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There are any desktop (not hipervisor) virtual machine software able to boot from USB drive? Which one and how?

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lame that they haven't come up with a better solution embedded into the virtual machines. – KronoS Nov 8 '10 at 23:24
up vote 14 down vote accepted

I've found the solution for virtual disks VMDK compatible machines.

The steps I've done are the following:

  1. Install Virtual Box
  2. Determine the Physical Disk number of the USB drive. To achieve this I run the following script generated by WMI Code Creator:

    strComputer = "." 
    Set objWMIService = GetObject("winmgmts:\\" & strComputer & "\root\CIMV2") 
    Set colItems = objWMIService.ExecQuery( _
        "SELECT * FROM Win32_DiskDrive WHERE Name = '\\\\.\\PHYSICALDRIVE1'",,48) 
    For Each objItem in colItems 
        Wscript.Echo "-----------------------------------"
        Wscript.Echo "MediaType: " & objItem.MediaType
        Wscript.Echo "Model: " & objItem.Model
        Wscript.Echo "Name: " & objItem.Name
  3. Execute this from the VirtualBox folder, changing XXX with the number given by the script:

    VBoxManage internalcommands createrawvmdk -filename "C:\USB.vmdk" -rawdisk \\.\PhysicalDriveXXX -register
  4. Just create a new VirtualBox machine with just the whole disk, and start it. I've tried with VMware just forcing to use the USB.vmdk and the virtual machine starts but while loading the Operating System, just shows an error about slow device.

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+1 for specifics and for answering your own question. nice! – quack quixote Oct 3 '09 at 20:31
This is useful information, however there is a typo in the script to determine the physical drive number; it is hard-coded to search for physicalrive1. Change the 4th line of the script to: "SELECT * FROM Win32_DiskDrive WHERE Name like '%\\\\.\\PHYSICALDRIVE%'",,48) – Chris Feb 5 '11 at 16:07

Virtualbox can do this indirectly

Configure your USB drive as a raw disk in VirtualBox (page 105 of the manual). Then the guest will see your USB drive as a IDE drive and will be able to boot on it.

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I've seen this googling ;-) But which is the manual refering to? How to do it? – FerranB Aug 5 '09 at 22:42

Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but the VMWare ESXi hypervisor will actually boot straight off a USB drive. HP actually sells servers this way.

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Nice to know, but I need it for desktop. (I've updated the question). – FerranB Aug 5 '09 at 21:41

Also VMWare can boot from usb, if it's configured as a PHISYCAL HD

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