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I have a live system that I need to reinstall but also want to have a backup in a form of a virtual machine that will allow me to turn it on and have a look at some old files/configuration.

What are the tools to achieve this?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

You can convert Sysiternal tool to convert physical hdd to vhd. You can download it using following URL:

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I used this tool and it worked well, thanks! – thoughtcriminal Dec 22 '10 at 10:11

Use a Physical to Virtual (what's called P2V) converter - what hypervisor are you using? that will define what software to use.

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VMware Converter can do this for both Windows and Linux servers. I've seen some odd behavior, though, when cloning live systems. You need to make sure that the source filesystem is very quiet before doing this conversion otherwise you'll have inconsistencies. If you really need to do this live, try to shut down any unnecessary services during the conversion.

If you can afford a bit of downtime, VMware Converter also comes in the form of a bootable CD that will transfer your system in a 100% consistent state. I've used this in the past with great success.

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Ouput from VMWare converter works with most VM's. I just finished virualizing an elderly server. It worked well. – Tim Williscroft Nov 24 '10 at 1:36
I'm wondering does VMWare Converter use VSS just like the Sysinternal's HDD2VHD? – thoughtcriminal Dec 22 '10 at 10:12

P2V should never be considered ans is not a TRUE backup solution.

Depending on what services are running on system (Data base ... Messaging ...) always do a backup of your system state and databases prior to reinstall the OS or eaven do P2V.

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I did not mean it as a "TRUE backup solution". It is just in case I need to get something I forgot from the old system like a specific configuraiton option or registry setting, etc. Some things are much easier to be extracted from a running system than from a binary dump (which would be considered a TRUE backup). – thoughtcriminal Dec 22 '10 at 10:07

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