How to convert a laptop running Microsoft Windows 7 to a VirtualBox virtual machine

I was very much surprised just how easy it is to convert a Microsoft Windows 7 laptop into a virtual machine running within Sun’s VirtualBox.  This is what I did:

  • Pull the hard drive from the laptop.  On my Dell Latitude, it was simply unscrewing the two screws on the bottom of the laptop marked with the hard drive simble
  • Attach the drive to a SATA to USB connector and plug it in to your Linux box
  • If you don’t have VirtualBox installed, do so now using apt-get, rpm, or whatever you use to install software
  • Follow How to migrate existing Windows installations to VirtualBox but make sure you specify the entire drive (i.e. /dev/sdh) and not individual partitions else you will miss the hidden partitions that Vista and Windows 7 create

You should have a working Windows 7 Virtual Machine.  You’ll notice that you probably have a huge vdi file.  Let’s shrink that down:

  • Within Windows
    • download and install sdelete from Microsoft
    • download and install PowerDefragmenter
    • Run PowerDefragmenter on your c: drive (as administrator)
    • Run “sdelete -c c:” from a cmd window (as administrator)
    • shutdown windows
  • On the host
    • run “VBoxManage modifyvdi my_disk.vdi compact” replacing “my_disk.vdi” with the name of your vdi file you created earlier
    • Note that if you get a “Shrink hard disk operation is not implemented” error, then you’ve hit bug #2833 and you will want to download the latest VirtualBox to fix it.
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