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I am running windows 8 and have a linux Ubuntu 12.04 installed on an external hard drive, can I install a virtual machine on windows and run the linux system installed on my external HD?

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Yes. In the VM's settings, give it pass-through access to the USB device which represents your external HDD, and tell it to boot from USB. It should see it just like the host would.

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Really? Even if the Linux install was made "normally" not on a VM? The hardware specs that Linux will be expecting will be different. Won't that cause problems? – terdon Jan 18 '13 at 14:05
    
Well, if it's expecting a different architecture, then yes. The kernel is fairly intelligent about recognising hardware differences - consider how many variations a liveCD install will encounter, and consider that Ubuntu in particular is set up to, as they put it, "Just Work". – Xyon Jan 18 '13 at 14:08
    
Yeah, but I would guess things like the fstab will probably need some tweaking. Have you actually tried this successfully? – terdon Jan 18 '13 at 14:33
    
Well, it depends on the setup. Ubuntu uses uuids for filesystems now, so it shouldn't really matter, since that's stored on the drive too. – Xyon Jan 18 '13 at 15:06
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Fair enough, +1 :) – terdon Jan 18 '13 at 15:10

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