above free software choices, the concepts are the same if you chose other tools that you happen to be more familiar with, like VMWare or Norton Ghost.

Back up the old system

Create a new virtual machine

Restore the old system

You're done

Did you find anything wrong in the article? Please and I'll try to fix it as soon as possible.