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Portable virtual machine with preinstalled Ubuntu for Windows?

I am a new user of Ubuntu. I would like to install a persistent Ubuntu 11.04 to my USB stick, and it should be able to work as a guest OS running on Windows so that I can boot it on other computers other than the one which I used for the installation. I have used several creators such as unetbootin, however from my understanding it can only create Live Linux which I am unable to save my configurations and files. If it's possible I would like to bypass the BIOS, that is to say that I can just load from the virtual machine without having to restart the computer. Thanks in advance!

Thanks for all the replies! Hi Mike, I am able to create a virtual machine and run it from my USB drive using a portable virtualbox. How do I go about from there, do I have to proceed with the installation? Could you elaborate more on the steps for the installation? Thanks again!

marked as duplicate by Jorge Castro, con-f-use, Mitch, Eliah Kagan, Tom Brossman Oct 18 '12 at 21:31

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • 1
    This might be what you're searching for. Not a persistent installation, but a full installation on a USB stick. – Glutanimate Oct 17 '12 at 15:21

What you want to accomlish is called virtualization, and has nothing to do with persistent USB installs. You'll have to install Ubuntu in a virtual machine using Virtual Box, and keep the disk image file, .dvi, on the USB stick. To use that file, simply select it when creating a new virtual machine on a new computer.


This tool will let you enable "Persistent" files which store all your data in the live session. http://www.pendrivelinux.com/universal-usb-installer-easy-as-1-2-3/

If you want Full Ubuntu on the USB drive, which is like a live session in that it runs off of a USB Drive, but it has Full Ubuntu on it, you need 2 flash drives, one 16GB or higher, and another of any size. Format the smaller one with Live Ubuntu, take out the hard drive and boot from the USB, and install Ubuntu n the larger pen drive. You are now able to use it as a full Linux hard drive, just from a USB. This will save your files and programs.


I have done a full installation to USB simply using the standard installer.

Here's my "low-tech" version.

  1. Remove or Disconnect the Hard drive in the PC you will use for installation. (This prevents accidental damage/ overwriting GRUB.)
  2. Boot to Live CD.
  3. Plug in intended USB. !!! Be sure you don't have any data you don't want overwritten still on this drive !!! It will be lost!
  4. Run the Installer, and install to the USB just as you would to a standard Hard drive
  5. Reboot the PC, and select "Boot from USB". (The method you use to access the boot menu varies depending on your PC manufacturer.)
  6. After verifying the install was successful, don't forget to re-install/re-attach the Hard drive.

    Caveats: You will want to use a larger USB 16+ GB. You should also consider USB 3.0 since 2.0 will perform slowly.

    As for not having to leave Windows you may want to look into VMware and/or Virtual Box This would require you to run a VM Player on any Machine you intend to use it on. Also, I have had hardware related issues from VM's when trying to use them on various machines. The VM's tend to expect the hardware to remain the same.

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