Virtualize existing Windows 7 via restore

Aside

Using VMware Fusion is a good solution to keep a working Windows 7 in hand.

VMware Converter takes too much time and needs complete administrator controls on pc you want to backup and virtualize. If you have strong policies and solutions like Symantec Endpoint Protection it will turn in a nightmare very soon.

I use AOMEI Backupper to regularly backup my system. Differential backups allow me to keep many snapshots of my work PC: so why don’t use restore to virtualize? Ok, let’s do it, but it is a PITA. :)

You will need:

  • (usb) disk with backup files to restore
  • AOMEI WinPE ISO
  • FalconFour, Microsoft DaRT, Hiren’s or every other bootable tool that allows to edit registry offline

The last one is needed because Windows 7 turns off the drivers not needed at boot: if you run the restored virtual machine you will get the 0x0000007B BSOD.
1) Prepare for restore
I used AOMEI WinPE created within Backupper 2.10, this should allow restore using network shares to access backup containers. I tried to use Yosemite SMB sharing but did not work. It seems to loose connection and will fail to open files.
You can access the disk mounting it via USB, but you will need an USB 2.0 hub because VMware Fusion does not connect USB 3.0 hard drives to Windows 7. The only remaining solution: mount physical disk as VMDK or create an VMDK and put backup containers in it. I did the former one, using this:

cd "/Applications/VMware Fusion.app/Contents/Library/"
./vmware-rawdiskCreator create /dev/disk2 fullDevice ~/container buslogic

you need to customize the italic part to match physical disk to access (you can see it using Disk Utility, selecting disk and going into “Info”, the I in the blue circle) and the VMDK container (in this example: container)
It will create /Users/yourusername/container.vmdk used to access your PHYSICAL disk containing the backup files to restore.
2) Create a virtual machine
Create a custom Windows 7 virtual machine, let’s name it “workpc” leaving all to default except:

  1. size the main hard disk to contain original OS you want to restore, controller type: SCSI
  2. add a second hd, (SCSI), name it dummy
  3. change the CDROM controller to IDE

Close VMware fusion, go into workpc.vmware and open with a text editor (I prefer Sublime Text) the vmx file. Change “dummy.vmdk” to “/Users/yourusername/container.vmdk”

3) Restore
Set CDROM of virtual machine to AOMEI WinPE iso. Run Virtual Machine (it will ask for password to access the physical disk) and restore the backup you want, choosing “SYSTEM restore”

4) Enable LSA_SAS driver
Poweroff virtual machine. Mount the bootable tool (i.e. FalconFour), boot into it and access the registry of the windows installation. Find SYSTEM\services\LSA_SAS and modify STARTUP to “0” (boot). Save and shutdown

5) Run the virtualized system
Allow new devices installation and enjoy!

Entropy for Mac, MAMP and permissions – a quick note

Aside

When using MAMP to have a local development web environment, make sure to NOT use Entropy to extract tar archives. Drag and drop function of Entropy will not restore original tar permissions and will not reflect parent permissions: a mess. So make sure to use terminal to extract via tar command, or use The Unarchiver 😉 Otherwise you’ll need to reset permissions of extracted files.