How to convert a physical computer to a virtual machine

Geek alert. If the the idea of fiddling with the workings of your laptop causes you to break out in a cold sweat, I’d move along today, there’s nothing to see.

For the brave and hardy souls ( and you know who you are) who have decided to hang around, todays topic is

How to convert a physical computer to a virtual machine

This comes from a blog by MacroLinz and it’s brilliant. I will quote from Lindsay’s blog.

I recently got a new replacement laptop for work. I had a lot of stuff on the old laptop after 2 years of use and so I didn’t want to have to rush myself in remembering everything in one or two passes before formatting it to send back to the office. There are always things I forget when I’m mostly focused on moving data files over: files in “hidden” places like IM logs and non-file based data such as product keys, configuration info, settings for programs and other stuff. So I decided the best thing to do was make it into a VM and take my time about reinstalling and configuring the new laptop to match.

Disclaimer: Use these steps at your own risk. Theoretically the worst that could happen is you could waste some time and/or end up with a VM that doesn’t work correctly so you can just scrap it and try something else!
What you will need to get started

* Your two laptops (obviously)
* VMWare Workstation (version 5.5 recommended, what I used) – You may download and use a free 30-day trial of Workstation. After the trial ends, if you don’t want to purchase a license, get the free VMWare Player which allows you to use existing VMs but not create new ones.
* An external drive or a networked drive that has enough room for your backup file that both laptops can access (I used a 100GB USB external harddrive)
* Microsoft Windows installation discs or ISOs
* Enough space on your new laptop to host a VM of the old one, or just use the external drive to host the VM
* Some thing else to work on during the hours and hours it takes to do the backup and restore after you get them running

and then she goes into a whole bunch of detail.

Bloody brilliant. I love hindsight, everything is so easy when someone else figures out the grubby bits.

Monday Morning “Impediment to Productivity” – 20060130


Lets get the Flash thing out of the way straight up this week. This time it’s the old, “the aliens are coming. the aliens are coming… shoot ’em shoot’em” school but the missles are a tad… well they spiral downward, hitting your mouse-driven targeting system with some delay. It’s really quite mesmerizing to watch, let alone weird as to play. 13 levels in all, I gave up after 2. But wait – there’s more! There are tons of other games at Dannyspace…
Danny is a very strange puppy. Oh yeah and its loud (but it has an off button).

Blame time. Seona and Phil (You remember Phil) have brought to my attention that I haven’t mentioned “Adventure Quest. to quote “A Free RPG you can play using your browser. Create a character and fight creatures to earn magical weapons armor.” Blow away a lunch hour or two. (or more)… you know who to Blame.

So now that thats out of the way. This was a very strange little week.

Jools was checking out an entry on Gizmodo (trying to find a GPS enabled camera… read the blog or * *) when she spied the Hard Drive Disk Dying Dance Contest (this is also on the blog).

Here’s how it goes Hitachi put audio samples of dying hard drives as a support aid (if your drive sounds like this , your wallet is toast). Gizmodo noticed these samples and thought “How industrial. Some one could use those in a piece of music) and launched a competition. To cut a long story short, 99 people entered their pieces and Jools and I are in there. Thats right folks armed only with Acid, Sound Forge, a reasonable library of sounds (and the usual lack of taste on my part) Jools and I blew a couple of hours and had way too much fun. The results have been posted.

Jools piece sound really good, mine sounds predictable by comparison. But it get s better, there is a gut called Tim who has been reviewing all 99 bits and he gave Jools 9XKUDOS (he was impressed). You can go to the site and read the comments and listen to the pieces. Are we going to win? Not me. May be Jools. Was it fun? Absolutely. Are we going to do it again? In an eyeblink.

So you now need a whole bunch of links

The Thatchspace Blog Entry ** or

The ODEO website where the 99 pieces are

Thatch’s Bit (HardDrive Stab) and comments (I so love the comment)

Jools Bit (HardDrive Chill) and comments

and for completenss sake. The sounds that started all this ** or

Someone out there asked for one of these. If you’ve ever wanted to put together a series of shots into a panorama, you might want to try the free Autostitch program. It’s the result of research from the Artificial Intelligence lab at the University of British Columbia. What makes this one unique in that you simply feed in the photos to use, and it does the rest – no human intervention required! (Your mileage might vary) They have a free demo version online that you can download and play with to your heart’s content.

Thats what friends are for dept: Actually there isn’t a lot you can say about this one, you really just have to go and have a look. Ping took an empty room in a new apartment and turned it into an elaborate “sideways room,” with furniture, books, a rubbish bin, etc all stuck to a sidewall, giving the impression that the room was at right angles to gravity. He documented it with photos and tips for the DIYer so you can scare the hell out of your less sober friends. (Dont see many of them around here anymore)

Now don’t forget the to pop into the blog ( ) for the odd update during the week.

As usual Have a good one


{ Currently listening to old Van Morrison and the Hard Drive Competition stuff (talk about masochism)}
{ Quick Status Check: Listening to dying hard drive noises for 6 hours is probably hell. }

Boot up Windows before you even log in

This is one of those really clever ideas that about thirty seconds after you read it and it digests, you slam yourself on the forehead and make “Doh” noises.

BrainFuel » Boot up Windows before you even log in by Thomas Chapin

If you don’t use any Windows XP login security, then you can skip this article. Otherwise, if you are like many Windows XP users who have to enter a password every time their computer sluggishly boots up, then read this!

Ok. Here’s the scenario:

You have to wait 2 minutes while your computer turns on, checks the RAM, checks that all the stuff that was there last time is still there, sends out for coffee and pizza, and you have to sit in front of your computer during this whole time because once it finally gets to the login screen, you have to type in the password.

Then the computer then crunches numbers for another 2 minutes while it loads all the crap that lives in your system tray, checks AGAIN that all the stuff that was there last time is still there, sends out for more coffee and after what seems like three separate eternities (with no intermission or toilet breaks) you finally have access to your desktop and can play Solitaire.

How would you like your computer to load all those programs *before* you ever have to enter your password? You could press the button to power up your system and you could go get a cup of coffee. Five minutes later, you back come to your desk and type in your password. BAM! Instantly dropped to the desktop! Your programs are already running and all systems are a go!

So have a look at the article and follow the really detailed instructions and then sit back and watch it all happen.

Thanks for this one Thomas, I have already got my laptop doing it (and the bruises on my forehead are finally fading).

Things to Do With a Flash Drive

Continuing on about USB drives.

Hands up everyone who got a USB memory thingy for Christmas.

Good, now hands up everyone who has any idea of what they are going to do with it.

Hmm. Not so good. has an article entitled 23 Things to Do With a USB Drive (actually they call it a thumb drive but we all know what they are talking about… don’t we.)
“Once known as simple little gizmos that were basically just modern replacements for floppy disks, USB flash drives have suddenly grown up. You can now replicate your desktop environment, encrypt files on the fly, and even rescue your PC with one of these formerly modest devices. Here are some of the coolest things you can do today with the innocuous-looking thumb drive on your desk, as well as details about some particularly useful new drives.”

And on it goes.

Some of it’s ideas are pretty cool.

Why you Need a Linux Live CD

Time for some more Linux zealotry.Blue CD
Has your Windows computer ever failed to boot or refused to go online?

You know that if you could just get online you could search for an answer to your problem or email your favourite computer geek; but there you sit unable to do anything.

And have you ever noticed that this always seem to happen at the worst possible moment. You’re going to a meeting and just want to print out that report, you’re going to school and you need to print that home work (that laser printer ate my homework… honest), you need to do some last minute research online, or you need to get that important email.

You could probably fix the Windows problem if you had an hour or two and knew were the installation CD’s were, but right now you just need to get what you want off of the computer.

What do you do?

You read Why Every Windows User Needs a Linux Live CD and then you will know what to do.

Also, consider having a dry run every so often because this blog will be another thing you wont be able to see when the “bad thing” happens.

I used a Knoppix CD to recover all the data from a clients seriously dying hard drive and burn it to a USB hard drive just this week.

Speaking of USB, some Linux distributions can boot from some USB flash memory thingies. As with most things Linux, there’s a HowTo: Linux bootable USB key.

Now if you really really really dont want to do the Linux thing and you want to stay with the “otherOS”, Fred Langa has a great article about Booting XP From A USB Drive, Step By Step over at Information Week , its a good read.

Windows In Your Pocket
All it takes is a minor error in the Windows Registry or a virus infection, and your operating system can become unbootable. But with a properly configured USB flash drive on hand, you’ll always have a compatible replacement no further away than your pocket or keychain. In addition, the flash drive can also provide a secure browser and virus scanner, and lets you take your favorite DVD burning and Office software with you wherever you may go.

Tom’s Hardware also has a guide to installing XP on your 256MB-or-bigger USB flash drive with Bart PE Builder for use as an emergency kit for your busted PC.

Me? I think for the time being I’ll hang with Linux.