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I have a PC hard drive which I turned into an external hard drive because I have valuable information. I connected it to my laptop in file explorer mode but I can't access the desktop. Can I run Windows from hard drive in my laptop or virtual machine?

I need those files. Thank you very much!

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    What do you mean by "can't access the desktop"? Is your Windows somehow restricted e.g. by company policy or what do you mean?
    – Robert
    Jan 28 at 20:20
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The desktop is just a folder, default is x:\users\your_username\desktop

You should not need a VM to access it.

Some virtualization products will allow you to use a physical disk and boot from it. You'll run into some driver issues since the VM hardware will be completely different than the original system, and likely be forced to reactivate Windows due to the hardware changes.

What you want to do is referred to as hard drive passthrough.

VirtualBox is one solution that's free and offers this functionality. More detailed information is here: https://www.virtualbox.org/manual/ch05.html

Keep in mind, this isn't a trivial procedure and can be very complicated.

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Do you have an extra computer? If you could put that extra drive into a different computer to boot off of it, that would work best.

Running a virtual machine off of a physical hard drive can be quite complicated, but if you really want to do it, check this question.

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