I have a VirtualBox virtual machine that I use regularly. In order to use it on many computers, I carry it around on a USB drive.

Sometimes, however, I come across a computer that doesn't support full virtualization (doesn't have the necessary resources). Since the VM is on a USB drive, that made me wonder: is it possible to live-boot a VM?

  • What OS is installed on it?
    – Synetech
    Jun 13, 2011 at 21:24

3 Answers 3


If "the necessary resources" are hardware related, such as not enough ram, or cpu power. I'm not sure how that would work.

You could perhaps install a linux distro onto a usb drive with Virtualbox installed and boot the computer using that OS and initializing the virtualization through that Virtualbox.

It will likely be slow, but could be an alternative if you are looking for one.

  • Ya, that sounds like the best way to do it. Thanks! Jun 17, 2011 at 7:31
  • Do you mean installing a live USB operating system on a flash drive, and then installing a virtual machine inside the live USB operating system? Nov 15, 2012 at 0:29
  • 1
    @AndersonGreen It's been a year since I answered but I believe that is what I meant. I've never tried that myself however. I don't see why it would not work but I can see why it would be slow. I personally carry two USB, one encrypted and one with a live boot with the files required to unlock it.
    – Mallow
    Nov 15, 2012 at 2:05

In theory yes. You could copy the contents of the virtual drive to a real drive and boot from it. However, the VM is installed on virtual hardware, so when you boot it on a real, physical system, it will need to detect the new hardware and install all the drivers for it. This can be easier said than done since it’s not just the video card or hard-drive that is different but the CPU, the BIOS, and the whole motherboard! Normally, you are supposed to be able to take an installed copy of an operating system and put it in a new computer, but it is quite possible for it to not work (I did this and ran into horribly nasty problems that took a lot of time and effort to sort out).


I'm not sure how well this would work but Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 supports booting from a VHD file. You should be able to use the method to create a bootable usb stick and then add a boot menu entry for your vhd file.

This could result in some weird behavior when switching from virtual to real when Windows detects new hardware and has to reconfigure.

  • Windows licensing especially might not like the new hardware.
    – Daniel Beck
    Jun 13, 2011 at 18:01
  • oh right, had forgotten about the licensing, that probably makes it highly impractical for real use and more of a fun exercise of what's possible
    – Paxxi
    Jun 13, 2011 at 18:21
  • Ooh, that's really cool! I haven't heard of that stuff, so I'll check that out. Unfortunately, it won't always be Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2... :( Jun 17, 2011 at 7:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.