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I have two flash drive, one with Slax installed and another for Android x86 Live installed, but they do not boot in my laptop (in my work they boot perfectly).

I can boot from some live CDs/DVDs or its ISO files using VirtualBox, but I cannot do it for live flash drives - I put the flash drives and start a VirtualBox without any virtual HD, but VirtualBox does not recognize them as boot options, as it does for CDs/DVDs.

Any ideas? Any alternatives if VirtualBox does not support it?

Edit1: I'm using Windows (Windows 7) but I would like to know how to do it in Linux (Ubuntu, for example) too.

share|improve this question
USB boot isn't supported in VirtualBox. – Joe Internet Aug 2 '11 at 20:59
any alternative? – kokbira Aug 3 '11 at 2:00
You can try this boot manager... If you extract the file archive, you'll find a plpbt.iso file that you can set as your boot medium. This will give a bootloader with the usb option. If your vm is correctly configured for usb (you may need to disable 2.0 support), and your usb stick is already correctly configured (ie, it has a bootable os installed, and you know that it works), then it should boot in the vm. – Joe Internet Aug 3 '11 at 4:36
@JoeInternet: Unfortunately Plop doesn't seem to work with USB 2.0, so it'll be very slow. – Mechanical snail Aug 21 '12 at 7:59
Related:… – Mechanical snail Aug 21 '12 at 8:00
up vote 26 down vote accepted

For Windows, see this article : Boot your USB Drive in VirtualBox.
For Linux, the same approach is described in : How to boot from USB in virtualbox on Ubuntu.

The approach is to attach a physical drive to a virtual machine using the VBoxManage command-line tool that comes bundled with VirtualBox. You can then boot your virtual machine from the attached Physical drive.

Alternatively, and only for Windows, Linux Live USB Creator (formerly uSbuntu) is a free software for Windows that allows you to create a bootable Live USB key with a Linux on it. It offers the option of automatic virtualization using portable VirtualBox to directly run Linux in Windows without any configuration nor installation.

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You are really a superuser!!!! Thanks :) Details: in Windows 7, you have to run cmd commands and VirtualBox as administrator! – kokbira Aug 12 '11 at 16:55
@harrymc: For Linux, the guide you linked isn't clear that you have to run VirtualBox as root (!), or alternatively add your user account to the disk group. This is of course a possible security risk. – Mechanical snail Aug 21 '12 at 7:58
I would like to add that this evidently does not always work (at least on Windows 10) with drives that utilize USB 3.0 (may give "VERR_IO_NOT_READY" error, among others). To work around this, you can try any USB 2.0 ports that you may have, or use a USB 2.0 hub, and connect it to that. – fakedad Jan 29 at 8:02

Not sure if people have found the solution, but I found this while trying to find the answer so thought id share.

In Windows 7, open a cmd prompt with admin privileges. cd to Programs, Oracle, VirtualBox.

VBoxManage internalcommands createrawvmdk -filename C:\usb.vmdk -rawdisk \\.\PhysicalDrive#

Replace the # with the disk number from disk management in computer management. Then open the vmdk within VirtualBox as an existing hard drive image.

share|improve this answer
same solution described by @harrymc – kokbira Apr 12 '12 at 1:30

Yes, in Windows Vista, 7 and 8, you need to start command prompt and virtualbox program as administrator to make this work. Check the latest guide about how to boot virtual machine from bootable USB on Oracle VirtualBox.

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It isn't a answer for my question "How to boot from a flash drive OS using VirtualBox?". It appears more a comment... – kokbira Nov 22 '12 at 19:06

I know this question is old but I'd like to throw something in. As with other answers I recommend the VBoxManage command.

However I created a bash script for Ubuntu that simplifies the command and even offers a helpful walkthrough for less comfortable users. It'll help make any changes needed for USB mounting to work (like adding group membership). Advanced users can use flags to avoid the walkthrough.

Check it out here: Use Bootable USB Drives in a VM -- VB Bootable USB Mounter

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It isn't a answer for my question "How to boot from a flash drive OS using VirtualBox?". It appears more a comment... – kokbira Nov 22 '12 at 19:07
I'm saying about the format of a complete answer (suppose all other answers are deleted...). – kokbira Nov 22 '12 at 19:10

according to harrymc's source: you can not set up to boot from USB in the GUI, however, you can create a special virtual disk that only "redirects" to your physical usb pendrive, and attach that. here is the windows way (only, link contains it for linux too).

in windows host

  • attach your physical usb pendrive to your host computer

  • open/run diskmgmt.msc and check which disk number did windows choose for your physical pendrive:

example: example disk 1

  • then do this in cmd.exe:

cd c:\Program Files\Oracle\VirtualBox

VBoxManage internalcommands createrawvmdk ^
-filename <path\to\usb.vmdk> ^
-rawdisk \\.\PhysicalDrive<n>
  • replace <path\to\usb.vmdk> to a path of your choosing, for the "redirect" disk file. example: e:\my_redirect_for_usb.vmdk

  • replace <n> in \\.\PhysicalDrive<n> with the number of your Physical drive, example: \\.\PhysicalDrive1 if your drive number is 1 (got from diskmgmt.msc above!)

  • aside: note, that ^ only means "line-continuation" in cmd - i did this only for better readability. You can write the whole thing in one line, instead -- just leave out any ^, then.

  • now you can attach the vmdk (example: e:\my_redirect_for_usb.vmdk) in Virtualbox like you do with any other hdd image

  • I managed to boot this way in 2014 :) ( -- the source article is from 2009)

share|improve this answer

I'm sorry to break it to you, but VirtualBox does not support booting from USB.

The only thing that I can think of is creating an image of the contents of the USB drive, mounting this as a CD-Rom in VirtualBox and booting from there.

share|improve this answer
I thought it in the past but @harrymc show me how to do it. – kokbira Apr 12 '12 at 1:29

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