Well this question might sound odd but is it possible to tell VMWare or VirtualBox that there is a second partition on my hard drive that has Ubuntu installed?
Could something like this be done somehow?
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You can create a VM that uses an existing partition on your disk which also has an OS installed. Of course your existing host system cannot have that partition mounted or a drive letter assigned. There is a couple of caveats.
The first problem will be is that VMWare or whichever virtualization software will make that entire partition look like a full standalone disk to the VM. Unless there's valid boot code on sector 0 of that partition, or your virtualization software has a method of loading the kernel or second-stage bootloader directly from that virtual disk, directly booting into it will fail.
You probably can fix it by running a utility from a live CD iso in the VM to rewrite the boot code on the first sector of the virtual disk. I haven't ever tried it though.
The second problem is that, while Linux is pretty forgiving of booting on different hardware other than what it was installed (as long as it's not something like switching to a different CPU architecture - and sudden changes in video hardware may kick you to a text console on boot), it may have an issue if the type of hardware the root disk was installed on is something that isn't built into the kernel or initrd. You probably don't have to worry about this for something like VMWare as it makes virtual disks look like IDE or SCSI disks which are well supported.
Yes, it's possible. It's called booting a native installation in a virtual machine.
Both vmplayer and virtual box support it. It is an advanced procedure. I am adding a link for you to follow.
Check section 5.6. I am sure other Linux distros also provide ways to achieve this, though I think this will mostly be the same