Laboratories tend to be amenable environments for long-term reliable operation of scientific measurement equipment. Indeed, it is not uncommon to find equipment 5, 10, or even 20+ years old still being routinely used in labs. Unfortunately, the Achilles heel for many of these devices is the control/data acquisition computer. Often these computers run older operating systems (e.g., Windows XP) and, while they might only use standard network, USB or serial ports, they require proprietary software to be installed. Even if the original installation disks can be found, it is a burdensome process to reinstall and is fraught with "gotchas" that can derail the process-lost license keys, incompatible hardware, forgotten configuration settings, etc. If you have running legacy instrumentation, the computer is the ticking time bomb waiting to put a halt to your operation.In this chapter, I describe how to virtualize your currently running control computer. This virtualized computer "image" is easy to maintain, easy to back up and easy to redeploy. I have used this multiple times in my own lab to greatly improve the robustness of my legacy devices.After completing the steps in this chapter, you will have your original control computer as well as a virtual instance of that computer with all the software installed ready to control your hardware should your original computer ever be decommissioned.
Keywords: Cloning; Legacy hardware; Mass Spectrometry; System reliability; Systems management; Virtual computers; VirtualBox.