Sunday, October 6, 2013

Converting physical computer to virtual: Bluescreen

I have finally taken the leap and upgraded my trusty but painstakingly slow Windows Vista computer to Windows 8. I wanted to do a fresh install, but it is always nice to have a path back to using the old OS in case something goes wrong with the new installation. What better choice than doing a conversion of the physical Vista computer to a virtual one (a P2V)!

The free VMware vCenter Converter specializes in just that - it is an easy download and run application (the documentation is also good, but you won't really need it).

Caveat: Your only option is to do a full copy of your disk volume, which means you really need an extra disk drive of some kind (I used an external one) with at least the same amount of free space as the total capacity of your physical disk with all its partitions. It is fast however - a couple of hours was all it took to clone my 160 Gb drive - fully acceptable.

I went with all recommended/standard options and chose a VMware Workstation or other VMware virtual machine as the destination type, since I wanted VMware Player to handle the computer from inside my new Windows 8 after the installation.

Problem: The first conversion failed at around 96% with an error message stating that it could not update drive letters. However, the virtual disk and the .vmx file was already there, so I went ahead and tried to boot it from VMWare Player, making sure the network interfaces on the toolbar were all turned off to avoid the physical computer and the virtual one to find each other. Of course, the VM would not boot, but went into the bluescreen of death (BSOD) after the initial progress bars.

Cause/Solution: One of the recommended settings was to use SCSI as the virtual disk controller. On a second conversion attempt, I only changed this to IDE (corresponding to the physical controller in my computer). Another couple of hours later, my VM was ready and booted fine.

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