Standard Disclaimer: I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you! I encourage you to use other backup methods in conjunction with this method so that your data is 100% secure. This method is strictly for supplementing your reload procedure in case you forgot to backup certain files.
Sooner or later every PC will need to be reloaded. Sometimes for OS upgrades, sometimes because your friends kids found the latest Java game website and clicked every single box that pops up. No matter what caused you to be in this situation one thing is for sure…you hope you don’t lose anything important after reloading your machine. Since the target audience of my blog is the virtualization crowd I thought I would blog about how to use VMware to help minimize data loss during a reload.
This is a fairly uncomplicated procedure and can be done with free products from VMWare. The high level overview of this process is:
- Download VMWare Standalone Converter
- Install Converter on machine to be converted
- Plug in USB Hard Drive, or mount a network share on the system
- Convert Physical Machine to a VMWare Player (or VMWare Workstation) VM
- Remove external storage
- Reload PC
- Install VMWare Player or Workstation on freshly reloaded PC
- Boot up Old Machine in VMWare VM
- Drag any needed files out of old system
- Have a cold beer, you reloaded the machine without dataloss
Step 1. Download VMWare Standalone Converter
This is a free download from VMWare’s website. Link to the download
Step 2. Install on PC
This step is pretty self explanatory. The installation is a simple “next” through till it is finished.
Step 3. Storage for the VM
Basically anything that can used to storage your VM as long as it meets two requirements. 1 – it must be able to be mounted as a drive inside of windows, so even if you have a NAS share or iSCSI share that would work fine. 2 – It must be large enough to hold all of the data currently on your PC. So if you have 50 GB of used space on your machine, you will need at least a 60GB hard drive. and you are probably going to want to format this NTFS so that it will support files larger then 2GB.
Step 4. Convert Machine to VM
Next Select “Convert Machine” at the top left corner of the window. You will be presented with a box that asks about the source for the VM. Select “Powered On Machine” and “This local machine”, click Next.
On this next screen you are asked where the destination should be, and in what format you would like it in. Pick the external drive that you previously installed. Also pick VMWare Workstation or Other VMWare Virtual Machine.
After picking a destination the converter will do some verification of the destination to make sure there is enough space and it also checks out the source to collect all of the settings. When the next dialog comes up you can select many options of how the VM will be created. I reduced the NIC count down to 1, I also made sure that all of the hard drives are set to their minimum size. You dont have to resize the partitions.. and I would recommend leaving them alone if space allows.
After this screen there is a summary screen that just shows what the process will do. Click Finish on this dialog and the process will start.
This process will take a long time, it depends on how much data you have, and how fast it can transfer to the destination. Some machines with only a small amount of data will take a hour or so, while others will take many hours. Let the process run until it says that it is 100% completed.
Congratulations, you now have an exact copy of your data inside of a virtual machine and are ready to start reloading your PC.
Step 5. Remove External Storage.
This is important as you dont want Windows thinking that it can format this drive …
Step 6. Reload your PC
This should be done just as normal. Reload the OS, drivers, and any other base programs that may be needed.
Step 7. Install the hypervizor
I use VMWare Workstation because I like the control it gives me with all of the modifiable settings, but if you need more then the 60 day trail time, and do not want to purchase Workstation, install VMWare Player.
Step 8. Reinstall External Storage and Open the VM with hypervizor
Step 9. Boot VM and restore files as needed.
This can be done by dragging files from tme Virtual Machine to the host. As long as VMware tools is installed.
Step 10. Have a cold one