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  • Migration plan: Win7GrpB to Ubuntu & VM

    Home Forums AskWoody support Windows Windows 7 Questions: Windows 7 Migration plan: Win7GrpB to Ubuntu & VM

    This topic contains 10 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by

     Paul T 3 months ago.

    • Author
    • #341700 Reply

      AskWoody Lounger

      First, I really appreciate everyone on this forum that contributes, this used to be an occasional site but as Windows 7 updates got more challenging this is an almost daily visit.  I’ve read what others are doing with regards to the EOL of Windows 7.  I have decided and started my own.

      I have a technical background and am familiar with Unix and have decided to move to Ubuntu 18.04.    I’ve started the process and my web surfing, Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Slides, Printing and Plex Media server needs are all adequately met.   I’ve started to migrate my files to ext4 where this is appropriate, leaving others on cifs mounted ntfs drives during this transition.

      I appreciate there is still going to be a need to access Microsoft Windows on occasion and my plan here is to move my Windows 7 system into a VM hosted on Ubuntu and it is with this step that I would like some advice as I have a number of questions.

      1. I’d like “image” my current system and use that for my VM.  I am currently a Group B updater and would prefer not to have to build a group B image from scratch. I do plan to abandon my existing Windows 7 system and hope to transfer my existing product key to the VM.   Any suggestions and caveats here would be appreciated.

      2. I was hoping Sysprep might be a useful tool in this process, but the listed limitations state that Sysprep can only be used on clean installs, meaning that my group B image is not possible.  Again any pointers to make SysPrep work in my situations or other alternative tools that offer the “generalization” function that Sysprep provides would be appreciated.

      3. My plan is to experiment with removing the network support for this VM once Windows has activated to protect the Win 7 image.  Most of the internet access should be done via Firefox on the Ubuntu host image, removing the network on the VM will force this and protect me from being lazy.   While not an “air gap” situation, I am hoping this provides a considerable amount of added protection.  Comments?

      4. I need to be able to regularly backup and rebuild the VM.  If anything does infect the Win 7 VM, then my only recovery is to restore a backup.   Any pointers  here would be appreciated.

      5. Lastly, I am currently researching using  Xen, VirtualBox, or VMWare and any pointers on preferred choices of VM (and choices for VM hard disk formats) would be appreciated.   I’m most interested in avoiding problems and less concerned on performance as this Win 7 VM will just be for situations where I need an application that I can’t find a Ubuntu alternative.

      Thanks for any help, advice or pointers

    • #341795 Reply

      Rick Corbett

      1. I’d like “image” my current system and use that for my VM. I am currently a Group B updater and would prefer not to have to build a group B image from scratch. I do plan to abandon my existing Windows 7 system and hope to transfer my existing product key to the VM. Any suggestions and caveats here would be appreciated.

      Have a look at this article for comparisons/how to’s re: converting a physical machine to a virtual format.

      (I use VMWare Workstation. It’s not a recommendation – just what I’ve been familiar with for years, well before VirtualBox and Hyper-V matured so I don’t have any experience to compare the latter.)

      Hope this helps…

      • #341972 Reply


        Thanks for the link.  Great read and exactly the info I needed to better understand.

    • #341799 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      4. I need to be able to regularly backup and rebuild the VM. If anything does infect the Win 7 VM, then my only recovery is to restore a backup. Any pointers here would be appreciated.

      This one is easy.  Just copy the image file.



    • #341821 Reply


      If your Windows 7 uses an OEM license, it’s bound to the hardware.  The VM shows as different hardware than the actual machine it runs on, so it won’t remain activated.  If it’s a retail version of Windows 7, you may be able to make it work.  I’ve never tried moving an existing Windows installation into a VM myself!

      As far as backing up, mledman said it first.  I use Virtualbox (Linux host, Win 7 guest), and the Win 7 VM consists of only two files… Win7.vbox, an .xml file that holds the various configuration options for the VM, and Win7.vdi, which is the virtual device image, containing the VM itself.  If you perform normal backups of the Linux host, it will be backed up right along with it… or else you can simply copy the files somewhere.

      The VM itself is a lot more flexible than an actual installation of Windows.  Each time you are finished using the VM, you can choose to save all of the changes that have occurred during that session, or you can simply throw out everything that’s changed and have the next session start again from the same point.  If you do save, it becomes/replaces a snapshot  “current state,” which you can instantly start any time you wish.  You could also choose to restore the baseline machine state, or any other snapshots that are there.  You can go forwards or backwards in time as you see fit.  You can create a snapshot at any time, or delete any you’ve created.

      If any given snapshot picked up malware, you could simply delete that snapshot and restore a different one.

      I don’t know much about VM software other than VirtualBox.

      Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.16 & Kubuntu 18.04).

      • #341963 Reply


        Thanks for this information!   Is there a way to determine if my license is an OEM license?  I have 2 custom built systems and one off the shelf system with product keys to choose from.

    • #341840 Reply

      Paul T
      AskWoody MVP

      Moving an existing machine to VM is very easy. VMware has a converter but MS Disk2VHD is easiest.

      Don’t use sysprep, it’s for new installations as a template.

      Protect your W7 image by backing it up or snapshotting.

      Any of the VM products are good, but you really need virtualization in your CPU to be effective. What CPU are you going to use?

      Storing the VM image on an SSD will provide maximum performance, but a cost of space. I would store it on HDD and make sure you have plenty of RAM to allocate to the VM – 8 to 16GB in your machine. RAM is always the best way to gain speed.

      cheers, Paul

      • #341969 Reply


        Thanks, Disk2VHD looks promising. Do all the VMs support the VHD disk format?  It looks like I’m leaning towards VirtualBox.  My CPU is Intel i54250U with 8G of Ram.

        • #341999 Reply


          Nevermind, Looks like the link that mledman posted above covers that nicely.  Thx.

        • #342162 Reply

          Paul T
          AskWoody MVP

          That CPU supports virtualization, but you may need to turn it on in the BIOS.

          cheers, Paul

    • #341846 Reply

      AskWoody Lounger

      One thing, depending on what kind of hardware you’re on… moving the installation to a virtual disk isn’t strictly required. It is quite possible technically to keep its own whole physical disk or just a raw partition or two for the VM, it’s just that there’s very rarely any advantage to this compared to a virtual disk, and always significant disadvantages.


      Of the various VM engines… I suppose they’ll mostly work but they do have slightly different feature sets.

      VirtualBox has some performance disadvantages but has the seamless mode and easy file sharing if you enable all extensions, for a very smooth user experience. However, the extensions will need licensing – if it’ll be used by anyone other than yourself or for anything that might generate revenue, you’ll need to buy the commercial license for it from Oracle. Which wouldn’t be all that bad if you could just buy one, but they only sell in bundles…

      KVM/QEMU has graphics acceleration, dynamic memory allocation (“balloon”), and all kinds of useful things, but is a bit tricky to configure. (The settings GUI doesn’t have all the options, last time I did this I the memory balloon feature for example had to be enabled using other methods.)

      Xen… is thought to lag a bit behind for Windows guests, until recently didn’t have working free paravirtualization drivers but apparently now has, don’t know how good the current packages are. Excellent for Linux guests on a Linux host though.

      VmWare… well which one? Notably some of the shortcomings in the free Player version would be sidestepped by storing the VM on a filesystem that does copy-on-write and snapshots already (btrfs or zfs)…

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