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How to setup a physical machine that spins a virtual machine on boot, and this guest OS is automatically connected to all the hardware (monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc) and behaves like it was a host in terms of performance and hardware integration?

  1. What host OS should I use?
  2. What guest OSes it supports?
  3. What configurations must be made?
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Why do you want to do this? Sounds like you want to just install an OS. – prestomation Nov 15 '09 at 22:11
I want this because: I want to run be able to rollback my OS, and with a LiveCD I would only have to burn a CD for each snapshot. – Jader Dias Nov 16 '09 at 1:33
Virtual machines also allows migration. – Jader Dias Nov 16 '09 at 1:34
up vote 2 down vote accepted

have a look at Sandboxie. not a virtual machine, but you can virtualize pretty much any windows application with full access your hardware, including your graphics card (which is not an option with virtual machines).

very handy to test programs or to run multiple instances of programs that normally do not allow this.

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Virtualization is probably not the solution you are looking for - or at least not the single solution. For what you describe I would recommend Ghost, Acronis and the other variants. Virtualization may still fit the bill for other needs you have.

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Full access to the hardware is only possible if you are the host.

Out of curiosity, why do you want a VM? What it sounds like you want is something installed directly to the machine.

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If you could explain what it is you're trying to accomplish, the community will be better able to direct you.

If you want a machine that "resets" each time it reboots (ie, you can't make permanent changes to it, can't get a virus, etc), you might want to look at something like a Linux-based LiveCD.

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I want this because: I want to run be able to rollback my OS, and with a LiveCD I would only have to burn a CD for each snapshot. – Jader Dias Nov 16 '09 at 1:34
Virtual machines also allow migration. – Jader Dias Nov 16 '09 at 1:35

I do not think you are going to be able to accomplish what you want. What OS's are you running as "guests"? If you are running Win7 you can boot from VHD, I'm not sure how snapshots/etc fit into that though

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As noted above, full hardware access isn't really possible with any virtualization technology for commodity hardware. What you might want to look into is LVM on Linux. LVM2 includes support for read/write snapshots. In essence you can create your clean install, take a snapshot, and use the snapshot as your filesystem. LVM2 snapshots only require extra storage for blocks changed after the snapshot, so your base install would still provide (hopefully) a majority of your actual running OS. If/when something gets borked, you can restore to your clean install, create a new snapshot and go from there.

As an added bonus, you could (with enough space) create multiple snapshots and maintain several different versions of your OS.

Most modern, popular Linux distributions are capable of using LVM at install time. For Ubuntu it is an option, for Fedora it is the default.

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