Migrating your old workstation to your new workstation with virtualization.

Like any die-hard computer geek/junkie, when Vista was first released I moved to a new desktop running Vista. The downside to going to a new desktop is that same old problem “what do I do about my old desktop? I don’t want to (or I can’t) re-install all my programs, documents, etc?”. So for the past year+ I’ve been running two desktops, my current desktop and my legacy desktop and using terminal services to access my legacy desktop.  Over time, I’ve found myself accessing it less and less as I’ve managed to migrate most of the important bits over but I still don’t want completely retire it, so what do I do?  As a huge advocate of virtualization, it was time to virtualize my old desktop. 

Virtualizing your old desktop the easy way.

After looking for FREE ways to do this to Virtual PC, I couldn’t find anything FREE immediately and simply didn’t want to waste time trying to hunt something down so I decided to check out what VMWare had to offer (let’s face it, they’ve been doing VM long before anyone else, they gotta have something) and sure enough they have a conversion tool that’s available for free to convert your physical machine to a VM (P2V as it’s called) it’s called the VMware Converter

I installed the VMWare converter on my old desktop, hooked up a USB drive with plenty of free diskspace on it and started stepping through the wizard (what a great concept). After a few mouse clicks a had the conversion process running creating a new VMware VM for the latest version of VMware workstation. 

I left the converter running over night and the next morning came in and found it had completed after about 12 hours (I blame the fact that my old desktop was aging hardware, I was writing to a USB drive and I had 80GB of data to convert over).  What’s really impressive is that this was all run while the old desktop was online and active! (READ: NO DOWNTIME). 

When I got in this morning I installed a 30 day trial of VMware workstation, connected the USB drive with the VM on it and started it up.  It started immediately! I had to let the new hardware wizard run a few times,  install the VMware tools and then reboot the virtual machine but after a few minutes my old desktop was now running on my new desktop as a virtual machine and I’m now able to retire my old desktop!

So why is this worthy of a blog post?

Because it’s what I call: BAD ASS TECHNOLOGY. Here’s a bullet list of what I’ve been able to accomplish thanks to this technology:

  1. Going Green: Today we’re all ‘going green’ and worried about carbon emissions, rising fuel costs, etc. By virtualizing my old desktop I just took one more desktop offline.
  2. Security: My old desktop ran Windows XP and although I kept it up to date, it’s an aged platform that will eventually no longer be supported. My virtualizing it and only running that VM when I need to access it, I’m more secure against it getting compromised.
  3. Legacy Data & Programs Safe and Accessible:  By virtualizing my old desktop all my old programs, documents, email, etc are safe. How often have you moved to a new machine only to realize you didn’t copy a document over or that a program you use from time to time no longer runs on your new desktop.  For me I have a program called Adobe ImageStyler I use to create web graphics that has been long retired and no longer available but still very handy.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any whiz-bang screenshots or pictures available. Quite honestly, I didn’t think it was going to work on the first go round and I thought I was going to have re-image the old box again before I could get it to virtualize, but it worked perfectly the first time!

If you’re like me and recently moved to a new desktop (Perhaps now you’re running Windows Vista 64bit and have applications on your old desktop running Windows XP 32bit that you can no longer run) this is a good route to go.  

Conclusion

This is also the first time I’ve run VMware workstation in a couple years (let’s face it, VirtualPC is free afterall and free is hard to compete with) but I have to say it’s definitely still the leader in desktop virtualization (and yeah probably still has the edge in server virtualization too but the gap is narrowing daily).  I highly encourage anyone with an old desktop still running for whatever reason to give VMware a try. With the free converter and 30 day full version trial available, it’s well worth the time to experiment to see if it will work for you. If it does work, it’s going to cost less than $200 to license VMware workstation and make your old workstation your new virtual workstation on your new machine.

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