The situation is this:
A friends computer broke and the repair takes 2-8 weeks. I removed the HDD before he sent it to the vendor so he can at least access the data on it while his main computer is being repaired. On the HDD is Windows 7 installed and a few special applications which because of licensing he only had installed on his main computer. Now he needs to work in one of those Applications.

The Question:
Is it possible to use the physical HDD temporary in a virtual environment (VirtualBox, VMware, ...) while the computer is being repaired and then plug it back in and continue the work on physical hardware? Or do I have to make a detour and use disk2vhd to make a copy and then copy back the data from the vhd to the disk once the hardware is back?

2 Answers 2


I don't think you can do so directly.

Even if it is possible, as you will need to change the graphics card drivers, and probably most of the other drivers as well, meaning you won't be able to just plug the disk back on the machines return, a converted copy with disk2vhd would seem to be the best option. Just make sure your friend keeps a track of the data he changes on the virtual.

  • I thought of that as well, my idea was to install the drivers needed for the virtual machine and then once the HDD is back in the original computer use the Windows Recovery to restore the system to its state before the virtualization. The data would be untouched.
    – Simon
    Apr 3, 2013 at 12:59

I found a way to do it!

Things needed:

  • A computer with a free SATA/eSATA port (in my case a notebook with eSATA)
  • VirtualBox

What I did:

  • I made an image of the HDD in case I screw up
  • I installed VirtualBox 4.2.10 on Windows 7
  • I connected the HDD via sSATA to the notebook
  • I created a virtual disk which is the raw host HDD from which I want to boot
  • I created a virtual machine that uses the created .vmdk
  • I started the virtual machine

The first boot took a while, and Windows wants to be reactivated due to hardware change but it is working.

Additional information:

  • I didn't install the guest additions as it is just a temporary solution.
  • If someone is interested I will update the post once the repaired computer is back to tell how it went to go back from virtual to physical hardware. Just leave a comment to let me know you are interrested.
  • The HDD can not be connected via USB to be used as a raw disk.

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