Using Virtual PC for computer migration

One cool use of Virtual PC is as a 'backup' during a physical computer migration. An example of this would be my wife's computer. Generally speaking - my wife does not let me touch her computer - as I have a tendency to break things. But every now and then it comes time to perform a major upgrade (such as I have just done over the past weekend). The problem with this is that my wife is in to genealogy - and uses a whole bunch of custom applications that I know nothing about - and that she would be very upset about if I did not migrate them successfully. The solution? Use Virtual PC!

What I do is:

  1. Setup the new computer with Windows, virtual PC, and as many of her applications that I know about

  2. Take the hard disk out of her old computer and attach it to the new computer

  3. Boot up the new computer

  4. Go into the Disk Management tool under Windows (Control Panel --> Administrative tools --> Computer Management --> Disk Management)

  5. Select to remove the disk letter from the hard disk from the old computer

  6. Start Virtual PC

  7. Use the Virtual Hard Disk wizard to create a linked virtual hard disk pointing to the hard disk from the old computer

  8. Then use the Virtual Hard Disk wizard to convert the linked virtual hard disk to a dynamic virtual hard disk

  9. Wait a long time (usually 2 to 3 hours)

    1. Any anti-virus software should be disabled for this step - otherwise it will take a lot longer
  10. Create a new virtual machine that points to the new virtual hard disk

  11. Boot up the virtual machine and confirm that everything works

    1. There are a few things that can cause this to fail - and I will discuss them in further depth in coming posts
  12. Install the Virtual Machine Additions and shutdown the virtual machine

  13. Shutdown the new computer and remove the old disk

Once this is done - I can begin migrating data and application information from the virtual machine to the physical computer over the network. But the best thing is that I can tell my wife that if a program doesn't work during the day - she should launch the virtual machine and use it there for now. Then when I get home from work - she can tell me about it and I can fix it then.

Also - this allows me to harvest her old computer for parts much more quickly :-)