Monday, July 25, 2011

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Virtualize Your Desktop

Microsoft Windows Logo
Do you have a Windows desktop?  Would you rather have a Linux desktop?  Would you like to run Linux as your primary OS but keep your Windows desktop on hand as a virtual desktop?  This is the situation I found myself in.

My employer issued me a 32-bit Windows 7 OS on a 64-bit i5 laptop with 8Gig of RAM.  Not only is that extremely wasteful (32-bit OS's can only address 4Gig of physical memory), it was also not my OS of choice.  So, I decided to virtualize my Windows 7 install and run it inside a 64-bit Linux OS.  My goal was to keep all my corporate standard programs and settings (including Windows domain registration) and just simply run Windows as a virtual desktop instead of my primary OS.

I did this using VMWare vCenter Converter.  vCenter Converter allows you to virtualize Windows 7 in the background while you work.  You can even save your virtualized hard drive to the physical hard drive that you are virtualizing.  You simply start up vCenter Converter as Administrator in Windows 7 and walk through the motions to create a virtual hard drive.  I selected the format of the virtual hard drive as Virtual Server 1.x and I specified the virtual hard drive to be SCSI (for some reason that's the only option that works).  I also resized the destination virtual hard drive to 40GB and I specified that the image should expect a single processor.

Once your new virtual drive is created, copy it off somewhere safe so that you'll have it once you install your Linux distro (I copied it to an external HD).  Now, pop in your Linux install disk and replace Windows 7 with Linux (I used Ubuntu 11.04).

Once you have Ubuntu up, install Virtual Box - it's easy and it will work with VMWare virtual hard drives.  Create a new image in VirtualBox and add your Windows 7 virtual hard drive that you created as a SAS SCSI drive.  On the systems settings section, make sure that enable IO APIC is checked.

Now fire up your newly created virtual and see your old Windows 7 desktop OS run inside your new Linux OS.  And the best part is, your virtualized Windows 7 desktop OS will still maintain all the domain configuration info.

See the follow-up post, Update: Virtualize Your Desktop


Brian Olsen said...

Great post. I noticed you didn't give any credit to your sister...was that a mistake?

Clayton Long said...

That's because I used VirtualBox instead of Xen. I'm also pretty sure that she's not much for VMWare, being from Citrix and all ;)
I am planning on doing a post on Xen in the future. I will probably seek out her input on that one.

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