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It seems as this isn't impossible but I haven't found any software that does this, except this one, but it isn't even released yet: vBoot.

My objective is:

  • Install Windows XP in a VM and save it as an image.
  • Put that image in a storage medium such as USB or disk.
  • Boot an arbitrary machine directly on a VM that reads that image.
  • (Optionally) save changes to the image before shutting down.

It's ok if I have to get used to new tools (up to date VirtualBox solved all my needs).

It's also ok if I have to deal with scripting, even some coding, or anything that can help me achieve that task, as it would be very useful to have a portable WinXP VM that I can boot into.

In a nutshell: to run VirtualBox/VMWare/other XP image without booting into a preinstalled OS.

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That's systematically impossible on a Windows installation because of the anti-piracy measures, but barring that (say you miraculously got Microsoft to send you a version without any anti-piracy measures), what you're trying to accomplish can very well be done (check out the dated Pendrive Linux Distro). It's obviously a lot easier to do on Linux, because, of course, the lack of the aforementioned anti-piracy measures.

You may also want to look at raw disk booting. It provides the same end-result (being able to boot physically and on a VM). PendriveLinux has a guide for that too. With this, you can probably set up a very nice BartPE setup (although BartPE has no persistence, i.e. settings changes aren't saved).

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Well it supposedly could be done legally with a VLK... But anyway, I'll take a look at that :) Also, BartPE is very slow and has no Explorer Shell, right? – Camilo Martin Aug 14 '10 at 14:20
Now that I've look at it, seems it's not exactly what I want - to boot into the VM, not just run a portable VirtualBox... :( – Camilo Martin Aug 14 '10 at 15:15
up vote 1 down vote accepted

What I wanted when I asked this answer, I've finally accomplished.

Here's what you do:

  1. Create a VM in VirtualBox and install Windows on it, set it up the way you want (update it too).
  2. Image it, that is, create a drive image to be used later.
  3. "Restore" the image on your desired machine. Don't boot it, you'll simply get a BSOD.
  4. Run any "Universal Restore" kind of software(*). I've used Acronis'.
  5. It boots, but it's not ready, unless you added drivers in the last step. Download and install each. If having problems figuring which drivers you need, use CPU-Z.

(*) The same thing can be done with SysPrep, these solutions are just incredibly easier.

And that's it, basically booting a VM in a physical machine, for any purpose needed (fix somebody's computer no longer a pain) and streamlined in a process even your girlfriend will do with ease.

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