Customising Xubuntu and Migrating XP

Having settled on using Xubuntu, the next task was to customise it to my liking and see if I could migrate my old XP installation into VirtualBox so that I could continue to use Windows specific software that I need.

I installed Opera and transfered across my sessions, bookmarks and wand data. This was straight forward. Next I removed the default Thunderbird email client and installed Evolution mail (which to me is more like Microsoft Outlook). Next, I removed Abi word and installed Libre Office – all straight forward.

I needed to be able to continue running some Windows programs from my old XP machine; programs that might not play happily with WINE. I therefore installed VirtualBoxOSE with a mind to migrate my XP installation from my old laptop.

This migration turned out to be a bit convoluted. First it was necessary to makes some changes to the XP registry in order to relax the IDE checking (Windows will not normally boot from an IDE drive that it was not installed on). I used MergeIDE to perform the necessary registry changes before rebooting and finally shutting down.

It was then necessary to create a raw image of the XP disk which could then be converted to a virtual disk image suitable for running within VirtualBox.

Initially I booted a live Xubuntu CD and then tried to use dd to create a raw drive image. The dd program did not seem to be included on the live CD therefore I resorted to making a CloneZilla live CD and booted that instead. CloneZilla itself didn’t seem to cope well with any errors on the disk (e.g. blocks that were marked as bad and ignored by WinXP) – I therefore dropped out of CloneZilla into a terminal and executed dd directly with “conv=sync,noerror” command line options. This successfully created an image on an external USB drive but unfortunately VirtualBox refused to accept the image as valid – never found out why.

Further googling pointed to “VMware vCenter Converter” as another way to create a virtual disk image. I therefore installed VMware Converter program on the XP machine and created a VMDK file on an external USB drive. This time, VirtualBox was happy to accept the image and created a suitable XP virtual machine.

The nail biting bit was next; booting the XP virtual machine! Initially I was presented with a black screen which was not a promising start. I aborted the boot and tried again with WinXP in Safe Mode; this worked ok so I restarted again in normal mode. Windows looked odd and complained that it was not registered but at least it booted.

I installed VirtualBox GuestAdditions in WinXP and then things started looking better. I asked Windows to register itself via the internet expecting to have to enter my WinXP registration code again but it simply said “Windows registered” and worked. A few reboots to ensure that all was well and I was happy that I’d migrated my XP machine into a Virtual XP Machine on my Xubuntu OS. Yay! – what a relief.

With some confidence that my migration to Linux was feasible, I then installed a SharedFolder in VirtualBox so that I can begin to transfer files out of the XP file system to the Linux file system. First file to move was my Outlook PST file which I then imported into Evolution. That went well and brings me up to date so far; the migration continues…

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