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Can I run Windows and Linux simultaneously from two separate hard drives whilst still being able to boot each individually?

The scenario is as follows: I have two HDDs (SSDs in this case). One has an installation of Ubuntu 11.10 and the other has an installation of Windows 7. I have kept the two bootmanagers separate as I wish to maintain independence, thus I toggle the operating system I use at boot by manually selecting a different drive to boot from in BIOS.

However, it would be amazing to run the physical disk that is not currently in use as a virtual machine, either running Windows from Linux, or vice versa.

All guides and manuals require me to create an image of my physical disk and use that as a virtual disk, however I wish to leave the original installation untouched, other than any edits I (the user) make during runtime.

Effectively, can I run Windows and Linux simultaneously from two separate hard drives whilst still being able to boot each individually?

I do not wish to use KVM or any other thin virtualization environment, as I prefer to have full hardware acceleration, and Windows has great powermanagement on this laptop, and the Linux drivers suck.

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migrated from serverfault.com Dec 24 '11 at 7:43

This question came from our site for professional system and network administrators.

    
Related question: superuser.com/questions/272310/… –  Ash Dec 24 '11 at 9:54

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

It's definitely possible. Virtual box does let you do it.

See: http://www.virtualbox.org/manual/ch09.html#rawdisk

Excerpt:

Manually create a virtual machine and select settings matching your Physical Disk's operating system settings, and opt to not create a disk or install an OS.

Add a physical disk manually, specifying the physical disk you wish to virtualize.

The virtual machine should boot as expected.

Virtualbox graphics is lagging behind vmware. You can't run Aero with it in a guest. VMWare workstation does support Aero. Update: yes virtualbox 4.1 now supports aero apparently. I'll have to try that.

With Virtualbox now supporting Aero, this would make virtualbox my favourite desktop virtualization product. And it's free.

As a completely different alternative where money isn't a big object. 2 screens, 2 computers 1 keyboard/mouse, Linked together with Synergy.

One other solution I've put together before: Xen host, Linux guest + Windows 7 Guest. Linked with Synergy to the host acting as server. Linux guest runs on one screen, windows 7 on the other. Both had passthrough graphics. Quite time consuming to set up, but was cool!.

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Great answer, thank you for the insight into VirtualBox and the alternative wtih Xen and Synery. I added an edit to provide instructions for VMware as it is the solution I used in the end. –  wcdolphin Dec 25 '11 at 17:43

You can do this using, for example, VMware Workstation:

http://www.vmware.com/support/ws5/doc/ws_disk_add_raw.html

Back in the Windows XP days, you could use "hardware profiles" to do this smoothly; I'm not aware of an analogous feature for Windows 7, though.

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This was helpful. Thanks! I was approaching the question incorrectly. These instructions are for VMware Workstation 8: Manually create a virtual machine and select settings matching your operating system settings, and opt to not create a disk or install an OS. Add a physical disk manually, specifying the physical disk you wish to virtualize. The documentation is not clear, and the workflow has changed between different versions of Vmware, however this works well in VMware Workstation 8. –  wcdolphin Dec 24 '11 at 6:24

VMWare is not absolutely clear on this. It used to be possible, but the "latest" documentation for VMWare Workstation includes this PDF regarding dual booting, hardware profiles, and such.

That document, as out of date as it seems, indicates only support for IDE and SCSI drives in this configuration.

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I was approaching the question incorrectly. These instructions are for VMware Workstation 8: Manually create a virtual machine and select settings matching your operating system settings, and opt to not create a disk or install an OS. Add a physical disk manually, specifying the physical disk you wish to virtualize. The documentation is not clear, and the workflow has changed between different versions of Vmware, however this works well in VMware Workstation 8. –  wcdolphin Dec 24 '11 at 6:25

These instructions are for VMware Workstation 8:

Manually create a virtual machine and select settings matching your Physical Disk's operating system settings, and opt to not create a disk or install an OS.

Add a physical disk manually, specifying the physical disk you wish to virtualize.

Thee virtual machine should boot as expected.

The documentation is not clear, and the workflow has changed between different versions of Vmware, however this works well in VMware Workstation 8

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