Tips for migrating a physical computer to a virtual machine (part 2)

Continuing on from previous ‘migration’ posts (http://blogs.msdn.com/virtual_pc_guy/archive/2004/11/24.aspx and http://blogs.msdn.com/virtual_pc_guy/archive/2004/11/22.aspx) – once you have your computer converted to a virtual machine – and you have it booting (at least past the first few seconds) the next issue that you might encounter is blue screens / hangs before you even get to the desktop.

These are usually caused by problematic drivers and / or services that aren’t handling the transition to a new system well.

The first thing that you can attempt to do is to boot the virtual machine into ‘safe mode’.  This can be done on most versions of Windows by hitting ‘F8’ just as the virtual machine is exiting the BIOS. 

Once you have booted into ‘safe mode’ you can use the Windows device manager and services manager to review the drivers and services that are installed on the computer – and attempt to disable some of them.  Good starting points include removing any hardware specific video, network or storage drivers.  You should also check for any non-standard services that might be installed and try temporarily disabling them.

One piece of advice here – you should have undo disks enabled on your virtual machine for this process.  Chances are that your problems will be caused by only one problematic driver or service.  Once you have identified this driver or service – it is handy to be able to undo all your changes – and then go back in and disable just the one problematic driver / service.

Sometimes (as in the case of migrating my wife’s computer) it is not even possible to boot into ‘safe mode’ on the new virtual machine.

This is when the Windows Recovery Console comes to the rescue – but I think that that is best left for the next post.

Cheers,
Ben