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Parallels virtual disk dance of pain


Sometimes virtualization can be aggravating. If you've found yourself with a Parallels virtual disk that turned out to be uncomfortably small for all your stuff, there's a way to expand your horizons -- increase the virtual drive size with the included Image Tool, then boot the virtual machine from a free GParted LiveCD image to bump up the Windows partition to the full size of the virtual disk. Easy as pie, right?

Well, unfortunately not anymore: Parallels has (temporarily, we hope) removed Image Tool from the 3.0 distribution and the older version of the tool will not work with the current disk image format. The resizing procedure has been confusing for users (and possibly eaten the VHDs of a few unlucky souls), so until Parallels comes up with a more integrated resizing solution, it's off the table. You can get around the missing utility by making a new (larger) blank disk image, then using a tool like Acronis MigrateEasy within Parallels to move from old HD to new; still, it's a pain in the keister.

Meanwhile, as I discovered when preparing to move my Boot Camp XP setup into a virtual machine, the otherwise excellent Parallels Transporter P2V (physical to virtual) conversion tool has a serious functional gap. Transporter, which is designed to help you create Parallels virtual machines from physical PCs or other virtual disk formats, works on just about any source machine except... you guessed it: a Boot Camp installation of Windows. Argh! I could capture the Boot Camp install as a restorable disk image with NetRestore or WinClone, but I really wanted to go virtual, as I am in the process of moving over to a new MacBook Pro (yay!) with a smaller internal drive (boo!). What to do, what to do?

In this case, it was the competition that came to the rescue, in the form of VMware's free Converter tool. VMware Converter, which does the same basic P2V tricks as Parallels Transporter, works just fine with a Boot Camp setup, thank you very much, and neatly whisked my one-third-full 40 GB XP partition into a folderful of virtual disk chunks; with Converter you can also easily expand or contract your target disk size, which is another approach to the resizing problem above.

From there I had what we refer to in Brooklyn as "lotsa optsh" -- continue on using the new virtual machine in VMware Fusion, or run back to Parallels Transporter to continue converting into a Parallels VM. In fact, to avoid installing a full VMware setup (I did fire up the new v4.1, just to kick the tires a little), there's a conversion method in Transporter that goes directly from the VMware virtual disk to a Parallels .hdd file, don't pass Go or collect $200. Transporter will even make the needed config changes to the resulting disk, open it up in a fresh virtual machine, and load the Parallels support tools and drivers for you, hands-free.

Well, Parallels, I suppose I can forgive the Boot Camp transfer situation, but let's not go down this twisty disk-y road again, mmmkay?

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