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Basically, I want to be able to run Windows XP as the host OS (for a few processor-hungry apps) with the driver for ethernet (and thus access to the internet) disabled. However, I want a guest operating system in a virtual machine to be able to access the internet - taking direct control of the ethernet hardware, and using its own drivers. The guest operating system would be some relatively lightweight version of Linux.

One reason for wanting this is to be able to uninstall firewall and some other security system from Windows XP, since it should have no internet (or other) connectivity and should therefore be pretty secure without that drain on resources. There should therefore be no virtual network connectivity between guest and host either. Some kind of shared folder support would be appreciated, of course.

Is this possible? If so, which virtual machine software can support it? And is there any free-as-in-beer VM software that can do this.

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An idea I had worth mentioning, but which I haven't tried, is to use a USB Ethernet gizmo. Most desktop VMs are quite happy to redirect USB devices to the guest O/S. – Steve314 Oct 13 '11 at 21:48
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I do not have experience with this specific setup, but you might try Xen: That way, you would have both Linux and Windows running as peers, with Xen as their "daddy". This should accommodate what you need.

Note that for unmodified Windows, you need Xen 3.0 and a CPU that supports hardware virtualization - see here the relevant section:

Others might be able to confirm whether this is going to work as needed or not.

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Rats - the machine involved is just a tad too old for hardware virtualisation. Still, it does need replacing, and as soon as I can spare the pennies... IOW this sounds like a possible option for the near future. – Steve314 Nov 13 '10 at 19:16
Well, you are out of luck there. Anyway, if that's the case, I don't see why you should not try with the current setup anyway. I don't think there are going to be major issues with VM going through the host which has firewalls/antivirus software. You can even specifically disable firewall for VM's IP(s)/processes. Try VirtualBox - easy to setup, you can download many small Linux distributions to try out, it's pretty quick and you'll know better. – Nov 13 '10 at 19:24
As Stephen Jennings answer sadly didn't pan out, I am back to this one. Not tested, of course, as it depends on me buying a new machine. Though that's probably not far off now. – Steve314 Nov 17 '10 at 20:12
It's definitively going to work if you buy a machine supporting virtualization, but please revert here with your results and of course if you have any issues. – Nov 17 '10 at 21:04
Ah - well - one thing is, once I have a new machine, I'm likely to be much less worried about the resource drain from firewall/antivirus etc. I may try it anyway, though. – Steve314 Nov 18 '10 at 12:59

Rather than disabling the entire network interface in Windows, try disabling every protocol under the interface's property window (Client for Microsoft Networks, Internet Protocol, etc.).

This should prevent any communication on the part of the Windows host, but might still allow the VM to bind to the adapter and have its own connectivity.

share|improve this answer
Very interesting idea - thanks. – Steve314 Nov 13 '10 at 19:34
Accepted, though I've not yet got it working 100%. I can certainly disable Windows internet access this way, but I've been having problems getting a Linux guest in VirtualBox to access the internet for some reason (happened before and I resolved it, but I don't remember how). This happens whether these protocols are enabled or disabled, so it isn't the cause, but as I say I haven't yet confirmed that the guest can still access the internet etc. – Steve314 Nov 13 '10 at 22:02
Sorry - I have to withdraw the accept on this. I now have a working Ubuntu (not exactly lightweight, but I decided to go for friendly ATM) as a guest in VirtualBox. Internet works fine - until I disable the TCP/IP protocol for the ethernet on the Windows XP host. The protocol support seems to be needed in the host to allow the guest to access the internet, which obviously means the host is on the internet too. – Steve314 Nov 17 '10 at 20:10
Ah, well, it was worth a shot. Too bad. – Stephen Jennings Nov 18 '10 at 4:52

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