Going from an old PC to a new iMac, migration possible?
July 23, 2008 6:05 AM   Subscribe

I'm finally retiring my dad's virus-laden PC running XP with a new iMac. Is there any way to migrate his old settings from the PC over to a VMWare instance of XP running on the iMac in case he must use a PC-only app after the upgrade to a new machine?

My dad has been doing the horrifying thing of running a PC for the past few years and about every six months, when his PC gets overrun with viruses and adware, buys a new $500 PC running XP like his last computer, and the process repeats. I swear the last time I checked out his PC there were several weird taskbar apps running, one of which was in chinese (he can neither speak nor read it).

To ease the transition, I figured installing XP under VMWare would be a good option, in case there is one last PC app or game he needs to use occasionally.

But then I was thinking, even though it may be riddled with viruses/adware -- is there a way to migrate all the apps and settings from the old PC to a new VMWare XP instance? I use VMWare only rarely to test out websites in IE/PC, but I've never tried anything like this and I don't know how sophisticated the Microsoft apps are for migration of apps and profiles and such.

Has anyone ever done something like this?
posted by mathowie to Technology (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you use an app like Parallels, They have an installable app called Transporter. May be worth a read.
posted by alcoth at 6:13 AM on July 23, 2008

You can use VMWare for this. They have a tool for physical to virtual mapping.
posted by kaydo at 6:19 AM on July 23, 2008

oh and the tool is free
posted by kaydo at 6:20 AM on July 23, 2008

From the fact that your father gets a lot of adware and viruses, a Mac might be a better option from a security standpoint. However in terms of usability, the transition from Windows to Mac may be difficult for a novice user, which might be an even more cumbersome process adding a VM into the mix.

My recommendation, and I've done this with my mother, is to get them some sort of PC training course so they can learn how to use it properly. And I combine that with a few strict "rules" of don't download anything unless you really need it.

Now if your father doesn't have critical data on the PC, you may want to just keep the rig and use nLite with all of the drivers and settings premade so that reformat of the XP would be easy. You just need to set his rig up to boot to CD first, so he'll never need the tricky bios settings. After that he can give you a call, you hit enter, F8, D, and L a few times (not in that order) and then the disk will take care of the rest.

Good luck either way.
posted by thebreaks at 7:19 AM on July 23, 2008

Yeah, nLite is great for this. Set up his user areas in C:\dad, instead of MyDocuments, so they are still there after a reinstall.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:58 AM on July 23, 2008

The downside of providing a virtual installation of his XP machine with all his settings is that he will most likely say "I don't understand this other stuff but I can get to the XP thing fine" so he will continue to use XP, continue to get said viruses and spyware, and you're really not that much better off. Virtual machines can still become infected and suffer the same problems that physical computers can. Maybe you can setup bootcamp with XP instead and NOT copy over all his settings and documents (the documents would all be on the Mac side already), just have it there and say "If there's something you need that is windows only you will need to boot into this part of the computer, here's how you do it. I only suggest you do this for Windows only stuff because the Mac will run better in its normal state."

If the idea of getting him to switch to a mac is important to help him with the spyware/virus problem, the best thing you can do is make sure that he has Office 2008 if he needs it for documents/email/whatever and make sure he has programs for all the stuff he needs to open. Walk him through some of the basics and set him up for screen sharing so if you need to take control and help him out once in awhile if he has a question you can.

Oh, and I know this sounds dumb but have you at least checked this with him ahead of time? Maybe take him to the Apple store and show him all the cool things that can be done with one and how much faster it would be. In the end you want him excited about switching, not annoyed that you've changed everything and now he doesn't know how to get to solitaire.
posted by genial at 8:15 AM on July 23, 2008

I have used the vmware converter tool kaydo mentioned earlier and it is free and works perfectly. Having that VM so that he/you can fire it up and grab a file he needs which he had forgotten he needed could be a lifesaver. That said I agree with genial that giving him his old virus infested machine, now encapsulated in a vm on his mac will probably increase the chances he will resist the migration to the mac.

My Reccomendation?
  1. Create a new blank windows xp VM and migrate his important files to it (like you were moving him to a new dell instead of a new mac).
    • once the vm is setup back it up
    • vms are easier to back up and don't require restart like bootcamp

  2. Use the vmware converter and make an image of the old machine.
    • Archive it on a 50 dollar external hard drive
    • Keep it away from him (mabye even don't tell him it is available) but you'll know if something is lost in the transition you can get it back.
  3. Have him attend some of the classes at a local apple store to become comfortable with his mac.
Good luck!
posted by sktec at 8:37 AM on July 23, 2008

How much functionality does your dad need? If he doesn't need much and you can set all the programs he needs up for him, I could see Ubuntu (or some other relatively simple Linux distro) being a great solution.

Or: stick with windows and run firefox with noscript. Only enable noscript for stuff he'll need, and make sure you have a antivirus compatible with firefox's download auto-scan.
posted by JauntyFedora at 9:05 AM on July 23, 2008

A side note: make sure Dad understands that he is not to supply his root password ever to any application unless he clears it with you first. If you feel like it's necessary, you can create the root password and not tell him what it is, and just set him up a user account.

I did the same Mac to PC swap for my inlaws for the same reason three years ago. Last month he ended up with a trojan on his Mac. Turns out he downloaded something, and despite my oft-repeated instructions to the contrary, he input the root password when the window came up. So now he doesn't know the root password anymore; if for whatever reason he needs it he'll have to call me. But it's still been a good swap; three years with no problems and one low-damage exploit that was really the user's fault - not bad.
posted by azpenguin at 10:02 AM on July 23, 2008

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