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(Using VirtualBox with Win7 host/guest...)

Is it the possible to connect to a wireless network in a virtual machine, but keep the host os disconnected?

[useful in places where wi-fi is free]

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Yes, depending on your wireless card. If your card fully supports promiscuous mode, then the guest OS should be able to monitor/send packets on that interface with WinPcap or a similar library if supported by VirtualBox without the host OS getting on the network.

However, most wireless cards do not fully support this (either driver or hardware limitation), which will limit or make it impossible to do this.

If the Wifi is free, is there a specific reason you need the host to remain disconnected? It would probably be much easier to have the host connect and then bridge with the guest, but I don't know if you have some reason not to do so other than academic reasons.

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The reason is that I don't know what they have set up on the router end. Didn't want anything shady to affect my PC when connecting to their network. –  eych Jun 14 '10 at 17:52
    
It should either look like two completely separate computers have connected to the wireless (raw frame support) or like a single computer is connected and passing/routing packets for another computer (connection bridging). The absolute worst they could do is ban your system from the Wifi, though that'd be highly unlikely as the Wifi is free and most consumer routers would have to be flashed with a custom firmware to even detect this. –  Darth Android Jun 14 '10 at 22:44

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