Went through an interesting experience trying to hang on to my old familiar laptop (IBM Thinkpad R40) and its load of software, while moving to a new HP Pavillion running Win 7. It was quite excruciating, needless to say. I figured I should post my experience, to save any other soul trying to do the same, the pain that I had to go through.
First, a word about my old laptop's configuration (7 year old machine, with thousands of dollars worth of software installed on it, some of whose original installation disks have been lost during interim moves): dual boot, with Win XP and Linux, using GRUB. I did not really care about the Linux side since it was no longer useful to me. The Windows side had all the useful old software I wanted to keep.
Of course, I started off with backing up everything in every conceivable form -- recovery media for Win 7 as generated by HP, entire disk clones, partition by partition clones, etc., for both new and old laptops. Still, I had to recover the new machine using recovery media (put it back to factory settings), once. Partition clones and disk clones -- pretty much whatever is available for free -- have ways to go when it comes to cloning and restoring Win 7 machines, clearly!!!!
I started by trying to clone the old machine, hoping to setup my new laptop as a simple multiboot machine. Phew! That was a disaster!! Between the complication of dual boot on the old machine, and limitations (call it handcuffs) of the recovery media generated by HP, I could not get anywhere -- and I do know a thing or two about computers!! Differences between IBM's disk heads and HP's disk heads, coupled with issues of MBR in a dual boot system, proved to be too much. What a waste of time!
Then, I turned to virtualization -- the new machines are fast enough, and VMware is mature enough, I figured! Well, not quite, at least if you want to live with what VMware will give you for free (can't comment on the paid stuff, since I have no direct experience). The vCenter converter standalone simply cannot handle multiboot configurations like what my old laptop had!! Thus began an interesting game of coaxing VMware to do what I wanted.
Since I had no need for the Linux installation on my old laptop, I decided to get rid of the multiboot -- let Windows win! Tried to use Win XP installation CD, hoping to get into recovery console (which is supposed to exist) and fix the MBR and windows boot sector, but it did not give me a recovery option. Instead, it actually installed another copy of XP -- XP has this thing about not destroying the existing installation, and ended up creating a multiboot machine within the same disk partition, with two copies of XP (YUK!!).
Strangely enough, VMware vCenter converter standalone was able to virtualize that (weird) configuration -- needed two rounds, once for old laptop to a virtual machine with the old laptop as host, and then from the virtual machine to another virtual machine with the new laptop as host. Don't know if there is a way to shortcut one of the conversion steps -- suspect there is, through use of appropriate host and client installation of the converter, but that was just additional headache, and I did not need any further headache!!
After all that, and some Win XP activation issues that were not major, finally seem to have what I want -- using free VMplayer to run the virtual machine. Of course, I have to choose the "correct" XP installation on the virtual machine, every time I boot it up, but that's a minor inconvenience I'll simply live with!! Speed is pretty decent, and I'm still running the virtual machine off an external USB drive, where I dumped various disk partition backups and both the virtual machine versions. Suspect speed will get better after I put the virtual machine on my HP's hard disk.
Hope that saves some poor soul's time and effort!!!!