In Ch. 11 of Backup & Recovery I stated that there was no way to do a live image backup of Windows without spending money. Turns out I was wrong!
I think EMC would love it if we eventually moved all physical servers into Vmware. Toward that end, they have provided a free tool that you can use to to just that. They call it the vmware converter, and you can use it to perform a live, image-level backup of a Windows system. You can then use that backup to move your physical machine into a virtual machine.
The idea that I'm working on, though, is to use that imported virtual machine as a way to perform a free live bare metal backup & recovery of a Windows machine. This idea was originally sent to me by JP Vossen, a fellow author and friend of the site. I'm just doing the work to see how it can fit into my procedure.
I stated in Chapter 11 of Backup & Recovery that, without using commercial software, there was no way to create a live image of a running Windows system in a way that would allow us to use that image to recover that system from bare metal. But through the wonder of vmware, I think we can.
Although this was surely not what the vmware designers had in mind when giving us free access to vmware server and converter, I think they'll be fine with it, because it demonstrates just how cool vmware is, even though we're only using it to backup and recover a physical machine.
Here's how it would/could/should work. It's a bit clunky, but clunky is better than nothing.
- Use the P2V Converter to "import" your physical machine into a vmware virtual machine. It can do this live, and it creates a file that will be the virtual machine's hard drive.
- Upon failure of the physical machine, boot the virtual machine that you imported with a knoppix CD. This will give you access to the virtual hard drive in Linux (e.g. /dev/hda1)
- Now I have two theories. The first theory is that as long as you told vmware to create a single virtual hard drive (not split it into 2 GB chunks) and to make the whole file at once, the .vmdk file it creates is a bit-level version of a hard drive that can be accessed without vmware. If that's true, then during recovery, you would
- boot the system to be recovered into knoppix.
- Use dd to restore the vmdk file to the hard drive to be recovered (e.g. dd if=/nfsshare/vmware/machine.vmdk of=/dev/hda1 bs=126k)
- If step 3 turned out not to be true, then you'd have to do it the hard way, as outline here.
- You'll have to do a two-step restore. First dd the backup of the virtual hard drive to a file on a file share somewhere (e.g. dd if=/dev/hda1 of=/nfsshare/hda1.dd bs=126k)
- Now boot the machine you're restoring to from knoppix.
- Get access to the share where you stored the dd file.
- dd that file to the physical hard drive you're restoring (e.g. dd if=/nfsshare/hda1.dd bs=126 of=/dev/hda1)
Now, all I need is a guinea pig! Who wants to try this?
----- Signature and Disclaimer -----
Written by W. Curtis Preston (@wcpreston). For those of you unfamiliar with my work, I've specialized in backup & recovery since 1993. I've written the O'Reilly books on backup and have worked with a number of native and commercial tools. I am now Chief Technical Architect at Druva, the leading provider of cloud-based data protection and data management tools for endpoints, infrastructure, and cloud applications. These posts reflect my own opinion and are not necessarily the opinion of my employer.