Physical to virtual (P2V) is a term that refers to the migration of an operating system (OS), application programs and data from a computer's main hard disk to a virtual machine or a disk partition.
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P2V can be done manually by creating or defining a virtual environment and then reinstalling the OS, applications and data on it. This can be a tedious and uncertain process, especially if the new environment contains substantially different hardware than the old. To streamline the operation, part or all of the migration can be carried out automatically by means of specialized programs known as migration tools. Some legacy hardware simply cannot be emulated in a virtual infrastructure. Performing a P2V migration with a DOS-based accounting package running on 16-bit hardware, for instance, isn’t an option because none of the major virtualization platforms support 16-bit guest OSes.
P2V is commonly used to accomplish server virtualization. P2V is also popular as a way for Macintosh users to run Windows applications.