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  • Running Linux Mint in Virtual Box Questions

    Posted on LHiggins Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Home Forums AskWoody support Non-Windows operating systems Linux – all distros Running Linux Mint in Virtual Box Questions

    This topic contains 57 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  HH33 1 week, 5 days ago.

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    • #1962469 Reply

      LHiggins
      AskWoody Plus

      Good morning. Thought I’d start a new topic for this as a follow-up to the great discussion about a Mint Full Install on USB from last week. In that discussion, running Linux and/or Windows in a Virtual Box was suggested, and I really don’t know much about that and thought I’d see if I can get a few ideas here.

      I was originally hoping to keep my Win 7 laptop going – but I am still reluctant to dual boot or set up a VM with it, thus the searching for alternatives. I thought that using the full install of Mint on the USB would “do it” but there seem to be concerns about the long term viability of such a set up, and if I do try to keep that going, I’ll most likely need to invest in a good SSD external drive – which brings up another set of questions – LOL.

      After a lot of Pro/Con lists for various options, I am now investigating the possibility of getting either a refurbished Dell Latitude E7250 running Win 8.1 from the Dell refurbished store, or a similar laptop running Win 10 Pro from Amazon, and setting up Linux to run within Windows as a virtual machine?  For the money – both of those seem pretty good – especially the one from Amazon with the fast processor and larger hard drive.

      I guess my first question then – besides how do I do this – is does this sound like a good long-term solution? I would most likely run Mint “exclusively” through the VM (not sure if I am using the right terms here!) – and only use Windows for things that don’t work on Mint.

      I do have to wonder if that Dell – same model for both that I am looking at – would be able to handle a set up like this. I can’t find any definitive info from Dell about using Mint on that laptop.

      Both suggestions here and here in that original discussion were about running Windows within Linux – I think I would want to do it the other way – but wonder if it is a good long-term option.

      I have a lot to research about this – but thought I’d see if anyone might have some ideas or guidance. I am keeping my eye on that Amazon offer – they say they have 5 left, so hopefully I will be able to make a decision before they are gone.

      Thanks everyone!

      Lily

    • #1962496 Reply

      LHiggins
      AskWoody Plus

      And I guess I should add this question as well – does the OS running in the VM have “persistence” for lack of a better term. Will it save my settings, favorites, email etc – or will all that be lost when the VM software is exited or the computer is restarted? I am looking for a permanent option so that everything is saved in both OSs.

      I’m guessing maybe a VM doesn’t do that?

      • This reply was modified 3 weeks, 1 day ago by  LHiggins.
    • #1962568 Reply

      MrJimPhelps
      AskWoody_MVP

      VMWare Workstation Player saves whatever you do in the VM when you close the VM, so that it picks up right where you left off when you start it up again. I’m guessing Oracle VirtualBox does the same, but I have never used it, so I can’t say for sure.

      Because Windows 8.1 will be supported till Jan of 2023, this is a good long term solution (to me, 3 years is long term).

      Get 16 GB of RAM in the computer, so that you can allocate 8 GB to the VM, which will leave 8 GB for Windows 8.1. Both Linux and Windows will run well under that scenario.

      Between now and 2023, work as much as you can in the Linux VM. In fact, leave the Linux VM open all the time, so you can click instantly from one to the other. Then, as 2023 approaches, you can decide if you want to switch to full-blown Linux (as opposed to running it in a VM). I predict you will switch to full-blown Linux.

      Group "L" (Linux Mint)
      with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
      1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #1962578 Reply

        LHiggins
        AskWoody Plus

        Great – I was worried that if I do choose to go this route – I wouldn’t be able to save any of my work! I’ll look into the VMWare Workstation Player that you recommend. So restarting or shutting down won’t affect anything?

        Get 16 GB of RAM in the computer, so that you can allocate 8 GB to the VM, which will leave 8 GB for Windows 8.1. Both Linux and Windows will run well under that scenario.

        As to the RAM issue – the laptops I am looking at are refurbished from Dell, and come with a set amount of RAM. 8GB seems to be the norm – but I think they all come with 8 GB (1x 8GB), so I guess I could add another 8GB – there must be more than one slot?

        How difficult would it be to run it on 8GB? That would leave 4GB for each OS.

        Between now and 2023, work as much as you can in the Linux VM. In fact, leave the Linux VM open all the time, so you can click instantly from one to the other. Then, as 2023 approaches, you can decide if you want to switch to full-blown Linux (as opposed to running it in a VM). I predict you will switch to full-blown Linux.

        I am pretty much ready to switch now – but I want to keep my options open with Windows for things that don’t work in Linux. And my Win 7 just doesn’t have enough oomph to do the VM – it only has 4GB RAM – though running Linux with the full install on USB thumb drive is working great right now.

        One of my other thoughts is to look into replacing the 64GB USB thumb drive I am now using with a 256GB solid state external drive or USB stick that is set up the same way – full install of Linux onto it. Still figuring out how that might work! And if it doesn’t – could those be reformatted to be used as regular storage?

        Part of the decision is the cost of each idea – right now the Win 8.1 laptop will be around $250, an external SSD runs about $90.

        Thanks for the help – I’ll take a look at that VMWare.

        Lily

        • #1962630 Reply

          MrJimPhelps
          AskWoody_MVP

          You could run on 4 GB for each, but it might be a bit slow at times. (You definitely don’t want to go below 8 GB total RAM if you are running a VM.) If you want everything to work well, then 8 GB for each OS is better. If the computer has one 8GB stick in it, and it can go up to 16 GB, then all you need to do is order one of that same memory stick, and install it in the empty memory slot.

          Group "L" (Linux Mint)
          with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
          1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #1962912 Reply

        mn–
        AskWoody Lounger

        … heh, if you set this up just right, it might be possible to make it so you can boot the same Linux installation up either as a VM or directly on the hardware? (See section 9.8.1.2. in the VirtualBox manual)

        1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #1962589 Reply

      anonymous
      • #1963237 Reply

        LHiggins
        AskWoody Plus

        Thanks for the links. I always forget about MicroCenter.

        i like SanDisk

        The USB I am now using for the Linux install is a SanDisk and so far it seems fine. I hope if I do stop using it for Linux, it can be reformatted to be used for something else.

        Thanks!

    • #1962688 Reply

      Ascaris
      AskWoody_MVP

      I was originally hoping to keep my Win 7 laptop going – but I am still reluctant to dual boot or set up a VM with it, thus the searching for alternatives.

      If I may ask… Why are you reluctant to do that?  I’ve wondered about that in the other discussion.  If Windows 7 is no longer adequate (because its time is drawing short; it’s a great OS in and of itself), why continue to let it have the entire hard drive, while the OS you will actually be using is pushed onto a USB drive?  Perhaps if I can better understand the reluctance, I (or we here at AskWoody.com) can help propose a solution or otherwise allay the fear.

      If it were me, I would set up the dual boot (shrinking the Windows partitions that already exist, which is easily done) and set Windows up in the VM.  That makes it possible to use Linux as the standard OS, but to start and use the VM for those odd tasks that require Windows (without having to reboot), and to have the Windows bare-metal installation still there just in case you need it for something.  That’s the setup I have on all of my machines now, and it gives me the best of both worlds.

      Of course, I would always make sure to take a full image (backup) of the drive before doing anything major, like changing the partition size, in case anything went wrong.  For Windows, my go-to is Macrium Reflect, which has an excellent free version.  That way, you can always restore to the untouched state any time you wish.

      When I bought my new laptops recently, I took Macrium images of their internal drives before I made any changes, just in case I wanted to restore them to the factory configuration.  I did that also on one PC I ended up returning a year or two ago, so even though I had converted it to Linux, it was just as the manufacturer had set it up when I took it back.

      I don’t see much benefit in running Linux as the guest in a VM on Windows as a permanent solution.  If the goal is to try a given flavor of Linux out to see if you like it, or if you have some specific tasks that can only be done in Linux, a Linux VM (guest) makes a lot of sense, but otherwise, if you’re running Windows as the host (the “real” OS), you’re still subject to the update nightmare (if you use 10) or the security issues (if you use 7 past the expiration date, which will eventually happen with 8.1 also).

      Using a Linux browser in the VM would effectively sandbox it, giving an added level of security, but the base OS is still vulnerable to anything else that comes by anything that happens outside of the VM.  It makes more sense to have Linux as the host and Windows as the guest.

      If you had a Windows 10 guest, the VM would eliminate the patch nightmare, restoring the level of control that the PC owner should have had all along, and it would also allow you to mitigate the security vulnerability of Windows 7 past its expiration date.

      One of the really great things about VMs is that you can have changes persist when you want them, but to instantly roll back to a previous snapshot when you don’t.  When I use my Windows 7 VM, it takes a few seconds for the VM to start, and Windows is ready to use… I saved its state after it was fully booted, so when I start it, that’s the state it is in, with whatever programs I was using right there as I left them.

      After the Windows VM (guest) starts, I do whatever it is I need in Windows (like using the Windows-only utility to program my mouse or keyboard, both of which have onboard profiles that control what they do), then when I am done, put the mouse arrow on the bottom line of the screen, which brings up the VM menubar, and hit the X to close it.  VirtualBox asks me if I want to save the current state (which will save it in exactly the state it is in at that moment) or power down the machine, and if I have the “power down” option selected, it has a checkbox to “restore current snapshot.”   If I have that box checked and I use that option, the VM will revert any changes that have happened during that session, so any malware I may have picked up (unlikely, but possible) will be eliminated before I was even aware of its presence.

      If I make a change to Windows that I want to keep, I can simply select the option to save the current state, in which case it will be preserved in that state, with the changes that were made persisting.

      When I first start the VM guest (Windows 7), it is in a known safe state.  If I want to make changes to Windows, like installing new programs, I do it right after the VM has started, so that any possible malware would not have had a chance to get in yet, then save the state immediately after the changes are made (which you can do without shutting down the VM if you wish).  After that, I can go do whatever other Windows stuff I want, and when it is time to shut down, I can have it roll back to the state I just saved it to.

      You can use both of these options selectively to keep the changes you want, but to roll it back when you haven’t made any changes that need saving (which for me is the most common situation).   For persistent storage, you can set up a shared folder (outside of the VM, on the host PC) that the guest can access, a place where you can store your data files from within the VM guest (Windows), so that these files will remain as you left them even if you roll back the state of the VM.  You can also access these files from the Linux host directly.

      It’s probably a bit confusing as I describe it, but it’s easier in practice, once you’ve gotten how the VM works.  It gives you a lot more options and flexibility than you have with a bare-metal installation.

      The VM application itself is just a program, so there’s nothing to fear from that.  It can be installed or uninstalled like any other.  It doesn’t require the deeper changes like resizing and adding partitions that can be somewhat risky (which is why I insist on having a backup before doing anything like that).  Anytime you’re resizing partitions, it’s a possibility that something could go wrong.  I haven’t had that particular thing happen (and I’ve resized a ton of partitions) but once, but if it does, I am ready.

      Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.16.5).

      3 users thanked author for this post.
      • #1963247 Reply

        LHiggins
        AskWoody Plus

        First – thanks so much for the very detailed and thought provoking reply. I am still rereading to digest it all! I’m going to try to work through and answer some of your points.

        f I may ask… Why are you reluctant to do that?  I’ve wondered about that in the other discussion.  If Windows 7 is no longer adequate (because its time is drawing short; it’s a great OS in and of itself), why continue to let it have the entire hard drive, while the OS you will actually be using is pushed onto a USB drive?  Perhaps if I can better understand the reluctance, I (or we here at AskWoody.com) can help propose a solution or otherwise allay the fear.

        Yes – I know I have voiced that in several discussions probably going back to my original Linux “testing” phase on my very old Vista laptop. I’m not sure there is an easy answer – I guess I just don’t want to yet do anything that might affect the Win 7 side of this laptop, even though I haven’t even booted into Win 7 for about 3 weeks now, and even though I know that the “end” is coming! Pretty irrational, probably.

        I understand the dual booting – it did work well on that old Vista machine everyone helped me with a while back, but the VM part is really all new to me.

        If it were me, I would set up the dual boot (shrinking the Windows partitions that already exist, which is easily done) and set Windows up in the VM.  That makes it possible to use Linux as the standard OS, but to start and use the VM for those odd tasks that require Windows (without having to reboot), and to have the Windows bare-metal installation still there just in case you need it for something.

        So, what I think you are saying is that I should set up the dual boot, and then set up the Windows VM within the Linux boot? How would that work with only 4GB ram? And what would I need from Windows to do that – the license it came with? I’m not sure I have a recovery media for this, but there is a recovery partition on the hard drive. You can tell I am very much a newbie on that whole concept!

        And a question – when I create an image backup – I use Macrium – and then do the dual boot (not the VM part) – can Macrium be used to revert back to the pre-dual boot state if something goes wrong?

        It’s probably a bit confusing as I describe it, but it’s easier in practice, once you’ve gotten how the VM works.  It gives you a lot more options and flexibility than you have with a bare-metal installation. The VM application itself is just a program, so there’s nothing to fear from that.  It can be installed or uninstalled like any other.  It doesn’t require the deeper changes like resizing and adding partitions that can be somewhat risky (which is why I insist on having a backup before doing anything like that).

        Yes – venturing into new territory is probably part of my reluctance, though this does sound like it is a way to go. Good to know that the VM application won’t do permanent “damage” – and yes – I use Macrium regularly for backups in case.

        I’ll comment more as I read through everything, but wanted to address those points particularly.

        Thanks again – your help is much appreciated!

         

         

        • This reply was modified 3 weeks ago by  LHiggins.
        • #1964470 Reply

          Ascaris
          AskWoody_MVP

          I’m not sure there is an easy answer – I guess I just don’t want to yet do anything that might affect the Win 7 side of this laptop, even though I haven’t even booted into Win 7 for about 3 weeks now, and even though I know that the “end” is coming! Pretty irrational, probably.

          Well, no, it’s not irrational to want to preserve the Windows installation just in case.  It’s just that there are ways that you can preserve Windows AND put Linux on there too, as I am sure we will get to below!

          So, what I think you are saying is that I should set up the dual boot, and then set up the Windows VM within the Linux boot? How would that work with only 4GB ram?

          That’s what I would do, but it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right thing for you.  As I am fond of saying, one size does not fit all!

          Using a VM won’t be ideal with 4GB, but it can be done. If you can install more RAM, that would be better.

          I have 4 GB in my Swift laptop (which is anything but swift!), non-upgradeable, and I have Windows 7 set up within a VM on it.  I have the VM set to allocate 2GB to the Windows guest and 2GB for the host, and it’s usable but poky, in part because it’s not a fast PC to begin with, but the limited RAM certainly does not help.  If you wanted to use it like MrJimPhelps suggested, keeping the VM open all the time so it’s instantly available, I’d suggest getting at least 8GB (like he said also).

          I use VMs differently than MrJimPhelps.  I only open the VM when I need it.  It takes a few seconds to start, which is less convenient than leaving it available all the time, but I seldom use it, so it’s not much of a bother.  All of the things I do in Windows are relatively quick tasks, so I can soon close the VM and go back to using my Linux programs.  If you expect to be using the VM for extended periods of time, more RAM would definitely be a good idea.

          And what would I need from Windows to do that – the license it came with?

          You have a couple of options.  Paul T suggested a program that will copy your existing Windows installation into a .VHD file, which stands for virtual hard drive.  That means your VM would be able to see the copy of your hard drive just like your actual PC can see it now, and boot from it.  That’s one option (more on that in a bit).

          The other option is to install Windows into the VM as you would on a PC that came with a blank hard drive (which is kind of what a VM is).  You don’t need the recovery disk to do that.  If you have a valid Windows key, you can download the Windows .iso from Microsoft.

          After you install the VM software, you can create a new VM, and the first time you use it (talking about VirtualBox here specifically, but I would imagine others are the same), it will ask you for an .iso file to boot from.  Usually, these .iso files are used to make a bootable Windows install USB drive or DVD, but the VM software can skip that step and pretend the .iso is already a DVD.

          You can boot from the Windows .iso and install Windows normally into the VM.  When it asks for a key during the installation process, you can use a generic key… each type of Windows has one, so just pick the one that matches the version of Windows you want to use.  That’s good to install it, but it won’t activate from the generic key.

          You wrote below that the Windows on your machine is OEM.  OEM Windows licenses are tied to the hardware they are activated upon, and a VM is not the same as the machine that runs it.  Most of the things you see in the Device Manager inside the VM are different from the things you have in the actual physical PC!

          No one outside of Microsoft seems to really know how, exactly, the Microsoft hardware “fingerprint” system works, but we know it looks at the motherboard, the disks, the video card (if there is a discrete one), network adapters (which have unique MAC IDs), stuff like that, and from that it generates a hash, like a fingerprint, that represents your PC.  It will tolerate minor changes, like swapping a hard drive for another, but big changes signal to MS that this is not the same PC, and therefore Windows will deactivate itself.  It will nag you to activate from time to time and turn the desktop wallpaper black, and not let you change that or the system theme or colors.

          It’s because of that hardware fingerprinting that I have doubt that an OEM Windows installation will remain activated if it is made into a VM.  I haven’t tried that specifically, but I have tried swapping hardware on my machine when it ran Windows and had it deactivate.  That would also mean that if you try to use your existing Windows key to activate a fresh Windows installation, it would not work.  Windows gives you a grace period after installing before it turns the wallpaper black, but I forget how long it is.

          And a question – when I create an image backup – I use Macrium – and then do the dual boot (not the VM part) – can Macrium be used to revert back to the pre-dual boot state if something goes wrong?

          Absolutely.  If you use Macrium to create an image (backup) of the drive, you can always revert it to that state it was in when you did the backup… bootloader, partitions, Windows, everything.  That way, if something does happen, you have a way to get back to the way it was before you did anything.  Setting up a dual boot probably won’t go wrong, but it’s good to have recourse in case it does.  You can even use that backup to restore to a new hard drive or SSD if the old one fails, or if you want to upgrade to a bigger one.

           

          Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.16.5).

          1 user thanked author for this post.
          • #1964688 Reply

            LHiggins
            AskWoody Plus

            Thanks for the great tutorial on VMs! Lots to read through and think about for sure.

            Last things first –

            If you use Macrium to create an image (backup) of the drive, you can always revert it to that state it was in when you did the backup… bootloader, partitions, Windows, everything.  That way, if something does happen, you have a way to get back to the way it was before you did anything.  Setting up a dual boot probably won’t go wrong, but it’s good to have recourse in case it does.  You can even use that backup to restore to a new hard drive or SSD if the old one fails, or if you want to upgrade to a bigger one.

            OK – so it seems that my first order of business is to make a good – and lasting – Macrium image of the Win 7 system. I’ll want to be sure that this image is one that I note as my roll-back image in case things go wrong with anything from here on in, correct! I generally only make an image before doing any updates. And just to be sure I have it right – it is “image this disk” – not “clone”? And can that particular image be saved to a thumb drive and be put away for safe keeping so that it is not mixed up with other backups?

            I really liked your story in an earlier post about how you used the image to restore your laptop to factory specs even after making many changes. Good lesson – and a somewhat off-topic question. Can Macrium be installed and run from a removable drive so that as you say – the first thing you do is create the image? I did make a full image on the new Win 10 laptop, but it was after I had downloaded Macrium to the hard drive, which involved using the browser. Would be nice if it could be run independently.

            I guess then, I need to brush up on my dual boot process – that was successful on the old Vista laptop so I’m sure it will be fine now, too – but I want to be sure I have all of the steps right.

            If it were me, I would set up the dual boot (shrinking the Windows partitions that already exist, which is easily done)…

            I didn’t do anything with partitions when I did the other dual boot, so I’m not sure how that might work, but I guess if I am going to use Linux primarily, I should devote enough to it.

            Thanks for the ideas and your patience!  I do need to reread all of your info on the VM, and I’m sure I’ll have questions, but for mow I have a place to start.

            Thanks again!

            Lily

             

            • #1965110 Reply

              Ascaris
              AskWoody_MVP

              I generally only make an image before doing any updates. And just to be sure I have it right – it is “image this disk” – not “clone”? And can that particular image be saved to a thumb drive and be put away for safe keeping so that it is not mixed up with other backups?

              Yes, it’s the image option.  Imaging makes a backup of the existing disk or partition(s), while clone just makes an exact copy on another disk.  Cloning is useful if you want to move to a bigger hard drive or something like that… you can just copy the old disk right over to the new one, without having to go through the intermediate step of making the image of the old disk and restoring it to the new one. You could use cloning as a backup method, but it would use a lot more space on the backup media than an image.

              As for the thumb drive bit… you could do that, if the data on the original disk will fit, but thumb drives are not really ideal media for important backups that you will keep and rely on.  Flash memory cells will gradually lose their data over time if they’re not rewritten periodically, and factors like heat can accelerate this.  For that reason, SSDs are not recommended as backup media, and USB thumb drives are even less trusted, as they typically use lower-spec flash memory that may lose its data even faster than the SSD.

              External hard drives (that will be kept safe and unplugged most of the time) are better for this kind of use.  An external hard drive that you can unplug and put in a safe place when you are not using it will be safe if something happens to the main PC, and the odds that it will start up and run even years later, without losing any data at all, are greater than with flash media.

              Can Macrium be installed and run from a removable drive so that as you say – the first thing you do is create the image?

              Yes… the standard Macrium Reflect rescue media can also be used to create backups, not just restore them.

              I didn’t do anything with partitions when I did the other dual boot, so I’m not sure how that might work, but I guess if I am going to use Linux primarily, I should devote enough to it.

              In order to put Linux on a disk that already has Windows installed, it will probably be necessary to resize one or more partitions on the disk to make room for the Linux partition.  I say “probably” because there might also be a partition already on there that you don’t need or want, and you could simply repurpose that and make that the Linux partition.

              The Linux installer on the USB drive will do the resizing for you automatically if you wish.  If you tell it you want to install Linux alongside of Windows, it will check to see that there is enough room left in the Windows partition to shrink it (it can only shrink the unused bit, so if the Windows partition is too full, it won’t work!), and if there is, it will propose shrinking that partition, then creating a new partition for Linux in the newly freed up space.  If you accept the proposal, it will proceed to do that and install Linux on the new partition.

              There are a lot more things you can do, like preserving your existing Linux installation on the USB drive, but they also increase the complexity, and I don’t want to make it any more confusing than it already is at this stage.  It’s an option if you wish to do it, though!

              Thanks for the ideas and your patience!

              You’re most welcome!

               

               

              Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.16.5).

              1 user thanked author for this post.
            • #1965952 Reply

              LHiggins
              AskWoody Plus

              Thanks for your input on all of this. I am just getting back online today and need to digest all of it – and will post back later on. But thanks again for your detailed information!

            • #1966265 Reply

              LHiggins
              AskWoody Plus

              Good morning! Finally getting back here – busy day yesterday LOL.

              External hard drives (that will be kept safe and unplugged most of the time) are better for this kind of use.  An external hard drive that you can unplug and put in a safe place when you are not using it will be safe if something happens to the main PC, and the odds that it will start up and run even years later, without losing any data at all, are greater than with flash media.

              OK – I have an external hard drive dedicated to each of my computers – this laptop, a desktop that also has Win 7 – very old – and that new Win 10 of my husband’s. I keep each hard drive separate and only for backups. So if I do a Macrium image before any attempt at dual boot, and note that it is “the one” – it should be possible later to roll it all back if need be.

              The Linux installer on the USB drive will do the resizing for you automatically if you wish.  If you tell it you want to install Linux alongside of Windows, it will check to see that there is enough room left in the Windows partition to shrink it (it can only shrink the unused bit, so if the Windows partition is too full, it won’t work!), and if there is, it will propose shrinking that partition, then creating a new partition for Linux in the newly freed up space.  If you accept the proposal, it will proceed to do that and install Linux on the new partition.

              I believe that is how it worked on the old Vista test machine – but I wasn’t really concerned much about partitions or what went where. I guess I’ll need to boot back into Windows – I should anyway to clean things up and make that backup – and see what partitions there are. Is that what it means when Macrium says it will make a backup of the “drives” – there is a regular Windows one and the Lenovo recovery one – are those the partitions?

              This laptop has a 500 gb hard drive – about half full, so that should be plenty of unused space for the dual boot, right?

              There are a lot more things you can do, like preserving your existing Linux installation on the USB drive, but they also increase the complexity, and I don’t want to make it any more confusing than it already is at this stage.  It’s an option if you wish to do it, though!

              So  does that mean there is a way to move everything I now have on the Mint thumb drive over to the dual boot – my email, favorites, settings, etc? That might be something I would like to do if I decide to do this. Otherwise, I need to try to make a copy of the data I’ve accumulated since using Mint at the beginning of the month. No real documents or pictures – just email and things, and the Linux installed updates – would all of that be possible to save and move?

              There are a lot of options in this thread to consider – this one is the most “economical” since I’d be using the same hardware and not doing too much to the Windows side. I did originally post links to two possible replacement ideas for this laptop, one of which I have been also discussion with owburp which I need to follow up on too. The idea of doing something with a “brand new” – refurbished laptop has some advantages as the hardware would be newer, but there’s always that Windows update thing to think about.

              Thanks again for all of your help – and I would be interested in learning more about preserving the existing Linux USB installation, too. Sorry this is such a saga – and we have drifted from the original question of a VM – just hard to narrow it down with so many options. And I guess I am just philosophically opposed to letting a perfectly good laptop go by the waste side without a fight, so to speak!

              Have a great day!

              Lily

      • #1967859 Reply

        HH33
        AskWoody Lounger

        Of course, I would always make sure to take a full image (backup) of the drive before doing anything major, like changing the partition size, in case anything went wrong.  For Windows, my go-to is Macrium Reflect, which has an excellent free version

        One question, if I may:

        Assuming that Macrium Reflect Free – or any other complete disk backup software (AOMEI Backupper, EaseUS, etc.) – is installed within a W7 VM guest in Virtual Box on a Linux Mint host, if it is opened within the W7 VM guest and instructed to perform a complete disk backup, will it backup both the W7 guest and the Mint host, or will it see and backup only the W7 guest as the “complete” disk?  If the latter, presumably only a complete disk backup program from within the (Mint) host would be able to backup both the host and the guest.

        Many thanks.

        Group 7-L (W7, heading toward Linux)
        W7 Pro x64 SP1
        Linux Mint 18.3 Cinnamon 64-bit
        Linux Mint 17.1 Xfce 32-bit

        • #1968263 Reply

          Paul T
          AskWoody MVP

          It will only “see” and therefore backup, the VM disk. As this disk is actually a file on the Linux disk there is no need to run a disk backup in Windows, just copy the VM file on the Linux machine, or create a snapshot using the VM control software.

          You should backup your data in the Windows VM, but this can be done by copying to the Linux disk – which you then backup – or a network disk.

          cheers, Paul

          1 user thanked author for this post.
          • #1968415 Reply

            HH33
            AskWoody Lounger

            Thanks for your prompt and helpful reply. I suspected that any backup program in an OS within a VM would likely be able to “see” only its limited VM world as the “complete disk” for backup, but I wasn’t sure.  I appreciate the confirmation.

            You should backup your data in the Windows VM, but this can be done by copying to the Linux disk – which you then backup – or a network disk.

            I’m a bit confused by your phrase, “but this can be done by copying to the Linux disk.”  Presumably any complete disk backup of the Linux host would also include the Virtual Box W7 VM and all its contents (including data), so I’m not clear why it would also be necessary to copy any W7 data to the Linux disk.

            Also, does any network HDD which is to be read and used by both a Linux Mint host and a W7 guest VM as a common repository for data need to be specially formatted, or will a standard 1TB external HDD work fresh out of the box?

            Thanks again for your help.

            Cheers

            Group 7-L (W7, heading toward Linux)
            W7 Pro x64 SP1
            Linux Mint 18.3 Cinnamon 64-bit
            Linux Mint 17.1 Xfce 32-bit

            • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by  HH33.
            • #1968599 Reply

              mn–
              AskWoody Lounger

              Also, does any network HDD which is to be read and used by both a Linux Mint host and a W7 guest VM as a common repository for data need to be specially formatted, or will a standard 1TB external HDD work fresh out of the box?

              Well, that needs to be handled by whatever does the networking on it. Some dedicated network-disk applicances have their own disk format, some use a subset of the alternatives available on Linux, Windows or Mac, or…

              See, the hardware part isn’t normally exposed raw to the network. Network usually only deals in files and folders, not raw blocks.

              (Yes, iSCSI is not “normally”.)

              In this situation my preferred method is to just allocate some disk space from the host for this and then share that to the guest(s). Doesn’t have to be external disk.

              … copying guest data to host disk is useful when you want it to be available outside the guest, like when the guest isn’t running; also if you ever want to restore the entire guest from backup but still keep some data from there that is more recent than the backup.

              Also always nice to have separation between “system” and “data”.

              I suspected that any backup program in an OS within a VM would likely be able to “see” only its limited VM world as the “complete disk” for backup, but I wasn’t sure.  I appreciate the confirmation.

              Actually, it is possible to do this if you really, really want to, with some VM products. It’s not likely to be a good idea except in very specific circumstances.

              2 users thanked author for this post.
    • #1962782 Reply

      MrJimPhelps
      AskWoody_MVP

      I don’t see much benefit in running Linux as the guest in a VM on Windows as a permanent solution. If the goal is to try a given flavor of Linux out to see if you like it, or if you have some specific tasks that can only be done in Linux, a Linux VM (guest) makes a lot of sense, but otherwise, if you’re running Windows as the host (the “real” OS), you’re still subject to the update nightmare (if you use 10) or the security issues (if you use 7 past the expiration date, which will eventually happen with 8.1 also).

      There is one key reason to run Windows 8.1 as the host and Linux in a VM, and that is, you may not be able to find a retail license for Windows 8.1, which means you won’t be able to run Windows 8.1 in a VM. However, you very likely could find a decent refurbished computer with an OEM license for Windows 8.1. In other words, running Windows 8.1 as the host OS may be the only choice you will have.

      Group "L" (Linux Mint)
      with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
      1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #1962790 Reply

        Ascaris
        AskWoody_MVP

        But if you are doing that, why not just use Windows 8.1 all the time?  The whole point about using Linux is to get away from Windows, but if you are using Windows as the host anyway, you’re not getting away from it.  If you have an application that only runs in Linux that you must have, that would be a good reason, but otherwise, why even have Linux at all?

        Windows 8.1 is the only one I would use on bare-metal right now, as 7 is too close to the end and 10… is 10.  In a VM, though, I don’t really care that much which Windows it is.  Windows 7 will work past the expiration date as a guest in a way it can’t safely do on bare metal, since you can roll back to a known good state in only a few seconds, which I already do at the end of each VM session, even though Win 7 is still supported.

        Running 10 in a VM, conversely, gives you near immunity to its update shenanigans, since you can always roll back to an earlier time (again, in only a few seconds) if MS decides not to let you use your PC right then, and if you should choose to use an update blocker to more or less permanently stop the roller coaster, the ability to roll back to a known good state will help you too.

        Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.16.5).

        1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #1965829 Reply

          MrJimPhelps
          AskWoody_MVP

          But if you are doing that, why not just use Windows 8.1 all the time? The whole point about using Linux is to get away from Windows, but if you are using Windows as the host anyway, you’re not getting away from it. If you have an application that only runs in Linux that you must have, that would be a good reason, but otherwise, why even have Linux at all?

          A good reason for putting Linux in a VM on a Windows machine is so that you can try Linux out. If you have enough memory in the computer, you can run the Linux VM in full-screen mode all the time and get a pretty good feel for whether or not you want to use it as your host OS.

          Also, by having Windows 8.1 as the host OS, and Linux as the VM, you are giving yourself a huge amount of time (more than three years) to learn Linux before taking the plunge.

          Group "L" (Linux Mint)
          with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
          2 users thanked author for this post.
      • #1962806 Reply

        mn–
        AskWoody Lounger

        … according to Microsoft’s licensing documentation, I understand if you buy a computer from a Microsoft-authorized refurbisher with the refurbisher-type Windows license included but Windows not installed, you’re then authorized to install that instance of Windows in a VM? And downgrades being allowed so can install 8.1 on a 10 refurbish license…?

        Market pricing being what it is, you may even save money by buying a new SSD separately from the refurbished computer. Can’t have Windows preinstalled if there’s no disk to install it on at the time…

        3 users thanked author for this post.
        • #1963369 Reply

          LHiggins
          AskWoody Plus

          Can’t have Windows preinstalled if there’s no disk to install it on at the time…

          So – would a refurbished laptop with no OS be something to possibly also consider for a strictly Linux choice?

          • #1964426 Reply

            mn–
            AskWoody Lounger

            So – would a refurbished laptop with no OS be something to possibly also consider for a strictly Linux choice?

            Naturally.

            Do bear in mind that “included but not installed” is a very different case from “not included”, here. For the “not included” case, you’re looking at either only using free operating systems (Linux…) or buying a retail version of Windows separately.

            And refurbisher Windows Pro was noticeably less expensive than normal retail Windows Home, last time I checked.

            1 user thanked author for this post.
            • #1964677 Reply

              LHiggins
              AskWoody Plus

              Do bear in mind that “included but not installed” is a very different case from “not included”, here. For the “not included” case, you’re looking at either only using free operating systems (Linux…) or buying a retail version of Windows separately.

              Yes – that would be a drawback if things don’t go as planned. Guess sticking with one that comes with an OS is the best choice.

              Thanks!

      • #1963248 Reply

        LHiggins
        AskWoody Plus

        However, you very likely could find a decent refurbished computer with an OEM license for Windows 8.1. In other words, running Windows 8.1 as the host OS may be the only choice you will have.

        Yes, I think that is why I was looking into this alternative.

        In truth, I have about 5 different “scenarios” with pros and cons to each – hoping to be able to home in on the right solution.

        Thanks!

    • #1962831 Reply

      owburp
      AskWoody Plus

      Here’s an opinion from an innocent bystander who has been witnessing this discussion since the USB thread.

      The foundation of the discussion, as I understand it, is a working computer running Win7; you like it but it’s running out of daylight so, before EOL comes along, you want to see if switching to Linux (Mint specifically) will work for you. You wanted to run Mint off a USB/flash drive for an extended time.

      My original thought was “Why an extended time?” You would decide that either Mint is working or it’s not working for you. Once you decide it’s working (or when Win7 EOL hits), Mint gets a full install on the hard drive. If you decide Mint is not working, you move on to your next choice, whatever that might be. In either case, “extended time” is not going to be in terms of years, it might not even be more than a few months, as I see it.

      Now the question is about getting a new laptop with either Win 8.1 or Win 10 and, somehow, test Mint on that.

      Here’s how I see that.

      You are choosing between three systems that are not Win7. That means you would have to learn a new system, whether that be a Windows or a Linux system, testing to see which would carry on the work you have been doing with your current Win7 system. As I see it, Win 8.1 puts you into the same dead end that you are now facing with Win7; it’s just a little farther into the future. Win 10 is distasteful to you now, which is why you are testing Linux Mint. So I would guess that you’ll be learning Linux.

      My suggestion and totally my opinion:

      Use the USB/flash drive on your current system to see if Mint works at all for you.

      Meanwhile, investigate the laptops you’ve been looking at to ensure that whichever one you decide on comes with a recovery disk or some way to get back to the original hard drive setup out of the box. Doing that allows you to have a back door; once you wipe the hard drive to install some other OS, you want to have the ability to go back to the OS that the laptop originally came with.

      Once you feel comfortable that Mint or some other Linux distro appears to satisfy your work requirements, try loading it as the only OS on that new laptop. You can be comfortable wiping the drive because you have the recovery disks stashed away (and you still have your Win7 computer safe and untouched by all this). If it turns out that this particular distro doesn’t work, try a different one. If Linux just won’t do it, you can always go back to the Microsnot OS that came with the laptop. Do you see any downside to this?

      1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #1963357 Reply

        LHiggins
        AskWoody Plus

        The foundation of the discussion, as I understand it, is a working computer running Win7; you like it but it’s running out of daylight so, before EOL comes along, you want to see if switching to Linux (Mint specifically) will work for you. You wanted to run Mint off a USB/flash drive for an extended time.

        Yes, exactly! And so far – it has been working great! I haven’t missed Win 7, and have really had no reason to boot back into it. I’ve been consistently using Mint for over 3 weeks now – not a long test by any means, but so far, nothing making me want to go back to Win 7 – and maybe that is an indication of where this is eventually heading.

        Just to add also – even after the EOL of Win 7, we aren’t going to be “Window-less” since we did get a Win 10 Pro laptop for my husband, and for those sites we wouldn’t have been able to access after Jan 2020. And as “nice” as that laptop is – the Win 10 update experience  – only 2 months so far – has been nail biting at best (it has V1903), and has probably pushed me to try to solve this Linux question.

        Use the USB/flash drive on your current system to see if Mint works at all for you. Meanwhile, investigate the laptops you’ve been looking at to ensure that whichever one you decide on comes with a recovery disk or some way to get back to the original hard drive setup out of the box.

        So what would be an alternative to a recovery disk?

        Once you feel comfortable that Mint or some other Linux distro appears to satisfy your work requirements, try loading it as the only OS on that new laptop. You can be comfortable wiping the drive because you have the recovery disks stashed away (and you still have your Win7 computer safe and untouched by all this). If it turns out that this particular distro doesn’t work, try a different one. If Linux just won’t do it, you can always go back to the Microsnot OS that came with the laptop. Do you see any downside to this?

        This sounds very reasonable – especially this: “(and you still have your Win7 computer safe and untouched by all this).”

        Thanks so much!

        Lily

         

        • #1963818 Reply

          owburp
          AskWoody Plus

          So what would be an alternative to a recovery disk?

          In the past, not all PC manufacturers included a recovery disk; some required the user to actually order those disks from the manufacturer, but most required the user to access a utility on the hard drive to create those disks on their own. Dell usually includes a hidden recovery partition on the hard drive. I seem to recall an F-key on bootup that would allow you to choose a menu item that accesses/runs that recovery process to replace whatever is currently on the C: drive with a copy of what that drive looked like out of the box. Dell might also offer another process within Windows for you to actually create a physical DVD copy of the drive image to store away for safe keeping. That way, if the hard drive fails and you can no longer access the recovery partition, you have another way to recreate/recover the C: drive. In my mind, that physical recovery disk is what you want as your escape hatch.

          Having (finally) taken a look at the Amazon laptop you referenced in your earlier post, I see that it is a refurbished Dell laptop. That being the case, I couldn’t say for sure how the refurbisher (note that it was NOT Dell that did the refurbishing) configured the laptop and whether the recovery partition is actually on the hard drive. The same goes for whether the Windows setup includes the Dell utility that would allow you to create a recovery DVD.

          BTW, not to distract you from the discussion (there have been way too many distractions already) … but I looked up this Latitude E7250 laptop and a review of it dated back in 2015 indicates that these laptops originally came with Windows 8.1. That could mean that there is a license code burned into its ROM for Win 8.1, meaning that despite the refurbisher installing Win 10 (and supposedly “deactivating” the Win 8.1 license), there IS a way for you to reinstall Win 8.1. Again, that is a distraction (as well as a dead-end); I would suggest you focus your energies on Linux.

          1 user thanked author for this post.
          • #1964674 Reply

            LHiggins
            AskWoody Plus

            In my mind, that physical recovery disk is what you want as your escape hatch.

            Having (finally) taken a look at the Amazon laptop you referenced in your earlier post, I see that it is a refurbished Dell laptop. That being the case, I couldn’t say for sure how the refurbisher (note that it was NOT Dell that did the refurbishing) configured the laptop and whether the recovery partition is actually on the hard drive. The same goes for whether the Windows setup includes the Dell utility that would allow you to create a recovery DVD.

            I did contact the Amazon seller about the recovery option and was told this:

            “Related to the Windows 10 OS activation and license key, Joy Systems recently converted to using a Microsoft Windows 10 digital license for all of our laptops and desktops. As in the past, computers will not come with a product key sticker.

            All units will now be shipped pre-activated and assigned a digital COA. No action is required by the end user. However, the computer must be connected to the internet with the correct date and time settings to automatically activate.

            If you need to re-install the operating system at a later date, the computer and the OS are linked and will self-activate when required.”

            So – that sounds a bit suspicious to me – or at least, not something that I could have confidence in as far as creating the recovery disk. So, I think sticking at least to the Dell refurbished site – or perhaps another brand like Lenovo – is going to be the better bet if I do decide to go that route. I need to check more into how Dell handles recovery options for the refurbished laptops.

            I would suggest you focus your energies on Linux.

            I agree! Just a matter of figuring out the best way to do that – since I can’t seem to focus on one particular path forward – LOL!

            Thanks for the input!!

            • #1965383 Reply

              owburp
              AskWoody Plus

              I did contact the Amazon seller about the recovery option and was told this:

              “Related to the Windows 10 OS activation and license key, Joy Systems recently converted to using a Microsoft Windows 10 digital license for all of our laptops and desktops. … All units will now be shipped pre-activated and assigned a digital COA. No action is required by the end user. … If you need to re-install the operating system at a later date, the computer and the OS are linked and will self-activate when required.”

              So – that sounds a bit suspicious to me – or at least, not something that I could have confidence in as far as creating the recovery disk.

              I believe what that means (“assigned a digital COA”, “the computer and the OS are linked and will self-activate when required.”) is that, in the scenario where Linux just won’t work for your needs and you decide to go back to Windows, you can download the then-current Win10 iso and install it on the laptop; because of the digital license that Joy Systems assigned the laptop, it will self-activate. Actually, thinking about it, I believe the way Win10 is constantly changing with so many updates each year, an actual recovery disk probably would be a liability; it seems the best way to go would be to download the current Win10 iso and install that; I wouldn’t even bother creating an image of the Win10 installation that is on the laptop out of the box. [And BTW if you decide to install Win 8.1 on that laptop before its EOL and you can find the correct Dell iso for Win 8.1, you could probably even activate THAT version of Windows.]

              … I can’t seem to focus on one particular path forward …

              Allow me to bend your ear for just a few more lines here with the way I might approach your situation with the following basic givens:

              – You have a Win7 laptop that is working fine and doing what you need for it to do
              – You would prefer to leave that laptop unscathed by any of the new things you are learning about
              – Linux Mint is on a USB flash drive and you have been using it without problems for a few weeks
              – You would consider purchasing a refurbished laptop to use in testing Linux further

              The sequence I think I might suggest would be to simplify the path as much as possible:

              The main goal, at this point, is to decide if Linux Mint does everything or nearly everything that Win7 was doing for you. Since the purchase of a refurbished laptop is not out of the question, and the Amazon/Dell appears to hold the most promise (having an escape hatch of Win10 available if Linux doesn’t work), get the laptop, delete Win 10 and install Linux Mint as the only OS. Focus your energies on deciding whether Mint can indeed replace what you do with the Win7 laptop. Leave the fancy footwork for later once you have decided whether and which Linux distro works for you.

              Eventually you will have a stable base of a particular Linux distro that you like and you have become comfortable with the basic workings of it, the daily use and maintenance of it, finding and installing the software that will replace what you were using in Win7, updating that software as well as the underlying OS, things like that. Once you get a feeling of confidence in using Linux, you can then begin to build from a firm foundation. That’s when you can experiment with things like VMs as a way to fill in the places where a Windows app has no equivalent in Linux.

              Just my opinion.

              1 user thanked author for this post.
            • #1965953 Reply

              LHiggins
              AskWoody Plus

              Thanks so much for all of this – definitely more to think about. I am waiting for some additional information on that Amazon Win 10 – and need to read through your post again to let it all sink in. Thanks so much – I will post back later on!

            • #1966272 Reply

              LHiggins
              AskWoody Plus

              Good morning! Finally back here to reply to your post. Thanks so much for all of your suggestions and ideas.

              I believe what that means (“assigned a digital COA”, “the computer and the OS are linked and will self-activate when required.”) is that, in the scenario where Linux just won’t work for your needs and you decide to go back to Windows, you can download the then-current Win10 iso and install it on the laptop; because of the digital license that Joy Systems assigned the laptop, it will self-activate.

              Amazon did confirm that you are correct – this is the way it does work. And your point about Windows being so flightly is a good one – this method would always give me the most current version if I needed to reinstall, it seems.

              – You have a Win7 laptop that is working fine and doing what you need for it to do – You would prefer to leave that laptop unscathed by any of the new things you are learning about – Linux Mint is on a USB flash drive and you have been using it without problems for a few weeks – You would consider purchasing a refurbished laptop to use in testing Linux further

              Correct on all points – though I do have to admit that as much as I am considering a new laptop – I am having a bit of a hard time thinking of actually doing it as long as this one is still viable. That Dell does sound like a good choice, though, with the larger hard drive and I can extend the warranty – so it is definitely still under consideration. And this old laptop is using old hardware and only has 4GB RAM, so if it needed any work down the road – I’d probably spend nearly what that Dell costs in the long run.

              Deleting Win 10 is a bit scary – but I guess that would do two things at least – first, it would remove the spectre of needing any Windows updates while giving me a clean, fairly new hardware base, and second – it would give me a clean Linux laptop to use. It is a tempting idea and the Amazon seller has been very helpful so I am gaining confidence in that idea. And, I could always go back to Win 10 using the recovery option they offer.

              Leave the fancy footwork for later once you have decided whether and which Linux distro works for you. Eventually you will have a stable base of a particular Linux distro that you like and you have become comfortable with the basic workings of it, the daily use and maintenance of it, finding and installing the software that will replace what you were using in Win7, updating that software as well as the underlying OS, things like that. Once you get a feeling of confidence in using Linux, you can then begin to build from a firm foundation. That’s when you can experiment with things like VMs as a way to fill in the places where a Windows app has no equivalent in Linux.

              Thanks so much for your perspective – this does sound like a very workable solution, as well as the attempt at dual boot which I have been talking to Ascaris about above. You both have made very convincing suggestions, and I feel like at least my options have been narrowed down to these two ideas.

              I appreciate your help and hopefully I will be able to come to some direction soon. The clock is running on Win 7 – and I know that I do need to make some decisions one way or the other soon!

              Have a great day and thanks again!

              Lily

               

    • #1962861 Reply

      Paul T
      AskWoody MVP

      Lily,

      Can you add more RAM and replace the disk on your current laptop?
      If so you could put an SSD into the laptop, load Linux, install VirtualBox and run your existing W7 in that.

      Use MS Disk2vhd to convert your W7 installation first.

      cheers, Paul

      2 users thanked author for this post.
      • #1962965 Reply

        Ascaris
        AskWoody_MVP

        How would that work with regard to activation?  If it is an OEM version of 7, the change in hardware from the actual bare-metal to the virtual hardware would surely deactivate it.  If it is a retail version, it should be possible to reactivate Windows with the new hardware.

        Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.16.5).

        1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #1963254 Reply

          LHiggins
          AskWoody Plus

          It’s OEM – not a retail license.

           

      • #1963351 Reply

        LHiggins
        AskWoody Plus

        Can you add more RAM and replace the disk on your current laptop?

        I’m sure I could do both. As to the RAM – I have 4GB now and an empty slot, so it could definitely be increased. I had been thinking of doing this – but haven’t actually done it.

        As to the hard drive – I understand your suggestion – not sure how that would work??

        • #1965847 Reply

          MrJimPhelps
          AskWoody_MVP

          I had 4GB and an empty slot; I was able to add an 8GB stick in that empty slot, bringing my total RAM to 12GB. This is a good amount for running a host OS and a VM.

          Group "L" (Linux Mint)
          with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
          1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #1963235 Reply

      LHiggins
      AskWoody Plus

      Hello Everyone,

      I can see that while I was away from the computer, there has been quite a bit of interest in this discussion, and lots of great advice!

      I want to go through each response and comment, but wanted to thank everyone for input and let you know that I will be responding! 🙂

      LH

    • #1964086 Reply

      Paul T
      AskWoody MVP

      As to the hard drive – I understand your suggestion – not sure how that would work??

      New drive goes in.
      Install Linux.
      Install VirtualBox.
      Import old W7 VM created beforehand. If the license isn’t happy you haven’t lost anything as the old disk is still available.

      If you need specific instructions you know where we are.

      cheers, Paul

      1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #1966533 Reply

      Paul T
      AskWoody MVP

      Is that what it means when Macrium says it will make a backup of the “drives” – there is a regular Windows one and the Lenovo recovery one – are those the partitions?

      We’d need a Disk Management screen shot to be sure, but yes, they should be partitions.
      Macrium will backup either the disk or partitions depending on what you tell it to do. To guarantee recovery you need a disk / all partitions backup.

      I need to try to make a copy of the data I’ve accumulated since using Mint at the beginning of the month.

      The easiest may be to clone the USB partition to the Linux partition on the hard disk post Linux dual boot installation. Otherwise it’s hunting through the config file to find all your settings and migrating them.
      I’m sure there are tutorials on the net.

      cheers, Paul

      1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #1966784 Reply

        LHiggins
        AskWoody Plus

        Thanks Paul!

        I’ll get a screenshot and take a look for some tutorials on the USB cloning.

      • #1969354 Reply

        LHiggins
        AskWoody Plus

        We’d need a Disk Management screen shot to be sure, but yes, they should be partitions. Macrium will backup either the disk or partitions depending on what you tell it to do. To guarantee recovery you need a disk / all partitions backup.

        Two screenshots:

        Opera-Snapshot_2019-09-27_125214_www.askwoody.com_

        Screenshot-from-2019-09-29-19-36-56

        Not sure if either of these will help you answer the question.

        Thanks!

        LH

        Attachments:
        • #1970136 Reply

          Paul T
          AskWoody MVP

          You have one disk with 3 partitions.

          Strickly speaking you only need to backup the first 2 partitions as they contain the boot and Windows files. As the recovery partition is smallish compared to Windows then I’d backup the disk to collect all 3.
          You can restore individual partitions from a disk backup so you have plenty of recovery options.

          cheers, Paul

          1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #1970231 Reply

          BNL
          AskWoody Plus

          LHiggins,

          Perhaps my experience will will help you and alleviate your concerns.

          My PC:
          Refurbished Dell:  8Gb memory; 1Tb SSD [replaced original 256 SSD]

          Current Set-up
          2 partitions: 1 – xubuntu 18.0; 2 – data storage
          Installed virtualbox & running Window 10 [started with 1803 now 1809]
          Windows & Linux each OS has 4Gb allocated.  I also have xubuntu VM for testing settings;
          this is so I don’t screw up my settings.  I don’t use it much anymore.

          How I use this PC
          I use VM for not destructive testing [some examples]:
          – V1809 updates
          – In-place update V1803  to current V1809
          – Test in-place update V1809 to V1903 [just curious, not interested in V1903]
          – Test recovery softwares: Macrium, Clonzilla, and Timeshift

          Windows software not available on Linux [Use VM & Wine]
          – To be honest, I prefer Windows Freecommander & Notepad++ over Linux tools

          VM allows you to save various snapshots & recover to desire states

    • #1967039 Reply

      Paul T
      AskWoody MVP

      A quick search found this thread.

      From it, a clone seems easiest.
      You would need to boot from your backup software USB.
      Clone the Mint USB to the internal hard disk.
      If the machine won’t boot from the hard disk, boot from the Mint USB and use it to repair the bootloader on the hard disk.

      cheers, Paul

      1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #1969358 Reply

        LHiggins
        AskWoody Plus

        Thanks Paul! I’ll take a look at that tutorial, but since I mainly am thinking of my emails and favorites, I can probably just save those in a file and move them to another drive if need be.

        Thanks again!

    • #1970150 Reply

      HH33
      AskWoody Lounger

      In this situation my preferred method is to just allocate some disk space from the host for this and then share that to the guest(s). Doesn’t have to be external disk.

      Thanks for your post.  However, I’m afraid I didn’t ask my question clearly.

      Our W7 machines are formatted with NTFS, while my current Linux Mint test VM is formatted with EXT4. My hope is to be able to reverse that on each of our machines and create a Mint 19.2 host in EXT4 and have the current W7 as a VM using NTFS.  My understanding is that Windows cannot read EXT4 and that some Linux distros have only read-only support for NTFS and only certain distros have NTFS-writing support.

      My question is perhaps better expressed as follows:

      If I want to be able to save data from both operating systems to a common location which allows full read/write access from both Linux Mint and W7, which file system should I use and what is the best way to set it up?  My current guesses include formatting an external or internal HDD in something like FAT32 or exFAT32 to use as a common data drive which both OSs can access (read/write), or else creating a separate partition on the main HDD and formatting it similarly.

      Any ideas as to which file system to use for a common data storage area for both operating systems and how best to arrange it will be much appreciated.

      Group 7-L (W7, heading toward Linux)
      W7 Pro x64 SP1
      Linux Mint 18.3 Cinnamon 64-bit
      Linux Mint 17.1 Xfce 32-bit

      • #1970159 Reply

        mn–
        AskWoody Lounger

        My understanding is that Windows cannot read EXT4 and that some Linux distros have only read-only support for NTFS and only certain distros have NTFS-writing support.

        Yes, that’s true – for directly-connected disks. You can only connect a disk directly to one system at a time, so…

        If I want to be able to save data from both operating systems to a common location which allows full read/write access from both Linux Mint and W7, which file system should I use and what is the best way to set it up?

        … since you want read/write from both, and it can only be directly connected to one, you need to do a sharing operation. So, there needs to be a server. The VM host can well be a server for the single client that is the VM guest.

        And the sharing client only needs to know the sharing protocol, which is neither NTFS nor EXT4. Usually it’s CIFS or SMB, could also be NFS. (CIFS/SMB is the Windows native file sharing and implemented by open source Samba add-on application on Linux, NFS is Linux/Unix native and available as add-on product or Enterprise version optional component for Windows.)

        If your server happened to be Windows, you’d normally share a disk that was NTFS at the backend. If the server is Linux, you have the usual choice of Linux filesystem types with the default being EXT4.

        With VirtualBox instead of KVM/Qemu, you don’t even have to configure Samba, it can do the sharing internally. At least with the extensions – not sure if that part needs them.

        <br>
        As for the “best” way… well that’s the long and technical question here.

        My home PC with Linux host (KVM/Qemu virtualization) and Win8.1 guest has /data as BTRFS (over encryption over LVM) … shared with Samba, and the Windows guest uses it just fine as a network disk share, over the no-hardware virtual LAN that was created by default.

        I made my /data a separate BTRFS volume because I like the snapshot capability, and would’ve had to put the crypto and LVM layers the other way round to have snapshots with EXT4, which would’ve meant less parallel threads for the crypto between the various mount points. That being a 4-core laptop with hyperthreading still enabled but no disk mirroring or software RAID, getting parallelization between mountpoints is good.

        NFS would be more efficient than Samba on a Linux host, but isn’t available on mere Pro versions of Windows without additional purchases. On server hardware with software RAID, you could get more speed out of ZFS as the backend…

        While configuring Samba or NFS, do mind the access control and firewalls. It’s easy to share things to everyone in whatever LANs you happen to be in… or to nothing and even that blocked by firewall.

        <br><br>

        Least complexity, would be just making /data a regular folder off whatever you have as the root filesystem (usually EXT4) and use that with VirtualBox internal sharing.

        • This reply was modified 2 weeks ago by  mn--. Reason: clarity
        1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #1970173 Reply

      Paul T
      AskWoody MVP

      Or buy a portable hard disk and connect it to your router that has a USB port and share that.

      cheers, Paul

      2 users thanked author for this post.
    • #1970513 Reply

      HH33
      AskWoody Lounger

      Least complexity, would be just making /data a regular folder off whatever you have as the root filesystem (usually EXT4) and use that with VirtualBox internal sharing.

      Given my relative newbie status with both Linux and VirtualBox, combined with my total newbie status with servers, “least complexity” would almost certainly be the best choice.  I’ll have to figure out how to do “VirtualBox internal sharing,” as I’ve not gotten involved with that before, but I assume that there are instructions available somewhere on the Web.

      However, I’m still unclear on the file system question.  The Linux Mint host would have an EXT4 file system and my understanding is that W7 can’t read or write to EXT4. Does the VB internal sharing setup make it possible for both W7 and Mint to read and write to all files in the shared /data folder, even though that shared folder is on an EXT4 filesystem?  If not, I don’t understand how W7 would be able to read/write to such a /data folder.

      I apologise if I’m missing something obvious here, but never having played with servers or mixed file systems, some of this is above my current pay grade.

      Group 7-L (W7, heading toward Linux)
      W7 Pro x64 SP1
      Linux Mint 18.3 Cinnamon 64-bit
      Linux Mint 17.1 Xfce 32-bit

      • #1970653 Reply

        mn–
        AskWoody Lounger

        However, I’m still unclear on the file system question. The Linux Mint host would have an EXT4 file system and my understanding is that W7 can’t read or write to EXT4. Does the VB internal sharing setup make it possible for both W7 and Mint to read and write to all files in the shared /data folder, even though that shared folder is on an EXT4 filesystem? If not, I don’t understand how W7 would be able to read/write to such a /data folder.

        Well… yes. Files. It doesn’t expose the disk format to the guest.

        VirtualBox VM is a native application running on the host, the sharing component of it goes and looks for files in a folder, then tells the guest inside the VM “shared folder has these files”; … the guest wants to save a file.txt to the shared storage, it tells the VM application “I want to save this with the name file.txt” and VM application as a regular application on the host goes and writes a file.txt …

        The tricky part is writing the driver installed on the guest, to pass those requests to the VM application. Which is why VirtualBox is somewhat exceptional in having this integrated feature for Windows guests.

        <hr />

        A server’s file-sharing component is actually just an application (if often tightly integrated to the server operating system) running on the server hardware, too. Clients only need to talk network protocol to the server, server is free to use as backend anything it likes.

        If your file server is an expensive NetApp NAS/SAN box, the backend is neither EXT4 nor NTFS and it still serves both Windows and Linux clients just fine.

        1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #1970744 Reply

          HH33
          AskWoody Lounger

          A server’s file-sharing component is actually just an application (if often tightly integrated to the server operating system) running on the server hardware, too. Clients only need to talk network protocol to the server, server is free to use as backend anything it likes.

          Many thanks for your helpful explanation.  I’ve checked out the folder sharing procedure for VirtualBox and it seems manageable, so I hope to soon be able to get my head around the server concept.

          Group 7-L (W7, heading toward Linux)
          W7 Pro x64 SP1
          Linux Mint 18.3 Cinnamon 64-bit
          Linux Mint 17.1 Xfce 32-bit

    • #1970571 Reply

      HH33
      AskWoody Lounger

      Or buy a portable hard disk and connect it to your router that has a USB port and share that.

      That approach sounds simple enough and I already have plenty of portable hard disks and a router with two unused USB ports.  Assuming I do that, however, what I still don’t understand is whether I need to reformat any off-the-shelf portable HDD into a particular file system which both Mint and W7 can read and write to (e.g., FAT32), or whether such a router-connected portable HDD, regardless of its existing file system, would handle reading and writing from both operating systems regardless of their respective individual file systems.

      Sorry for what may be an utterly newbie confusion, but my experience with non-Windows file systems, servers, and the like is essentially zero.  Many thanks for any light that can be shed on this.

      Group 7-L (W7, heading toward Linux)
      W7 Pro x64 SP1
      Linux Mint 18.3 Cinnamon 64-bit
      Linux Mint 17.1 Xfce 32-bit

      • #1970911 Reply

        mn–
        AskWoody Lounger

        That approach sounds simple enough and I already have plenty of portable hard disks and a router with two unused USB ports. Assuming I do that, however, what I still don’t understand is whether I need to reformat any off-the-shelf portable HDD into a particular file system which both Mint and W7 can read and write to

        … well no, it needs to be formatted to something the router can read and write. It should either say what that is in the router’s manual, or the router should have a function to format its own disk.

        Client systems only need to talk network protocols like SMB/CIFS to the router. Router’s file server component will typically just expose files and folders using that.

        1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #1970991 Reply

      Paul T
      AskWoody MVP

      The router will read any standard portable hard disk.
      What is your router model?

      cheers, Paul

      • #1972552 Reply

        HH33
        AskWoody Lounger

        The router is a Huawei HG659 and contains the following in its user manual:

        You can connect a USB storage device to your HG659 and access the USB device from your computer.
        Both the USB drive and removable hard disk can connect to your HG659.
        Your HG659 supports the following file systems for reading and writing.
        > FAT32/FAT
        > NTFS

        Group 7-L (W7, heading toward Linux)
        W7 Pro x64 SP1
        Linux Mint 18.3 Cinnamon 64-bit
        Linux Mint 17.1 Xfce 32-bit

        • This reply was modified 1 week, 5 days ago by  HH33.
        1 user thanked author for this post.

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