Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Using Parallels to backup your laptop

Posted by shannonclark on March 26, 2007

As my posts of this past weekend describe, this weekend my laptop of many years started crashing on a regular and ongoing basis. From this modern day catastrophe, however, besides a great new laptop that is on its way to me, I learned how to use Parallels to backup your laptop – something I should have done months ago when I first purchased Parallels.

In the recently released version of Parallels there is a fantastic program called the “Transporter“. What this program allows you to do is to create a virtual image of an existing system.

To do this the “transporter agent” has to be installed on that target computer (a process that you should do before, not after as in my case, the system starts to crash. Once installed you can run the transporter program either on the target computer (creating an image on an attached disk or network location) or you can run it on another machine with the transporter software installed.

In my case I installed the agent on my laptop and ran it, then ran the transporter program on my iMac. It took over night, but the program created a virtual drive image of the then current state of my laptop.

All I then had to do was to boot up the virtual image and my laptop was now running inside of my iMac.

However, there is one further detail that has to be noted. When you do this with a Microsoft system (as my laptop was – it ran Windows XP sp 2) you will be prompted to activate Windows again as the hardware configuration will have changed considerably.

IF you will be running BOTH the laptop and the virtual image – you will most likely have to purchase a separate license of Windows for the virtual image (unless you have a site license already). In my case since my laptop is now most likely on its way to be recycled (or if not recycled then perhaps repurposed into a linux box if the system level hardware issues can be fixed) I was able to call Microsoft via their activation line and after talking with the support person obtain a new key for my new installation (tied to my old key). As I am now in essence running only the one instance on indeed new hardware this worked for me. Your results, however, may vary.

However license issues aside, I would highly recommend thinking about using Parallels as a backup method, especially suited for multi-platform homes or businesses. By transforming my laptop image into a virtual machine I have complete and total access to everything that was on my laptop from within my iMac desktop. Not just to the data (which I had already mostly synced) but to all of my applications, cached data, tools and customizations.

One of my first acts on getting my new laptop will be to look at how to incorporate Parallels into that new system in some capacity – I’m then going to look at whether it is possible to use the transporter to do some form of modern incremental backups. If it is then there may be many ways to automate this process – and to ensure that my laptop, probably while it charges overnight may also be being backed up into a potentially live and working system available on my home network.

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