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Turn a Physical Linux or Windows Machine Into A Virtual Machine for Free
We’ll focus on building this masterpiece in a Windows environment, but don’t worry, the same principles can be used on any operating system that can run Virtual Box.
List of required software and hardware:
-Virtual box and expansion pack
-PC with Windows 7 or later or most Linux distributions
-Redo Backup and restore ISO
-The YUMI installer
– USB flash drive
– USB hard drive
The overall benefit of doing this procedure is threefold. First, the cost savings on electricity, climate control and the necessary space will be visible immediately. Second, manageability and scalability are dramatically increased by working with virtual disks and virtual networks that can be scaled up or down with finer-grained management. Third, redundancy and faster disaster recovery provided by cloud services. Especially when connecting to an already existing network infrastructure for a smooth transition in the event of a disaster.
Although this process can be completed in different ways with different software, this is the way I know of and all the necessary tools are free.
Sound scary? No big deal, but where do you start first?
Well, we need to get the physical machine image onto a removable media (USB hard drive). I recommend a USB hard drive rather than just a USB flash drive because of the space the image will take up. We will also need a USB flash drive of at least 2GB to use as a bootable medium for Redo Backup and Recovery.
Connect the USB hard drive to the USB port and open the folder structure. Create a folder in a location you can remember, such as D:”Your Computer Name”. This is where we will install the files from our original physical copy of the image. Once it’s done, remove your USB hard drive by right-clicking the “Safely Remove Hardware” icon on the taskbar and clicking “Eject” “depending on the name of the USB hard drive”, unplug the USB hard drive.
Next, we need to create a bootable USB to load Redo Backup and Recovery onto. Download a small program called “YUMI”. YUMI will create a bootable USB flash drive on it for repeated backup and recovery. Also take a copy of Redo Backup and Recovery, save both files to your desktop or a location of your choice.
Now launch YUMI and select the USB drive from the list (remember to select the USB drive, not the USB hard drive, which should be unmounted anyway!). Select “Repeat backup and restore” from the list of software for which you can create an installer. Click the Browse button to locate the Redo Backup and Recovery.iso file to include during installation. Finally, click on “create” to start the process of creating a bootable Redo Backup and Recovery USB. When this is done, YUMI will ask you if you want to add any more distros, just say no. Remove the USB drive from the computer using the “Safely Remove Hardware” icon on the taskbar, click “Eject” “depending on the name of your USB drive” and disconnect the USB drive. Please save the Redo Backup and Recovery.iso, we will need it later.
Make sure the physical computer you want to virtualize is powered off, if not, turn off the computer. Insert only the USB flash drive into the computer. Turn on the computer and press the correct key to access the boot menu, or make sure the USB drive is set to boot before the computer’s internal hard drive. Select the USB drive to boot from, YUMI should boot. Select the entry for Tools, then Repeat Backup and Restore. Press the enter key in the Retry menu to start the mini-recovery operating system. When Redo Backup and Recovery is loaded, insert the USB hard drive and give it about 20 seconds.
Open Redo Backup and Restore:
1. Select “Backup”
2. Select the drive to backup (your physical computer’s drive)
3. Select the partitions to back up (usually this will be all partitions and the MBR)
4. On the Destination Drive screen, select Connected directly to my computer and click Browse.
5. Locate the file folder we created earlier ie. D:”Your computer name”, click OK.
6. Choose a name for the disk image. I usually select a date, click next. The backup process will take between 1 and 3 hours depending on the capacity of the hard drive and the speed of the computer.
Congratulations, you have now made a full backup of your physical machine. Click “Close” in the “Repeat and restore backup” program and select the power button in the lower right corner of the screen. Select “Shutdown” and let the computer shut down. Remove the USB flash drive and USB hard drive and boot to any computer running Windows 7 or higher.
Now let’s turn this physical machine into a virtual one!
Open Virtual Box and select New. Give your virtual machine a name and select the type of virtual machine as well as the version. Choose the memory size, I usually take 2 GB = 2048 MB if I plan to run it on a machine with 4 GB of RAM physically installed. Create a new hard drive, select VHD as the hard drive file type, click Next. Select Dynamically Allocated for storage, click Next. Give your VHD a name, I’ll usually name it after what’s running on it, so name it whatever you’ve named your computer. Make the VHD hard drive large enough to hold your operating system, I usually go with 200GB to be safe. Again, this depends on how large your physical machine data was. You are now back at the Virtual Box Manager screen with your new virtual machine. Make sure the Virtual Box extension has been installed. Get the extension for your software version and install it like this:
In Virtual Box, click File–>Settings–>Extensions–>Add Package–>Find the extension file and select it. It will be installed automatically.
Prepare the conversion! Use only option A or B:
Option A: If you can get USB support working in Virtual Box:
Make sure you have installed the extension pack and set up the USB access correctly, if you have problems, refer to the Virtual Box document here:
In Virtual Box, click on the name of your virtual machine and select “Settings” at the top, select “Storage”. Click the empty CD/DVD icon, then the CD/DVD icon on the right under Properties, select your ISO to repeat the backup and restore, and click OK. At this point, you have a ready-made Redo Backup and Recovery.iso file and a blank VHD to install. All you need to do now is insert the USB hard drive and skip option B because you don’t need to do it.
Option B: If you can’t get USB support to work in Virtual Box. No problem, that’s what happened to me, so I found a way around it.
In Virtual Box, click your virtual machine name and select Settings at the top, select Storage, select Add Hard Drive next to Controller:Sata or Controller:IDE, what have you. Select “Create a new disk”, select the VHD and again dynamically allocate it 200GB and name it “Installer”. In the Storage Tree, click the empty CD/DVD icon, then the CD/DVD icon on the right under Attributes, select your ISO to re-backup and restore, and click OK. At this point, you have a ready-made Redo Backup and Recovery.iso file and a blank VHD named after your computer, as well as another black VHD named Installer. Now close Virtual Box and right click on “Computer” and select “Manage”. Left-click on Disk Management, then right-click on Disk Management again and select Mount VHD. Locate the installer VHD you created in Virtual Box, usually in the My Documents folder, and click OK. Now you can copy the physical computer backup image we took earlier from D:”your computer name” to the installer VHD. Once the contents have been copied, right-click the computer control again and click Unmount VHD. Open Virtual Box and proceed to the next step.
Let’s transform this thing!
Once you have the USB support or VHD installer setup and the Redo Backup and Recovery ISO file mounted. Click Start on your virtual machine name in Virtual Box. You will come across the familiar Redo Backup and Recovery boot menu, press enter to continue. Run the backup and restore program if it did not start automatically. Select Restore. In a nutshell, you choose where your backup image is located on the “Source Drive” (your USB hard drive or the installer VHD if you have one) and where to install the image (an empty VHD named after your computer). Once you’ve chosen to install to a blank VHD, accept the prompt to overwrite any data and start the recovery process. Once it’s done, click Close and turn off Backup and Restore as before. The virtual machine should stop running. Click on Settings in Virtual Box Manager and disable ISO backup and restore and VHD installer if possible. Leave your VHD with your computer name or whatever you named it and click OK to return to Virtual Box Manager. Click Start, you should now see a fully virtualized version of your physical computer!
Check out the many uses for this powerful little VHD!
You can transfer this VHD and plug it into any instance of Virtual Box or even VMware if you’re so inclined. You can run it on-premises or deploy it in the cloud. The cloud instance of this virtual machine can either require Virtual Box to run on your cloud instance or run it in your cloud space if supported by your hosting provider.
Common problems and troubleshooting:
Q: When trying to start my Linux VM I get ” out of sync: VFS: unable to mount root fs on unknown-block(0,0) “?
A: This is because during the backup and restore process all entries for hda##, hdb## and so on were converted to sda## extc. Copy your precious VHD first so you don’t lose your work if something goes wrong. Then all you have to do is mount the backup and recovery ISO, restart the virtual machine, and start a terminal session. Mount the root partition and edit the entries in GRUB or Lilo to the appropriate boot device. For example: GRUB includes entries in menu.Ist and fstab. In Lilo, they are included in /etc/lilo.config and then in /sbin/lilo -v to record changes.
Q: When I try to start my Windows VM I get a boot error?
A: Get a copy or disk of Windows and install it inside Virtual Box, making sure it is set to boot first. Select the Repair option. Select “Start Repair” and let it run. If that doesn’t help, go back to the “Fix” option and select “Command Prompt”. Try these commands in turn, each time shutting down and unmounting the Windows disk to see if the problem is fixed:
bootrec.exe /FixMbr. Then restart to see if resolved. If that doesn’t work, try:
bootrec.exe /FixBoot. Then restart to see if resolved. If that doesn’t work, try:
bootrec.exe /RebuildBcd. Then restart to see if resolved. If that doesn’t work, try:
You may have to remove the BCD folder by running these commands one line at a time without quotes:
“bcdedit /export C:BCD_Backup
c: <---- Only if your Windows installation is on C:
attribute bcd -s -h -r
ren c:bootbcd bcd.old
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