You can make QEMU, VMware Server or Oracle VirtualBox boot from the host USB drive. This is an easy way to test if your bootable USB drive is really bootable without having to reboot your Windows system and boot it from the USB drive instead. Note however that if it boots under a VM it does not guarantee that it will boot from every system for real!
Oracle VM Virtual Box can boot from a USB drive with full write access using DavidB's Virtual Machine USB Boot application (see below).
Tip: For network access if booting to XP, instead of NAT, use Network - Attached to: Bridged Adapter, Advanced - PCnet-PCII - Allow All - Cable Connected.
The QEMU available in RMPrepUSB is much slower and is 32-bit only but can be used for testing grub4dos menus and will be almost as successful as VBox (just a lot slower!).
RMPrepUSB v2.1.707 and later versions have two QEMU 'boot from USB drive' options:
I strongly recommend using Oracle VBox with DavidB's Virtual Machine USB Boot utility for the best results.
DavidB has provided a great utility which allows a USB drive to be run under Oracle VM VirtualBox and the writes to USB will work and be permanent.
See here for the discussion.
Here is what to do;
1. Download the latest version of the GUI utility from here and run the setup program to install it (or use the portable version). If the site is down, see bottom of this page for a download.
2. Run Oracle VBox Manager and make a new VM which leaves an empty space for the FIRST hard disk (this will be used by the USB drive). You can add more virtual hard disks (VHDs) or CD/DVD drives to the VM but you must leave the first hard disk 'slot' free. e.g. If using an IDE VHD, leave the Primary Master IDE hard disk slot free. If using a SATA VHD, leave SATA Port 0 free and attach the VHD to SATA Port 1.
3. Run the Virtual Machine USB Boot utility (Admin access required) and use the Add icon to add a new entry - use any name you like for each entry and then attach a USB drive to your system and add it in to the 'Drive to Add' section.
4. To start the VM click on Start
In this way you can make the free Oracle VM VirtualBox boot from USB with writes just like a real drive.
Note that when you boot from the USB drive, the first HDD will be the USB drive and the 2nd HDD will be your virtual HDD (if you have set one up). So when booting to linux or Windows, the drive lettering may not be the same as when you boot from a real system (e.g. under linux, the USB drive will be sda when booting under the VM, but sdb when booting on a real system).
If you want to boot to a different USB drive, select the VM from the list and then click the Edit icon - then change the USB drive to any drive that is currently attached.
You can have the VBox Manager running at the same time or not.
Windows failed to start
This is because in Settings - System - "enable IO APIC" is checkbox is not selected for Win7 64-bit.
If Oracle reports an error just at the very start of XP text-mode setup then you can fix it by turning off VT-x/AMD-V in the Acceleration - System settings.
Once text-mode completes and the VM reboots, you can speed up the install by re-enabling VT-x for the GUI-mode setup phase.
I set up two VMs, one with VT on and one with VT off. I use VT-off for the first text-mode install of XP and booting BartPE, etc. and the use VT-ON for the 2nd GUI-mode install stage of XP and most others OS's.
Note: For best results when booting from a USB drive using a VM, I highly recommend using DavidB's application which allows Vbox full rd/wr access and is easy to set up and use - see enabling permanent writes in the section above.
These instructions will allow you to boot from the USB drive as read-only - therefore some things may not work if you boot a USB drive using this technique!
1. Download and extract the file MakeUSBvmdk.cmd and place it on your Desktop (or anywhere convenient)
2. Close VM VirtualBox now.
3. Right-click on the file and run as ADMINISTRATOR and enter in the USB drive number (as listed in RMPrepUSB) - the new vmdk file will be created for you and placed in the correct folder for Oracle VirtualBox to use.
4. Run VM Virtual Box as ADMINISTRATOR (right-click - Run as Administrator)
5. Set the Master IDE contents to the new USBPortX.vmdk file in Oracle Manager (see screenshot - click on the disk icon)
The USB can now be booted from but any writes to the USB drive will not have any affect as the volume will be locked by Windows and thus writes will be prevented.
The USB drive must always be the same drive number - if you have two USB drives connected and your VM uses USBPort1.vmdk, then check with RMPrepUSB which USB drive is no 1 - you may need to remove and re-attach USB drives in a different order, to get the correct drive as the correct number.
If you buy a larger USB drive or re-make a new USBPortx.vmdk using a different drive, you will need to re-attach the new USBPortx.vmdk file (otherwise VirtualBox Manager will complain about the registry entry being wrong!) as follows:
1. In File - Virtual Media Manager - Remove the old USBPortx.vmdk file (you may need to expand it and Release and Remove any children first)
2. Insert your largest USB device into a USB port and run RMPrepUSB to find out what device number it is
3. Repeat the steps above.
If you require instructions on how to add a vmdk to a new VM see here for a tutorial or watch the YouTube video below.
Note: This method uses Plop which uses a read-only USB driver.
VMware is faster than QEMU.
On your Windows system, test your bootable USB Flash Memory Drive (UFD) within Windows by booting it via a Virtual Machine using VMware Server as follows:
1. Download VMware server (or Oracle VirtualBox) and install it onto your Windows PC
2. Click on the Desktop shortcut which was created during the VMware Server installation (VMware Server Home Page icon):
Note: The Google Chrome Browser is not compatible and you will get this error - try Internet Explorer instead!
3. Enter your Windows logon credentials when prompted (i.e. same username and password that you normally use to log in to your Windows Desktop - e.g. myname + mypwd)
4. Extract the plpbt.iso file from the ZIP file and place it in your VMware Virtual Machine folder (in my case C:\Virtual Machines)
5. Now create a new virtual machine called USB BOOT (choose OS, Memory size, CPU numbers, size of new virtual disk, add a network adapter, add a DVD - Use an ISO image - browse to plpbt.iso, add floppy if required, add USB Controller, Finish). If you already have an virtual machine configured, select it and in the Summary tab click on the CD/DVD drive icon and choose Edit and then set Host Media and ISO image and Browse to the plpbt.iso file. The iso file must be present in the same folder as your virtual machine folder or you will not be able to select it in the VMware ISO browser applet.
Fig. 1 Ensure the plpbt.iso image is selected for the CD/DVD drive.
6. OPTIONAL: Now click on the Configure VM Command and highlight the Advanced tab - tick the Disable Acceleration radio button. If you do not do this, the PLOP manager may fail to boot and hang at the 'LOADING UHCI' or 'LOADING EHCI' progress text.
Fig. 2 You may need to disable acceleration (try it first and then enable it when you have a USB drive booting successfully).
7. Now start the VM by clicking on the Console tab and the large Arrow that you see in the Window (Fig. 3) - if you do not see the USB icon (as in the top smaller red ring in Fig. 1 above) appear shortly after clicking the large arrow (and a Windows 'Ka-Plob' sound as the UFD is disconnected from the host Windows system), ensure you have a SINGLE USB drive inserted before you start the VM. You may need to run the VM twice before you see the USB icon. When the USB icon appears, wait for about 5-10 seconds before selecting it and you should see an empty tickbox for Kingston USB Mass Storage Device - tick the empty box and you should hear the Windows sound for a USB Device removal - see Fig. 4 below).
Fig. 3 Click the large arrow to start the VM session.
Fig. 4 Once you start the VM, wait a few seconds and select the USB icon and tick the box.
You should hear a re-asssuring 'USB device removed' sound from Windows when you do this. No sound - no worky!
Fig. 6 Now click on the window to open a console and see what is happening.
8. Now click inside the window to window as directed to open the Virtual Machine in a new window (Fig. 7) and when the PLOP menu appears (Fig. 8), click inside the console window again and use the down cursor key to select USB from the PLOP menu and press [Enter] - the USB key should now start to boot!
Fig. 7 The VMware Remote Console should start.
Fig. 8 This is the PLOP boot manager screen - select USB using the cursor keys.