Best way to virtualise existing windows PC's

I manage a few legacy systems, one XP one W2K, they both have proprietary databases that are no longer supported but are still used. We have no reasonable way of reinstalling the database on another machine and for speed and hardware reliability I would like to run these as virtual machines on a server. What is the best way to do this. Cheaper would be better as there is not much budget.

Thanks in advance!
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-The proper way to do hot(OS is running) P2V a DB server is to stop the App & DB on the machine before starting the conversion, this is to ensure DB consistency after conversion
-Also important before starting P2V, disable any physical hardware related services or uninstall physical hardware related tools(virtual hardware dont need all these, they may cause instability issue or guest OS cannot start after P2V)
-You can perform P2V using one of the possible methods below

1. Hot clone with vmware converter for vmware virtualization platform - Install vmware converter on the machine itself(P2V this machine) or on a mgmt machine(P2V remotely), run the converter wizard(easy to use all wizard driven) Resulting VM can be a VM for hosted virtualization platform like vmware server 2 on windows/linux or dedicated hypervisor like vmware esx/esxi
Get vmware converter at
Just register to get it for free

2. Or you can also do hot P2V with free 3rd party P2V tool to prepare VM for various virtualization platform using Vizioncore vConverter, refer to

3. Create a disk image from a running machine using disk imaging tool like Symantec Ghost, Acronis True Image or Storagecraft Shadow Protect. The resulting image file can be converted to VM, for example using the same vmware converter mentioned above

4. Cold clone(most reliable becoz OS is not running) - Mainly for enterprise vmware customers, using a bootable iso that is burned to disc and boot the physical machne from the disc to start the P2V

So which is the best or more suitable for you? The choice is yours to make.

Joseph DalyCommented:
If you want cheap and dont mind not having all the functions of a full blown ESX server you could always download the free vmware converter and vmware player/server tools from vmware.

The converter will let you pull a P2V image off your existing servers and the player/server will allow you to run that image as a virtual machine.


If you go the vmware converter/vmware server route (which I agree is best route for little money), make sure the hardware can support multiple machines. You want a dual core with with 2GB RAM at least, 1GB for host 1GB for Guest.
I run vmware server 2.0 currently and find it more usefull than the paid vmware workstation, but not nearly as powerful as the ESX server.
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You can download/install ESXi4 ( for this and convert them with the Standalone Converter tool (link provided by "xx..." above). Both are free and fairly easy to implement. If you have a server to install ESXi4 on, download that and install it on that server. Then, install the vCenter Converter on your workstation and do a P2V of your legacy systems to the ESXi4 host. If you don't have a server to install ESXi4 on, then using VMware Server 2.0 is probably the remaining best way to go. Here's the setup guide: Look in Sys Req's to see if your server is compatible (if you have one to use).

Let me know if you have any questions.

durgeAuthor Commented:
Fantastic guys it looks like you all have good suggestions. I am going to trial this on a normal PC using the vmware converter and server2, thanks ryder for the specific tips on cloning a DB machine. What product would offer the "cold boot" option?

It is VMware Converter Enterprise BootCD, as i mentioned earlier, it is for enterprise licensed customer & can be downloaded from vmware if you've purchased the license
durgeAuthor Commented:
Thanks I think this is plenty for me to get on with!
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