How To Use VMWare To Survive A Computer Crash

Computer CrashIn an earlier post I asked you how fast you could get back to doing business after a total computer failure.

If you followed the tips in that article you could easily cut your downtime by 75% … but there’s a way to cut it down even further with two free products from VMware. Read on to get the scoop.

What VMware is, and Why It Rocks

Though I’ll sound like a commercial (although it isn’t), I use VMware all week long at my day job. It’s indispensable for the software testing that I do – but it’s a solid tool for freelancers as well. If you’ve never heard of VMware, it’s simply an application that lets you run a virtual computer inside your regular “host” computer … and you can do anything you want to the virtual machine without hosing up your real one. And you can reset your VMware image to it’s pristine, original state any time you want.

But here’s how VMware can save your entrepreneurial bacon:

  • First, you set up a virtual machine that has everything you need to do your work – all the software, all the bookmarks, passwords and custom settings you want.
  • Second, you save that “Virtual Machine” onto a DVD (or USB Flash Drive).
  • Third, you save a copy of the free VMware Player and keep it handy.

When your computer gives up the ghost, here’s all you have to do to get back into business in minutes …

  • First, get your hands on another computer – even if you just have to borrow one (almost any machine will do).
  • Second, install that free VMware Player.
  • Third, copy the Virtual Machine onto that computer.

Then all you gotta do is fire up your image in the Player and you’re back in the saddle. All your software, settings and passwords are ready to use (just make sure you have your backed up data handy, of course).

Two Ways To Make This Happen:

  • Get the free VMware Converter and use it to make a Virtual Machine image of your existing machine. Simplest solution.
  • Download the VMware Browser Appliance. It’s a web-ready Ubuntu Linux image, though, so it’s not for everybody – but if you’re so inclined, all you have to do is get the Appliance, install all your open-source software, and keep the image handy.

One More Option: But It’ll Cost You

If you pony up about $189 you can get VMWare Workstation – a program that will let you create virtual machines from scratch. (Author’s note: Helpful Diggers have let me know that VMWare Server will let you create images for free. Huzzah!) Creating custom images can be useful if you want to make a lean version of your emergency image, with only the software you absolutely need to get the job done, or you want to make multiple images with slightly different configurations.

Remember, though – this is no replacement for a solid data backup – but it can be a lifesaver to getting your revenue-producing system back online in a hurry.

Hope this helps – and I hope it gets you back up to speed fast next time Murphy’s Law takes you for a ride.

So What Do You Think?

Have you tried any of these solutions before? Do you have any tips or tweaks to share? Join the conversation in the comments below.