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I have about 20 years of old hard drives from my company. How can I (easily?) create a virtual disk from each of them that can then be opened in VirtualBox?

I'd like to copy the images to virtual clones so I can destroy/discard the originals but stil retain the ability to turn on those computers whenever i wanted by storing the virtual disks on a single terabyte drive or something to that effect.

Is this possible and if so how is it possible to do this?

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Read the disks to a file (I use 'SelfImage' on Windows, run as an administrator, or dd on Linux should do it).

Then use VirtualBox's VBoxManage convertfromraw command to turn them into readable virtual disks in VirtualBox, VMware or Windows' VHD format.

They won't guarantee to boot in VirtualBox though, that depends on the OS installed on them and how well it tolerates having all the "hardware" changed around it. Copying the data off the disks should be quite possible, though.

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Can I do use selfimage pointed at a USB 3.0 enclosure with the hard drive inside it? Thanks – Chris Valentine Apr 24 '13 at 7:26
If it shows as a disk in Windows' Computer Management -> Disk Management, you should be able to, yes. – TessellatingHeckler Apr 24 '13 at 11:28
I finally got all the required equipment to try this and it works like a charm. Thanks – Chris Valentine May 22 '13 at 2:58

It depends largely on what the underlying filesystem is; hardware/software RAID or LVM drives are going to require construction based on their original configurations. The method to capture the data of the drive assuming a flat filesystem is going to differ depending on what it is. For instance for ext3, you could just plug the drive in (even get a USB3/SATA external enclosure) and copy off the data to a raw block device image:

dd if=/dev/old_drive of=/images/old_drive.img

This creates a VM-agnostic raw block image with which you can do a lot. If you want something specific to VirtualBox, you could look into using the createrawvmdk(SuperUser) utility.

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First question. What's on them? if they were to store data only (no OS) you'll be able to use DD like others have said and pull the data into a raw disk image. DD is the perfect tool for that. You can also get a version of dd for windows.

But, if you're wanting to BOOT from them. Unless you've got hardware that they were in up and running, you're already in for some difficulty. I'm not so sure older OS's like Windows 2000 like having all their hardware changed. Give it a try...

However, is it even worth 5 minutes of your time getting even a hard disk from 5 years ago to boot? Your time is money and I expect the answer is probably no. What is the likelyhood you'll need it? If no one knows what's on it, then no one will miss the data that's on it either. It'll be worthless.

I suspect that most of those old IDE hard drives should go in the bin.

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They are merely old workstations but historically this company has not had the best practices for backing up from workstations etc. The original owners are all gone so there may be old source code, customer info, etc. Probably nothing, but potentially the only place some of the info may be. – Chris Valentine Apr 24 '13 at 7:27
If you don't know what's on them, and no one else does, how will you know what you're looking for? I'd say they are destined for shredding. – Matt May 13 '13 at 2:32

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