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I have a soon-to-be-retired Sony Windows XP PC and I want to transfer it to my Mac and run it as a virtual machine on my Mac.

I have used Parallels and VMware before on a Mac but I have always created a new image and installed a fresh copy of Windows on to it and run it successfully.

I have never done a physical to virtual conversion before, especially with such a kooky PC as the Sony which has special keyboard buttons, a built in TV tuner etc and probably has many Sony specific drivers installed.

I would like to know:

  • Which virtualization software is most likely to be successful?
  • What is the procedure to transfer the image, presumably over the network?
  • Whether transferring such an old but patched up to date Windows installation is worth it?
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2 Answers

Perhaps it may be less hassle to build a clean, new XP image rather than import the Sony?

Have you tried using VMWare vCenter Converter? It's a free utility.

Check your Windows XP license string. If it's a OEM license string, don't attempt the following conversion.

From memory, these are the steps in using Converter:

Power on the Sony and connect to your network. Install Converter package on another Windows PC with the disk capacity to hold your Sony disk image, launch Converter, allow it to install the Converter agent/service software on the Sony. Begin conversion, you're storing the converted Sony disk image on the Converter workstation.

From your Mac, map a drive to your Converter workstation, import the stored Sony disk image to either the Parallels or VMWare Mac client software.

When you start the disk image the first time on your Mac, you'll be required to supply the license string.

These aren't finely detailed steps, but you get the idea.

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It also works for OEM versions if you have the XP license-key sticker for that machine. And you can also use an external disk to store the VM-image. That's what I did when I converted a physical installation to a VMvare image. For an OEM installation you will probably need the (non-OEM) XP license-key, which you find (most times) on a sticker on the PC (in my case it was on the bottom of the laptop). And the activation by internet did not work for me, but the one by telephone did. ~Good luck. –  iolsmit Jan 2 '12 at 18:41
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I've done this before, and it's worth it. I've used both VMWare Fusion and Parallels. The convenience factor is key - you're saving a lot of effort vs. rebuilding the box.

Any services or drivers for particular hardware on the physical machine are going to be problematic. Some will be removable after P2V; some (particularly with Dell) will not. However, the worse I've seen is a harmless error message about missing hardware.

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