Software & AppsOperating SystemLinux

How To Boot from USB Drive in VirtualBox?

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VirtualBox is a powerful virtualization product that allows users to run multiple operating systems on their desktop or laptop computers. One common task that users might want to perform is booting from a USB drive inside a VirtualBox virtual machine (VM). This article will guide you through the process step by step.

Quick Answer

To boot from a USB drive in VirtualBox, you can use either Plop Boot Manager, a .vmdk file, or an ISO file. With Plop Boot Manager, you download and install it, configure VirtualBox settings, and then boot from the USB drive. If you prefer using a .vmdk file, you determine the device name of your USB drive, create the .vmdk file, change ownership, configure VirtualBox settings, and then boot from the USB drive. Lastly, if you want to boot from an ISO file, you create the ISO file from your USB drive, configure VirtualBox settings, and then boot from the ISO file.

Prerequisites

Before we begin, ensure you have the following:

  • A working installation of VirtualBox on your host machine. You can download it from the official website.
  • A USB drive that you want to boot from.
  • The necessary permissions to access USB devices on your host machine.

Booting from USB using Plop Boot Manager

Plop Boot Manager is a small program that allows you to boot from various sources, including USB drives. We’ll use it to boot our VM from a USB drive.

Step 1: Download and Install Plop Boot Manager

Download Plop Boot Manager from the official website and extract the plpbt.iso file from the downloaded ZIP archive.

Step 2: Configure VirtualBox

Open the settings for your VM in VirtualBox. In the “Storage” tab, add the plpbt.iso file as a virtual optical disk. This will allow the VM to boot from it.

Next, go to the “USB” tab and add a filter for the USB device you want to boot from. This will allow the VM to access the USB device.

Step 3: Boot from USB

Start the VM. It should boot from the plpbt.iso file and show the Plop Boot Manager menu. Select the “USB” option, and the VM should now boot from the USB device.

Booting from USB using a .vmdk file

If you don’t want to use Plop Boot Manager, you can create a .vmdk file that points to your USB drive and use it to boot the VM.

Step 1: Determine the Device Name

First, you need to determine the device name of your USB drive. On Linux, you can do this by running the lsblk command in a terminal. The device name will be something like /dev/sdb.

Step 2: Create a .vmdk File

Open a terminal and run the following command to create a .vmdk file:

VBoxManage internalcommands createrawvmdk -filename usb.vmdk -rawdisk /dev/sdb

In this command, VBoxManage is a command-line utility that comes with VirtualBox. The internalcommands createrawvmdk option tells it to create a .vmdk file. The -filename usb.vmdk option specifies the name of the .vmdk file, and the -rawdisk /dev/sdb option specifies the device to use as the raw disk.

Step 3: Change the Ownership

Change the ownership of the usb.vmdk file to your user account with the following command:

sudo chown $USER:$USER usb.vmdk

This command uses sudo to run the chown command as the root user. The $USER:$USER part specifies the new owner (user and group) of the file, and usb.vmdk is the file to change.

Step 4: Configure VirtualBox

In the VirtualBox settings for your VM, add the usb.vmdk file as an existing disk. Then, make sure the USB device is attached to the VM.

Step 5: Boot from USB

Start the VM. It should now boot from the USB device.

Booting from an ISO File

If none of the above methods work for you, you can create an ISO file from your USB drive and boot from it in VirtualBox.

Step 1: Create an ISO File

Insert your USB drive into your host machine. Open a terminal and run the following command to create an ISO file from the USB drive:

dd if=/dev/sdc of=myusbkey.iso

In this command, dd is a disk copying utility. The if=/dev/sdc option specifies the input file (in this case, the USB drive), and the of=myusbkey.iso option specifies the output file (the ISO file).

Step 2: Configure VirtualBox

In the VirtualBox settings for your VM, add the myusbkey.iso file as a virtual optical disk.

Step 3: Boot from ISO

Start the VM. It should boot from the ISO file, simulating a boot from the USB drive.

Conclusion

Booting from a USB drive in VirtualBox can be a bit tricky, but it’s definitely possible. Whether you choose to use Plop Boot Manager, a .vmdk file, or an ISO file, the process involves configuring your VM to access the USB device and boot from it. With this guide, you should be able to successfully boot your VM from a USB drive.

Can I boot from a USB drive in VirtualBox?

Yes, you can boot from a USB drive in VirtualBox by following the steps outlined in this article.

Do I need to install any additional software to boot from a USB drive in VirtualBox?

No, you don’t need to install any additional software. You can either use Plop Boot Manager or create a .vmdk file to boot from a USB drive in VirtualBox.

Can I boot from any USB drive?

Yes, you can boot from any USB drive as long as it is recognized by your host machine and you have the necessary permissions to access USB devices on your host machine.

Can I use Plop Boot Manager to boot from a USB drive in any operating system?

Yes, Plop Boot Manager can be used to boot from a USB drive in any operating system supported by VirtualBox, including Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Can I use the .vmdk file method to boot from a USB drive in any operating system?

Yes, the .vmdk file method can be used to boot from a USB drive in any operating system supported by VirtualBox, including Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Can I create an ISO file from any USB drive?

Yes, you can create an ISO file from any USB drive as long as it is recognized by your host machine.

Can I boot from an ISO file in any operating system?

Yes, you can boot from an ISO file in any operating system supported by VirtualBox, including Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Do I need administrative privileges to perform these steps?

Yes, you might need administrative privileges to configure VirtualBox and change ownership of files.

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