Tamanator Online

Forgot to post pictures, but earlier this month I put a new computer together.

It has since been dubbed the Tamanator, for it runs its predecessor’s mind (former system disk) as a Virtual Box. This task was made all the more convoluted because I didn’t consider that I might want to do this in the first place. If I did, I would have pre-removed all the special hardware drivers first before I disassembled it and gutted it for parts. As a result, I had a physical hard drive containing the old computer’s OS that would not boot on my new hardware, so virtualizing it seemed the best way to go.

Creating a VHD image was the easy part, for Sysinternals has a disk2vhd utility for this express purpose. Mounting the drive in Windows Virtual PC was another issue altogether, for it has a 127 GiB physical size limit for whatever reason. The system partition is only 80 GiB, but the actual disk itself is 200, and the disk2vhd utility creates the same structure in the VHD file, even if it only has the one partition worth of data.

After much consternation, coffee, and research, I worked out a procedure that doesn’t involve paid-for partition utilities. First, get rid of that secondary partition. Move the data elsewhere if you need it, then delete that entire partition. Now, image the disk again using disk2vhd. The new file still represents a 127+ GiB disk, but at least now the file considers the unpartitioned space, well, unpartitioned. Now use the VHD Resizer tool from vmToolkit to drop the size of the VHD down to something manageable, like the actual size of the sole partition. Voila, the disk is now mountable.

And if you’re paranoid about losing data in the process like I was, note that Windows 7 has built-in support for mounting VHD images via Disk Management – so you can create the first VHD directly from your physical drive, mount it (taking care to physically disconnect your physical drive first, as Windows will not like does not like hates will choke and die if it sees two drives with the same ID). Once you’ve mounted the VHD (not in read-only mode!!), delete that partition, create a new VHD without the second partition, resize it, and you’ll still have the original disk if something horrible went wrong with the image.

All this was for naught, of course, as the my lack of foresight regarding drivers came back to haunt me. The original hardware included an AMD 64-bit X2 4200 processor. Who would’ve thought that Windows does not like going to sleep in one hardware configuration, and waking up in another? Fortunately, the solution here is easy – don’t use Virtual PC. VirtualBox has a free edition and allows you to customize the hardware setup more than the meager options in VPC, thus allowing you to mimic the original hardware more, right down to the number of cores it gets to use. With any luck, you can at least boot it up, then rip out all the old hardware drivers and utilities like my AMD Dual Core Optimizer.

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