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How to Boot a VMware Virtual Machine from a USB Drive

Do you have an OS installed on your USB thumb drive? Booting from it in a VM is now possible, you’ll just have to use a simple trick to get it to work.

Last week we showed you how to put Ubuntu on a USB drive in a separate partition, and we also discussed working with VMware Player (our favourite VM Client). But have you ever tried booting from a USB drive in VMWare? It doesn’t allow doing so, but we will force it to boot from a USB, with a bit of old geekery.

If you remember, we have showed you how to boot from a USB drive even if your old PC doesn’t allow booting from one. That’s right, using Plop Boot Manager. All we need to do is to load the Plop ISO in VMware, attach and enable the USB drive in VMware, and finally select the USB option in Plop Boot Manager to boot from the USB.

So, visit the Plop boot manager download site.

Click Download, download the latest version, save it in a location, and unzip it. The file named “plpbt.iso” is the one we need to use.

Open VMware, select “Create a new Virtual machine”

In the window that opens, select “Installer Disc image file”, browse to the Plop ISO and select it. VMware will ask you to specify an Operating System. Click next to continue

Select Linux as the Guest Operating System, and from the list of versions, select Ubuntu (or if you have a different OS, select it and its version). Click Next

Specify the name of the VM and the destination where it will be saved.

On the next screen, select “Store Virtual Disk as single file”, and allot 5 GB to it, since we will be booting from the USB drive, and not actually doing an install. Click Next

On the final screen, you’ll see the hardware resources automatically allocated for this particular VM.

Make sure that USB is enabled, and if it isn’t, click “Customize Hardware”, click the USB Controller device, and check the first two options. Click OK to continue.

Make sure your USB drive with a bootable OS is attached. Start the VM, you’ll boot into Plop. First, right click the USB icon on the bottom right corner of VMware Player, and click Connect (Disconnect from Host). Wait a couple of seconds, then click inside the Window, and select the USB option using the arrow keys on your keyboard.

And now you’ll be booting into your OS from the USB. Not only you can boot into Ubuntu from a bootable USB, but you can boot into any bootable OS using this method (DSL, Puppy, or even Windows Installation ISO, whatever bootable OS you have on the USB). Not quite handy perhaps, but still geeky!


Boot From a USB Drive Even if your BIOS Won’t Let You

Download Plop Boot manager

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  • Published 11/22/11

Comments (2)

  1. jogitz

    this is nice to know

  2. Fe

    Hey, great article. BUT the VMWare is too dense. Is running it from a USB drive cheaper of CPU costs than runing in on an installed PC?

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