Create A Virtual Machine From Your Old PC

The imminent release of Windows 8 means that many people are now thinking about upgrading their operating system or perhaps even buying a new computer. If you’re someone who has held off from upgrading to Windows 7, there’s an even greater chance that you’re thinking about investing some new hardware.

Whether your current machine is running Windows XP, Vista or 7, it probably includes no end of files and programs that you’d like to keep. By converting your existing PC into a virtual machine, you can run it on your new computer so you still have access to everything you’re used to working with, but without having to worry about compatibility or clogging up you nice new hard drive.

It may well be that you use software that proves to be incompatible with Windows 8, or you may not be able to afford upgrading to the latest version of a particular application that does support the operating system. Rather than hunting down alternative tools, why not consider using your existing computer as the basis for a virtual machine that can be run on any computer?

Download The Converter

VMware is a company that’s well known for its virtualization software, and it also features a handy tool called VMware vCenter Converter which you can use to transform your physical computer in a virtual machine. You can grab yourself a copy of the tool by paying a visit to the download page.

VMware vCenter Converter is free of charge, but you’ll need to sign into or create a VMware account in order to download it. Work through the registration process, click the link in the confirmation email to activate your account and after providing your password, you’ll be taken to the download page.

To get a free copy of vCenter Converter, you’ll need to create a free VMware account.

To get a free copy of vCenter Converter, you’ll need to create a free VMware account.

Start the download and when this is complete – this will only take a couple of minutes on an average connection – you can run through the installation and then launch the program.

Set Conversion Options

Click the ‘Convert machine’ button at the left hand side of the toolbar and then select the ‘Power-on machine’ option from the ‘Select source type’ drop down menu. Below this, select the optoin labelled ‘This local machine’ and then click Next.

You need to tell vCenter Converter to use your physical computer as the basis for a virtual machine.

You need to tell vCenter Converter to use your physical computer as the basis for a virtual machine.

From the ‘Select destination type’ menu select the ‘VMware Workstation or other VWmare virtual machine’ option before selecting VMware Player 4.0.x from the second menu. You can then go ahead and enter a name for your compute, choose where it should be stored and then click Next,

The converter lets you choose what aspects of your old computer should be copied to the virtual machine.

The converter lets you choose what aspects of your old computer should be copied to the virtual machine.

The Options section enables you to choose which of your hard drive partitions should be included with the virtual machine as well as numerous other settings. Click each of the sections in turn and configure the options you would like to use such as the amount of memory the machine should be assigned, how many CPU cores should be emulated and much more – just work through each section in turn and then then click Next. If you’re happy with what is shown in the Summary page, click Finish to

The actual conversion process is likely to take some time, so pop to the shops for a while!

The actual conversion process is likely to take some time, so pop to the shops for a while!

Virtualizing Your PC

It’s likely that your computer has a lot of data, and this coupled with the actual processes involved in creating a virtual machine means that the conversion is going to take some time. IF you do not have the necessary virtualization software installed on your new computer already, now is a good time to get it in place.

You can download a free copy of VMware Player – just make sure that you download the Windows rather than the Linux version. Again, this is a download that will take a moment or two to complete, and when it is finished you can start the installer. There are no complicated settings to worry about during the installation, just choose where you want the program to be and click Next.

To kill time, you could download VMware Player while your computer is converted.

To kill time, you could download VMware Player while your computer is converted.

When the conversion process is complete, you’ll need to use a removable drive of some sort to transfer the virtual machine that has been created to your new computer – just browse to the folder you specified as the destination and copy everything you find here.

With the program installed and your virtual machine copied into place, launch VMware Player and agree to the terms of the license. Click the ‘Open a Virtual Machine’ link to the right of the window and navigate to the newly converted virtual machine you have created. Select the file that has the same name as your old computer and click Open.

Virtual machine settings can be adjusted on your new computer as and when required.

Virtual machine settings can be adjusted on your new computer as and when required.

If you want to change any of the settings you configured previously – such as how much memory should be allocated to the virtual machine – you can click the ‘Edit virtual machine settings’ link, but otherwise, click the ‘Play virtual machine’ link. You can now work with your old computer just as you used to.

Summing Up

Virtual machines are amazingly useful, giving you the opportunity to run multiple operating systems on the same computer without having to worry about partitioning or boot managers. But the ability to create a virtual replica of an existing system is arguably its most useful application. It’s a great way to ensure that the aging computer you have left gathering dust in the corner of the room does not get forgotten forever.

The fact that all of this can be achieved completely free of charge makes it accessible to all, and the whole process is made as simple as can be, meaning you have nothing to lose.