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Virtually Worthless

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Over the past few years Harley has been transitioning to a new HVAC system. As areas in the building are renovated, they're converted to work with the new system.

Recently (this week) I realized that the old system is controlled by DOS software running on some ancient Windows 95 machine in the maintenance shop. After futzing around for a while trying to run this software on newer machines (2k or xp), it just won't work on anything other than the machine it's on. Of course the company that wrote the software won't even speak to us about it since it hasn't been supported in years.

The only option I can think of for replacing this decrepit computer is to host the Windows 95 operating system as a virtual machine inside XP. Brilliant right? Now the question is how to get the contents of the ancient machine into a virtual hard disk file (.vhd). Microsoft Virtual PC as the ability to link to a physical drive and convert it to a virtual hard drive. So yesterday I opened up this ancient desktop getting coated in dust that was probably older than I am and yanked out the hard drive. I set the drive up in the replacement machine as a secondary, fired up Virtual PC and started the conversion process. I tried this about 3 times each failing miserably before I gave up.

My next thought was to use Ghost to copy the drive. Ghost will copy the entire contents of the drive to a server on the network and then I can use it on the virtual machine to copy the contents down from the server to the virtual hard drive. This worked very well, but it was annoying to have to jump through all the extra hoops (finding DOS drivers for the old machine, building a CAB files with those drivers, and then ghosting both machines). MS has the functionality built into Virtual PC to convert from a physical drive to a virtual drive, but it didn’t work for me at all. In fact I searched around online and found more than a few people complaining that it just doesn't work.

Comments (5) Subscribe

#1 - Nov 1, 2007 at 6:19 PM
I haven't tried the disk conversion. We went the ghost route from the start so I've never had a need to do the disk conversion. I know that our server team does disk conversion all the time but they use VMWare's ESX server.
#2 - Nov 2, 2007 at 6:43 AM
Yeah, I'm cheap and use the free VMWare Server version. I'm using that for an Oracle AS that the teachers use to input grades and comments. It works pretty well except for the occasional dropping of the network connection. But just leaving the VMWare console open on a disconnected remote desktop session seems to keep it active. Go figure. Maybe MS' free Virtual Server works better than VMW's free Server version.
#3 - Nov 3, 2007 at 5:18 PM
Speaking of sister just got her new Dell computer and I hooked it up today for her. Windows Vista. Never seen it before, but it is very interesting. I bought her a new printer to go with it, (early birthday/xmas present). Got it all up and running for her. Even her email, which was tricky at first, but I figured it out with no problem. So I left her to learn the new stuff. At least I did all the hard parts for her. So now she has to not only learn all the features of Vista (moving up from 98), but she has a new printer that copies, scans, prints and does photos. That'll keep her busy for awhile. But I know my cell phone will be ringing with questions.
#4 - Nov 5, 2007 at 6:46 AM
I haven't really used Vista much myself either. I've fixed a few student laptops at school that had it. With such as big jump (98 to anything current) I guess Vista isn't a bad place to start.
#5 - Nov 5, 2007 at 8:43 PM
I suggested to her to go get a book on Vista. So she got Vista for dummies! And it helped her solve a problem with her email viewing so far! Dummy book to the rescue!

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