Is is possible to run Ubuntu from a USB pen drive, while simultaneously working and running the main OS (Windows) on the computer? I assume this is like a virtual desktop held on the USB, and displaying in a window on the computer.

I would like to be able to explore/ navigate to it, or minimize and maximize in and out of the Ubuntu [session], while the Windows [session] is still in operation.

Edit/ update: I attempted to install Virtual Box and a portable V-box onto my 16gb USB without luck. It wanted to only install/ run and operate from my computer not the USB.

Is there a way to keep all programs on the USB, launch from the USB and never install anything to the host computer? (Virtual-box or the like) In conjunction with running Ubuntu from that USB like a hard drive and be capable of saving settings, programs and documents? (Not a live or boot-able USB)


5 Answers 5


You cannot run 2 different operating systems at the same time on the same computer, however an alternative would be to install a virtual machine program like VirtualBox or VMware Player on Windows and then run Ubuntu in a virtual machine.

Virtual machine softwares are basically a program that pretends to be a computer, allowing you to run multiple operating systems at the same time. Keep in mind that virtual machines require a decent computer, and they don't get great performance so it depends what you plan to do as to whether it will be viable. In order to access your files you will need to enable a shared folder between the virtual machine guest and the Windows host, because the virtual machine has it's own virtual hard drive.

Just install a virtual machine program, create a new virtual machine, and then install Ubuntu like normal within the virtual machine. If you need help figuring out how to do that check out this posting for VirtualBox [ How to install Ubuntu on VirtualBox? ] or this posting for VMware Player [ Can I run ubuntu with VMware? ].

VirtualBox: https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads

VMware Player: https://my.vmware.com/web/vmware/free#desktop_end_user_computing/vmware_player/6_0


Try VirtualBox. It's virtualisation software. Download it from https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads


I'm not allowed to comment, but the easiest way to do it might be to use virtual box as the guy mentioned.

Taking it one step further you might be able to get the portable version of virtual box and put that on the usb as well.

There is a program called Linux live (lili) creator which will actually set it up for you. Not only will the usb drive be bootable but it bundles a copy of virtual box on the pen. Although truth be told, I've never seen it working. I may have made one really small attempt to see what the auto run did a long time ago.


Another vote for virtualbox, its really so easy. The vdi file, which is the actual operating system with all your files inside, can easily be kept on a usb stick (but they tend to be big files, so you would need a stick with a lot of space).

When you set up virtualbox, it will ask you where the vdi file is, and then it will make some configuration files which normally would be stored inside windows. Then, when you open up the virtualbox launcher, it will look for that vdi file, and warn you if it can't be found. Just plug in the usb, then it will see the vdi file and be able to start up.


I ran across this article and it appears this should suffice my quest.


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