How to Resurrect Dead Laptops with Virtualization Technologies

How to Resurrect Dead Laptops with Virtualization Technologies
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Hardware failure does not necessarily mean the irrevocable loss of current applications, settings and data for the typical portable PC.

How to deal with a disaster is a key skill for today’s IT Pro. However, disasters come in all shapes and sizes, with some more disastrous than others. Case in point would be when the boss’s notebook computer dies, how big of a disaster is that? For most, it can be a career defining event – if you can rescue the boss’s applications, data and preferences, you may just keep your job for another day. Simply put, failure is not an option.

The typical scenario goes something like this:

Boss: “My notebook doesn’t work, can you fix it?”

IT Pro: “Sure, what happened?”

Boss: “I don’t know, it just beeps and does not work!”

That typical conversation provides very little in the form of useful information, leaving you to figure out what to do next. Odds are the notebook is not easily repairable, either it was dropped, overheated, crushed or something to that effect, making repair prohibitively expensive or at the very least, not worth it. Nevertheless, the information on that notebook is critical to the boss and, naturally, there are bookmarks, additional applications and so and so forth installed on the system. And, we all know that backups are something only talked about, but never actually done.

So, where exactly does this leave the savvy IT Pro?

With the chore of getting that information off of that machine and providing access to it, so it can be exported to a new system, and done as quickly as possible. Luckily, all of that is possible, just by using some free tools and a few tricks to convert that notebook computer into a virtual machine. However, there is one major pre-requisite here - the hard drive must still function.

Perhaps, the best way to look at solving a problem such as a dead laptop, is to take the recipe approach. First off, we need our ingredients, and in this case that amounts to:

  • A functioning hard drive from the dead system
  • A Desktop system to serve as a virtual host
  • A method to connect the hard drive to the virtual host
  • Microsoft’s free P2V tool, disk2vhd
  • Oracle’s VirtualBox, a free desktop virtualization hypervisor

With those ingredients in hand, the next step is to cook up a virtual machine.

Frank J. OhlhorstFrank J. OhlhorstFrank J. Ohlhorst is an award-winning technology journalist, professional speaker and IT business consultant with more than 25 years of experience in the technology market. He has written articles for a variety of technology and business publications, and he worked previously as executive technology editor at eWeek and director of the CRN Test Center.

See here for all of Frank's Tom's IT Pro articles.

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