Norton Ghost, Virtual Machines, and weird MBRs.

So, here is something to show you, a physical laptop backup restored into a VirtualBox machine:

Laptop Running in VM

Laptop running in VM

I’m doing this for work, and while it was a fun “just to do it” project, it also served the purpose of testing the backup, and giving us a place to test fixes and (as shown) attempting upgrades.

Ultimately, the backup was done with Norton Ghost 15.0.  I was really hoping to be able to do it with CloneZilla, saving some cash and using Open Source software.  However, no matter what options I entered in that software, it could not restore into the VM. At first I thought it was just the difficulties of moving an OS to another machine. But trying fixes from MergeIDE to UBCD4Win’s Fix IDE / Fix HDC to no avail, it was something else.  I was seeing that there was something detected on the drive – no “Operating System Not Found” error – but it clearly wasn’t loading the OS. 

The fact that this laptop was registering as having 5 partitions, one of which was without a file system, and the other labeled as “DOS” told me that there may be an abnormal MBR structure or partition table in there 😉

When we moved to Ghost, I was seeing the same errors.  Fortunately, Ghost has some extra utilities on their live CD, allowing me to save the MBR and Partition Table separately:

Extra Options in Norton Ghost

Ghost Options

After saving and restoring the MBR and Partition Tables manually, the image booted without issue in the Virtual Machine.  What strikes me as strange is that CloneZilla will back up the MBR and partition table automatically.  This issue shouldn’t have come up with CloneZilla if it’s working as it is supposed to.  I may have to look into that later if I get the time.

If I was looking to do a straight physical to virtual conversion, there are much better options to use.  Disk2Vhd would be one of them, as @CC_DKP pointed out on Twitter.  But the purpose here was just to test a backup, so I was working from a regular backup, not a VHD file.

One last note about Ghost:  While I like 15.0, I can’t recommend it for legacy hardware.  The only reason I got it to work with this laptop is because we installed more RAM.  Worth it?  Completely.  But if the laptop couldn’t take the upgrade we would’ve been dead in the water.

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