Existing Windows installation to Virtualbox. Avalanche inside.
December 5, 2012 4:56 AM   Subscribe

How do I successfully take an existing Windows 7 installation from HDD and put it into Virtualbox on Debian, on an SSD? Avalanche inside.

I recently purchased a used Lenovo Thinkpad (X201, 4GB ram, core i5) which came with Windows 7 on its hard disk. I want to be able to use that installation because it's got MS Office, which I'd like to use for work.

The snag here is that I want to run Debian (Squeeze) as my primary OS, and I also want to use my SSD for the higher performance. I don't want to go the dual boot route because I'll end up booting backwards and forwards between Debian and Windows. LibreOffice just isn't cutting it as a drop-in replacement for Office, unfortunately.

I've tried saving the Windows installation as a .VHD file, which I managed to get running in Virtualbox, but after a few boots it became unreliable, started hanging at boot and complaining (surprise surprise) that the hardware had changed and my Windows installation might not be genuine.

What's my best option here for just getting Windows 7 running reliably within Virtualbox? As the machine is still under warranty, I can easily obtain a recovery disk if that is necessary, so I can do a brand new install. At the moment, I'm tempted to just buy a copy of Office, and install that on the Windows XP virtual machine I got set up, but if possible, I'd rather save my money. Have I missed something, or am I making this more complicated than it should be?
posted by Juso No Thankyou to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You might have more luck with kvm than virtualbox.

As an aside: because the power management support under linux is much poorer than under windows, many people who wish to run linux on laptops are choosing to leave the Windows installation as is and just run Debian (or whatever) as a VMWare instance. With a little tweaking, you can make the Linux GUI 'own' the screen (& if you install Wheezy and recompile the xserver-xorg-video-vmware .deb with the right option to configure you get 3D support as well, which means a proper Gnome 3 desktop).

That way you get the best of both worlds: maximum battery life combined with your development environment of choice.
posted by pharm at 5:09 AM on December 5, 2012

I have converted a physical Windows XP machine to a VMWare virtual machine using this: http://www.vmware.com/products/converter/overview.html. It shouldn't be much different to do with Windows 7.

I think VirtualBox can import VMWare VMs, so maybe that's a start?
posted by jozxyqk at 5:23 AM on December 5, 2012

When windows detects the change and wants to reinstall or re-check the license, let it. You have the key, so you're fine with letting the software do it's thing.

But as been suggested, the power management issues may make it a lot more reliable to use windows as the base OS and run your Debian setup in a VM.

Otherwise just reinstall your windows 7 OS into a new VM. You should be able to do so using your lenovo disks (which you did make when you set up the machine, right?).
posted by wkearney99 at 6:25 AM on December 5, 2012

I've had crappy luck with VMWare's converter.

Things I've done that work to create a VMWare VM from a physical machine. And mind you, did this on a corporate imaged machine, so licensing may be different, but it had lots of "management" software on it, and I put the image on an entirely different machine. This was Win7.

[I had bad luck with MS' Virtual PC, didn't try Oracle's Virtual Box.]

Assuming you still have original machine:
  • Have an external USB drive big enough to hold the image
  • Download, burn and boot clonezilla CD (from ISO) on target machine
  • Image the drive to the external USB drive
  • On host machine, create a new VM, make the hard disk "more or less" the same size as what you just imaged (not the used-space size, but total size)
  • Mount the clonezilla ISO to the CD drive in the VM, and boot clonezilla in the VM
  • Write the image on the USB drive to the VM's hard disk.
  • Boot the VM hard disk, should be good to go.

    (For my corp image, had to fix the MBR because of some boot stuff they did, but you shouldn't have to deal with that).

  • posted by k5.user at 8:42 AM on December 5, 2012

    Best answer: Running Debian within Virtualbox on Windows counts as running Windows as my primary OS in my book. I couldn't care less about the battery management - I'll just buy another battery.

    I solved this by obtaining MS Office and installing it on the Win XP virtual machine. The other methods turned out to involve far too much faff for my liking.
    posted by Juso No Thankyou at 9:05 AM on December 7, 2012

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