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With which virtualization solution can I boot an Ubuntu install in an USB?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

VirtualBox can do it.

It doesnt allow you to directly boot from USB, but it does allow you to attach a physical device to a virtual drive.

So the trick is to create a virtual drive pointing to your USB stick, and then adding that drive to the vistual machine.

Step 1 - Find your USB key ID

  • Right Click on My Computer > Manage > Disk Management
  • Find your USB. Disk 1 means the ID is \\.\PhysicalDrive1.
  • Numbering starts from 0 (your first HDD), so USB stick will be 1, 2 or even 3.

Step 2 - Create the Virtual Drive

  • In terminal ( menu > cmd ), issue the following command:

    VBoxManage internalcommands createrawvmdk -filename "%USERPROFILE%\usb.vmdk" -rawdisk \\.\PhysicalDrive1
  • Im assuming your USB is PhysicalDrive1

  • The drive will be created in C:\Users\youruser\usb.vmdk

Step 3 - Add the drive to the virtual machine

  • Just use Virtualbox's GUI
  • Select the Virtual Machine > Settings > Storage > Add Attachment > Choose existing Disk
  • Browse for the newly created usb.vmdk

More details can be found in this amazing article

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Do mention the command to change the directory first, else readers will not know why the command doesn't work until the source article is read. – Oxwivi Jun 8 '11 at 15:20
Sorry, AskUbuntu ommited the first "\" in "\\.\PhysicalDrive1". I guess i need to fiddle with formatting so it displays right. But, AFAIK, theres no directory change necessary. – MestreLion Jun 8 '11 at 15:27
It is necessary, I asked the same in the Ubuntu Forums and was told to do the same with VBoxManage. but it did not work. I can see why /bin directory is there in Linux/Unix now. – Oxwivi Jun 9 '11 at 3:56

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