Cloning Windows 2000 to a VirtualBox VM

VirtualBox is really quite impressive, especially as you find out more about what it does behind the scenes. It just seems so easy to use compared with VMWare (though I’m sure VMWare does more).

I finally got my ancient Windows 2000 system cloned last night. I didn’t want to have to go through the pain of completely reinstalling it, but felt the need to move to a (slightly) more up to date OS (Windows XP). I was already dual-booting into XP on a separate partition and having played with VirtualBox before, turning the Windows 2000 system into a Virtual Machine (VM) that I could run on Windows XP seemed the right thing to do.

For the record, the steps (after much experimenting) were:

  1. I slimmed down my windows drive by moving all my data files onto another partition
  2. I installed DesktopOK and saved my desktop icon positions
  3. I followed the section on “Hard Disk Support” from the VirtualBox guide (this is vital)
  4. I downloaded VMWare Converter, a free tool that makes a virtual machine out of a hard disk partition.
  5. VMWare Converter made a VMWare virtual machine for VMWare Player 2.5* out of my 20GB C: drive (onto another drive)
  6. I started up VirtualBox, created a new Windows 2000 virtual machine image, and specified the VMWare-created disk image as the hard drive image (which VirtualBox handily understands).
  7. I fired up the new VM.
  8. In the vm, Windows complained loudly about different hardware. I made it install the VGA components but ignored all else.
  9. I rebooted the VM, installed the VirtualBox guest addons, changed the screen resolution, restored DesktopOK’s icon positions and bingo!

I now have all my old applications and services running in the virtual machine, but with all the advantages that a VM gives. Making a backup of my Windows 2000 machine is now just a matter of copying a single 20GB file. I can pause and resume it. I can save its state, switch off my computer entirely, then come back and continue from exactly where I left off.

I’ve installed the basics (browser, email, etc) on my XP installation, but because that’s a minimal usable system (for me) it boots up much more quickly than the Windows 2000 system did, and if I need the Windows 2000 VM, I can restore it in just a few seconds.

The only real issue is that none of the graphics intensive games I had installed will run particularly well from inside a VM, but then most of them are outdated and modern games mostly require XP these days anyway. Besides, Chuckie Egg runs just fine inside the VM and who needs more anyway? ;-)


I’ve recently started using Unison to keep all my photos in sync between my Windows desktop machine, a Windows laptop and my Mac mini server.

It works really well, however the other day I started seeing the following error:

Fatal error: Warning: inconsistent state.
The archive file is missing on some hosts.
For safety, the remaining copies should be deleted.
Archive ar604df3 on host HOLLY is MISSING
Archive ar4fcd50c1d8c24915dbcbc359c32578fe on host Hal.local should be DELETED
Please delete archive files as appropriate and try again.

I couldn’t locate the archive file on Hal (the Mac mini) to delete it, until eventually I found it in:

/Users/my-username/Library/Application Support/Unison

Once deleted, Unison continued happily on its way.