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Turn a Physical Linux or Windows Machine Into A Virtual Machine for Free
We’ll focus on creating this masterpiece in the Windows environment, but don’t worry, the same principles can be used on any operating system that can run Virtual Box.
List of required software and hardware:
-Virtual box and extension package
-PC with Windows 7 or higher or most any Linux distribution
-Redo ISO backup and recovery
– YUMI Installer
-USB flash drive
– USB hard disk
The general benefits of performing this procedure are threefold. One, the cost savings in energy, HVAC and space required will be seen instantly. Two, manageability and scalability increase dramatically due to working with virtual disks and virtual networks that can be scaled up or down with finer control. Three, redundancy and faster disaster recovery provided by cloud services. Especially when it’s connected to your existing network infrastructure for a seamless transition when disaster strikes.
Although this process can be completed in many ways with different programs, this is the way I am familiar with and all the necessary tools are free.
Sound daunting? No sweat, but where do we start first?
Well, we need to get an image of the physical machine on a removable media (USB hard drive). I recommend a USB hard drive over just a USB flash drive because of the space the image will take up. We’ll also need a USB flash drive at least 2GB in size to use as bootable media for Redo Backup and Recovery.
Connect the USB hard drive to the USB port and open the folder structure. Create a folder somewhere you can remember, ie D:”Your Computer Name”. This is where we will install the files from our initial physical image copy. After this is complete, eject your USB hard drive by right-clicking the “Safely Remove Hardware” icon on the taskbar and clicking Eject “whatever your USB hard drive name is”, unplug the drive USB hard drive.
Next, we need to create a bootable USB to load Redo Backup and Recovery. Download a small program called “YUMI”. YUMI will create a bootable USB flash drive on it for Redo backup and recovery. Also grab a copy of Redo Backup and Recovery, save both files to your desktop or a location of your choice.
Now, run YUMI and choose your USB flash drive from the list (remember to choose your USB drive and not your USB hard drive which should be unplugged anyway!). Choose “Re-backup and recovery” from the list of software for which you can create an installer. Click the “Browse” button to browse for the Redo backup and Recovery.iso to include in the installation. Finally click “create” to start the Redo Backup and Recovery bootable USB creation process. When it’s done, YUMI will ask you if you want to add more distributions, just say “no”. Eject your USB from the computer using the “Safely Remove Hardware” icon on the taskbar and click Eject “whatever the name of your USB flash drive” and disconnect the USB flash drive. Keep Redo Backup and Restore. We’ll need that later.
Make sure the physical computer you want to virtualize is turned off, otherwise turn off the computer. Just insert the USB flash drive into the computer. Turn on the computer and press the correct key to access the boot menu or make sure the USB drive is set to boot before the computer’s internal hard drive. Choose the USB input to boot from, YUMI should now load. Choose the ‘Tools’ entry and then ‘Redo Backup and Recovery’. Press Enter in the Redo menu to start the mini O/S recovery. When Redo Backup and Recovery loads, insert the USB hard drive and give it about 20 seconds.
Open Redo backup and recovery software:
1. Choose “Backup”
2. Choose the disk to back up (the disk on your physical computer)
3. Choose your partitions to backup (usually it would be all partitions and MBR)
4. On the “Target drive” screen, choose “Connected directly to my computer” and click Browse.
5. Locate the file folder we made earlier, Ie D:”Your computer name”, click OK.
6. Choose a name for the disk image. I will usually choose the date, click next. The backup process will take between 1 and 3 hours, depending on the capacity of the hard drive and the speed of the computer.
Congratulations, you have now made a complete backup of your physical machine. Click “Close” on the Redo & Recover backup program and choose the power button in the lower right corner of the screen. Select “Shutdown” and let the computer shut down. Remove the USB flash drive and USB hard drive and start any computer that has Windows 7 or higher installed.
Now, let’s turn that physical machine into a virtual machine!
Open Virtual Box and select “New”. Give your virtual machine a name and choose the type of virtual machine it will be as well as the version. Choose your memory size, typically 2GB = 2048MB if I plan to run it on a machine that has 4GB of RAM physically installed. Create a new hard drive, choose VHD as the hard drive file type, and click next. Choose “Dynamically allocated” for storage, click next. Give your VHD a name, I’ll usually name it after what’s running on it, so name it whatever you named your computer. Make the VHD hard drive big enough to store your OS, I’ll usually choose 200GB to be safe. Again, this depends on the size of the data on your physical machine. You are now returned to the Virtual Box Manager screen with your new virtual machine present. Make sure your Virtual Box extension is installed. Get the extension for your software version and install it like this:
In Virtual Box, click File –> Preferences –> Extensions –> Add Package –> Locate the extension file and select it. It will install automatically.
Prepare to convert! Use only option A or option B:
Option A: If you can get USB support working in Virtual Box:
Make sure you have installed the extension pack and set up USB access correctly. If you have any problems, check the Virtual Box document here:
In Virtual Box, click on your virtual machine name and select “Settings” at the top, choose “Storage”. Click on the empty CD/DVD icon and then on the right CD/DVD icon under “Attributes” and select your Redo Backup and Recovery ISO and click “OK”. At this point you have the Redo Backup and Recovery.iso ready and a blank VHD to install. All you have to do now is insert your USB hard drive and skip option B because you don’t need to do it.
Option B: If you can’t get USB support to work in Virtual Box. No problem, that’s what happened to me, so I found a way around it.
In Virtual Box, click on your virtual machine name and choose “Settings” at the top, choose “Storage”, choose “Add Hard Drive” next to Controller:Sata or Controller:IDE whatever you have. Choose “Create new disk”, choose VHD and again make it 200GB dynamically allocated and name it “Installer”. Under “Storage Tree”, click the empty CD/DVD icon, then the CD/DVD icon on the right under “Attributes” and select the Redo Backup and Recovery ISO and click ” Accept.” At this point you have the Redo Backup and Recovery.iso ready and a white VHD named after your computer and another black VHD named Installer. Now close Virtual Box and right click on “Computer” and select “Manage”. Left-click “Disk Management” and then right-click “Disk Management” again and choose “Attach VHD”. Browse to the location of your installer VHD that you created in Virtual Box, usually in the “My Documents” folder, and click OK. Now you can copy the physical computer backup image we took earlier from D:”Your computer name” to the installer VHD. After copying the content, right-click on computer management again and click “Unmount VHD”. Open Virtual Box and continue with the next step.
Let’s convert this thing!
Once you have USB media or the installer VHD setup and the Redo Backup and Recovery ISO mounted. Click “Start” on your virtual machine name in Virtual Box. You will see the familiar Redo Backup and Recovery boot menu, press enter to continue. Start the backup and recovery program if it does not start automatically. Choose “Restore”. In a nutshell, you will choose where the image backup is “The source drive” (your USB hard drive or the installer VHD, if applicable) and where to install the image (blank hard drive that carries the your computer name). After choosing to install to the blank VHD, confirm the prompt to overwrite the data and let the recovery process begin. After this is finished, click close and turn off Backup and Recovery as you did before. The virtual machine should stop working. Click “Settings” in the Virtual Box Manager and unmount the Backup and Recovery ISO and installer VHD, if applicable. Leave your VHD with your computer name or whatever you named it and click “OK” to return to the Virtual Box Manager. Click “Start”, you should now be looking at a fully virtualized version of your physical computer.
Celebrate the many uses of this powerful little VHD!
You can transport this VHD and include it in any Virtual Box VM instance or even VMware if you wish. You can run it on your premises or deploy it in the cloud. A cloud instance of this virtual machine would require running Virtual Box on your cloud computing instance or running it natively in your cloud computing space if your hosting provider supports it.
Common problems and troubleshooting:
Q: When I try to run my Linux based VM, I get ” not syncing: VFS: Unable to mount root fs on unknown-block(0,0) “?
A: This is because in the backup and recovery process all entries for hda##, hdb## and so on were converted to sda## extc. First, copy your precious VHD so you don’t lose your work if something goes wrong. Then all you’ll need to do is mount the backup and recovery ISO, restart the virtual machine, and open a terminal session. Mount the root partition and edit the entries in GRUB or Lilo on the appropriate boot device. For example: In GRUB, entries are included in menu.Ist and fstab. In Lilo they are included in /etc/lilo.config and then /sbin/lilo -v to write the changes.
Q: When I try to run my Windows-based virtual machine, do I get a startup error?
A: Get a copy or disc of Windows and mount it inside Virtual Box making sure it is set to boot first. Choose the “Repair” option. Choose “Start Repair” and let it run. If this doesn’t do the trick, go back to the “Repair” option and choose “Ticket”. Try these commands one at a time, shutting down and unmounting the Windows disk each time to see if the problem is fixed:
bootrec.exe /FixMbr. Then reboot to see if it’s resolved. If no result, try:
bootrec.exe /FixBoot. Then reboot to see if it’s resolved. If no result, try:
bootrec.exe /RebuildBcd. Then reboot to see if it’s resolved. If no result, try:
You may need to remove your BCD folder by running these commands one line at a time without quotes:
“bcdedit /export C:BCD_Backup
c: <---- Only if your Windows installation is installed on C:
attribution bcd -s -h -r
ren c:bootbcd bcd.old
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