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I want to know that is it possible to create a fully portable virtual machine using any of the VMWare like products? My objective is to create a virtual machine (XP as guest OS), install some app in it, put the vm in a usb2 drive (performance is not a matter), and run it in any windows host os (xp, vista, 7) without installing anything in host, using any host account (admin, guest, limited). Is it possible to do that using any vmware like product? If possible then which one is my best bet?

PS : I found a closest match : Qemu; but its lot slower. Doing any real work (coding stuff on .net) in a XP os running on qemu is virtually impossible. Is there any better one than Qemu or is there anyway I can make Qemu faster? But one restriction, I do not have admin privilege to all the machines, so the solution should be literally portable on any Windows based system.

From an answer by the OP


Thanks for your valuable responses. I have been hacking with Qemu a lot, coz it is kind of promising and it conforms to the definition of portability (what I want actually); you need not install anything to the host. I found out a tweak (though all of you may know it) and like to share with you guys. If you use


option for Qemu, it is lot faster, not nearly vmware/virtualbox, but that's the performance I can live with. I used the following command for Qemu

"J:\Virtualization\QEMU\qmqemu0-12-3\qemu.exe" -L "J:\Virtualization\QEMU\qmqemu0-12-3" -M "pc" -m 512 -cpu "qemu32" -vga cirrus -serial vc -parallel vc -name "MinXP" -drive "file=J:\Virtualization\QEMU\Store\MinXP.qcow2,index=0,media=disk" -boot order=dc,menu=on -net nic,vlan=0,macaddr=52-54-00-F3-27-A6,model=rtl8139 -net user,vlan=0 -win2k-hack -no-acpi -hwnd 722498 -localtime

With this option it will take long time to install XP, but once up it is faster.

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Because virtual machines requires software that simulates and interacts with the host machine, and for networking for example needs to install drivers on the host, a version that will run off a pen drive for example is a long way off still.

The biggest limitation is the integration into the hardware layer, and not all machines support vitualization. Therefore software that can run the VM or executable VM's are still not possible.

Of course, as long as the software is loaded you can run the VM itself of a pendrive, but you will sometimes find it is a lot slower because of the amount of reading and writing that needs to be done, and I have seen a pendrive or two fail horribly after just short periods of use.

To answer your question regarding Qemu. They have been experimenting with the idea for some time, but the problem still remains with regards to speed, as well as admin privileges because of the drivers. As it was originally developed for Linux, it does work well in Linux environment where hardware drivers can be loaded on the fly, but even then you need the right permissions to be able to do so.

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It is possible to execute a VM with no administrative permission or hardware support, and qemu does it. What does require administrative privileges is running a VM fast — but often fast here means “not impractically slow”. – Gilles Aug 14 '10 at 10:22

You can try portable virtualbox. I never looked into it myself but it has promise.

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Thanks for the response. But I tried vbox already, though it is portable but it needs admin rights on the host, otherwise it won't work at all. So it does not meet my requirement. Though I found one way around, see my answer for it. Thanks anyway. – Anindya Chatterjee Aug 14 '10 at 14:57

I use a bootable Linux with Virtual Box installed to start up a Windows VM. No need to install anything on the machine or to be an admin. But the BIOS has to support booting from a USB device (or a CD with a boot loader to load Linux from the USB device). Performance depends on the host hardware and the USB device itself.

It is not that hard to set up, even if you don't usually use Linux.

I don't have a step-by-step guide but outlined the procedure on my blog

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I think basically any of them will do it. VMWare, VirtualBox, etc. That's why you can download entire working VMs that other people make, like out-of-the box virtual LAMP boxes. I would start with VirtualBox.

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But all of them needs to be installed in the host, and that's what I don't want. Is there any way I can run them without installing anything in the host? – Anindya Chatterjee Aug 14 '10 at 6:53
Well then, the answer is no. Virtualization software does not fit into the category of 'portable'. – boot13 Aug 14 '10 at 14:27

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