Tips for migrating a physical computer to a virtual machine (part 2)

Tips for migrating a physical computer to a virtual machine (part 2)

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Continuing on from previous 'migration' posts ( and - once you have your computer converted to a virtual machine - and you have it booting (at least past the first few seconds) the next issue that you might encounter is blue screens / hangs before you even get to the desktop.

These are usually caused by problematic drivers and / or services that aren't handling the transition to a new system well.

The first thing that you can attempt to do is to boot the virtual machine into 'safe mode'.  This can be done on most versions of Windows by hitting 'F8' just as the virtual machine is exiting the BIOS. 

Once you have booted into 'safe mode' you can use the Windows device manager and services manager to review the drivers and services that are installed on the computer - and attempt to disable some of them.  Good starting points include removing any hardware specific video, network or storage drivers.  You should also check for any non-standard services that might be installed and try temporarily disabling them.

One piece of advice here - you should have undo disks enabled on your virtual machine for this process.  Chances are that your problems will be caused by only one problematic driver or service.  Once you have identified this driver or service - it is handy to be able to undo all your changes - and then go back in and disable just the one problematic driver / service.

Sometimes (as in the case of migrating my wife's computer) it is not even possible to boot into 'safe mode' on the new virtual machine.

This is when the Windows Recovery Console comes to the rescue - but I think that that is best left for the next post.


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  • Ouch...I am having no luck with your tips to date.

    I did get the machine booting for the first few seconds, then got an error reading:

    After about 20 reboots trying different things, it got that problem (seemed to be magic). Then I got booted up, but could not login because the mouse and keyboard were not working. I tried safe mode, but it still wouldn't let me work with the mouse or the keyboard (strange hey!).

    I did play around with the Recovery Console, but didn't get very far.

    Then I wanted to get Windows to attempt a recovery install; however that took a few hours because all the versions on XP Pro I tried only allowed me to delete and do a fresh install; finally I tried an XP Pro with SP1 ISO image, and it *did* allow me to do a recovery install. (The machine did have SP1 installed so this makes sense, however the only CD my wife had when she got the PC was the original release version of lucky for my MSDN Universal Subscription...).

    So...No it gets half way through the recovery install, and the Windows Installer gives me an "Unspecified Error".....

    Ouch. So now I cannot boot the VM image at all (it just reverts to Windows Setup because it got half way through), and I cannot finish the setup because it just errors out half way through.

    Glad it was just a VM!

    Thanks for your help Ben - but this is absolutely *NOT* easy...and not something beginners should try.

    BTW Does the VSMT to any tricks? I wanted to try it...but you seem to need a whole lot of infrastructure installed just to run it. Pitty the VSMT toolkit team didn't just design a solution that could take a drive image and work from that :-(

  • Hi David,

    If the hardware you are moving between is quite different - Windows may need time to redetect your motherboard. I have seen situations where a migrated system booted without mouse or keyboard - but if you let it sit at the login prompt for 5 to 10 minutes - Windows would detect the new mouse and keyboard and you could start using them.

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