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A customer has an old XP box with software on it that they need to keep (accounting software). They don't have the disks for the software. When the software starts, it says "license expired, you only have read only access to the data".

This makes sense, as the customer moved from Iris accounting to Sage some years ago now, but they need to access data in Iris from time to time.

I'd like to be able to take an image of the hard disk and provide access to their data through a virtual machine. This will enable them to ditch the aging hardware, it'll also mean that they're not depending on a single machine not failing for x number of years.

Is what I'm proposing possible through VirtualBox or similar?

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

You can use free VMWare converter to turn the box into virtual machine. Then you can use free VMWare Player to run it.

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I've found the converter tool, it seems to fit the bill, but isn't VMWare pay only? I was hoping to use a free tool like virtual box. – lapin Aug 6 '12 at 10:25
VMWare converter and VMWare player are free of charge. VMWare Player now even allows to create virtual machines, which is great. – ElektryczneNozyce Aug 6 '12 at 10:30
will upvote when I have the required 15 rep points ;) – lapin Aug 6 '12 at 10:37
I know the pain ;) – ElektryczneNozyce Aug 6 '12 at 10:39
You should be all set :) – lapin Aug 6 '12 at 10:51

It is possible to move a Windows XP machine to VirtualBox, though there are a number of steps.

The imaging tool I use is to simply download one of the Linux Live CD's (like Ubuntu) and use it as the boot CD image in a new VirtualBox vm. Linux has a tool called GParted which is very good at moving partitions from one drive to another.

If you connect the old XP drive using a USB enclosure (or cable) it can be mounted as a hard drive in your virtual machine. GParted will see both the virtual hard drive and the USB mounted hard drive and can then simply copy the entire partition (or partitions) over.

After moving the partitions, you will need to boot the virtual machine using a Windows XP install disk and switch in to recovery mode. The master boot sector needs to be recreated and recovery can do this. Additionally, if you didn't move all partitions from the source machine, make sure the C:\boot.ini refers to the correct partition number for booting Windows.

Once the Windows boot loader kicks in, you may need to switch to safe mode or VGA mode to install new video drivers. VirtualBox has its own driver sets which can be installed after once the virtual machine is running cleanly (see installing client tools).

Windows Genuine Advantage may need to re-certify the XP license since it will detect the hardware change.

Another method which might avoid the need for an XP boot disk is to use the 'dd' command in a Linux shell to make a complete image of the hard drive.

dd if=/dev/source-drive-device of=/dev/destination-drive-device

You can get the device names from GParted - but be really sure you know which device is which or you will wipe out the old hard drive.

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thanks for the advice chris, I'll upvote once I've got the required 15 rep points ;) – lapin Aug 6 '12 at 18:23

Yes, all virtualisation software has the ability to convert a disk image into whatever format is most appropriate for it. You'll probably need to reinstall drivers and reactivate the XP licence, but it'll work.

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Can you recommend a disk imaging tool for this? I was considering Paragon Backup & Recovery: – lapin Aug 6 '12 at 10:34
will upvote when I have the required 15 rep points ;) – lapin Aug 6 '12 at 10:37

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