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Edgar ColeFlag for United States of America

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Is it possible to create a virtual machine using a USB-connected disk drive?

On my Dell Mobile Precision M4700, I'm running Windows 10. I have an external disk containing a boot image which I would like to run in a virtual machine. I am most familiar with VMware's player, but I'm not averse to using Microsoft's Hyper-V.

In the partition table presented below, it is the device identified as Disk 3 that I'm trying to configure as a virtual machine. I've tried setting it up myself, using both VMware and Hyper V, but have not succeeded. Each time I try starting the virtual machine, I get the startup repair screen. I'm not even sure of an independent method for determining whether that device is bootable. I thought of using BCDEdit to configure the boot menu, but I don't have any experience with that tool. Even if it is bootable, I guess it's possible that the hypervisor applications just don't like booting from USB-connected devices.

If anyone can tell me whether what I'm trying to do is feasible and if so, how to do it, I would appreciate.

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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert PRO / EE Fellow/British Beekeeper)
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So the USB external disk, does not exist as a virtual machine disk, just files and folders, e.g. there is no virtual machine disk, either VHD or VMDK ?

So what you are really wanting to do, is pass through the disk to the virtual machine, "as is".

does the external hard disk, contain a boot image what is it?

VMDK, VHD or Acronis Image ?

You may have to complete a conversion on this VM, to create a virtual machine.
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The disk contains a Windows 7 partition that was restored from an Acronis True Image full system backup (.tib) file. As such, I'm assuming the disk is boot-able. I just haven't had a chance to verify that.

To answer your question, I do have VHD and VMDK versions of the disk image, but those didn't work either. Actually, I thought that the physical disk might work better, since nothing gets lost in the translation.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert PRO / EE Fellow/British Beekeeper)
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first confirm that the disk is indeed bootable. in your bios options or your boot up screen you have the option to set a boot order, try booting from the usb drive.
It appears that the image I created on an external USB drive by restoring a True Image backup will not boot! Never before have I failed to get viable images from True Image backups! I always validate the backups, and that was no different this time.
By the way, if I gave the impression that I was trying to boot this image on a different computer, I apologize. That is not the case.
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Yeah, that's what I get for using Google! I pasted the command syntax from a site on the Internet. I guess they hadn't proofread it, and I didn't know any better. Thanks for the clarification on the bootrec command.

I must confess that, while waiting for your response to my previous comment, I ran the recovery console. When it told me that it could see the USB drive and offered to repair it automatically, I accepted. After about 20 minutes, it finished. Now when I start the system, the Windows 7 partition on the USB drive is presented as one of two from which I can boot. Unfortunately, it takes me directly to the screen which offers safe mode startup options! No matter which one of the options I choose, I always get a blue screen and the cycle starts over again.

I'm not giving up, however. I don't know whether it will help, but I'd still like to get to the command prompt and use the command sequence you suggested.
it might have to do with the way the external usb drive is presented to windows.  if it is presented as a removable drive it simply will not work. Windows 7 needs to boot from a fixed drive.

What you could try is create a vhd on the usb drive, mount the vhd, restore to the vhd,

A walkthrough is available @ https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/knom/2009/04/07/windows-7-vhd-boot-setup-guideline/
Yes. I started a process to convert the hard disk to a virtual one about 3 1/2 hours ago. It still has about another 90 minutes to go.
Unfortunately, I can't vouch for any of the strategies suggested by the experts. Before I was able to finish testing, I stepped on and broke the external drive containing the original Windows 7 partition. What I can tell you is that, even though I managed to get the USB drive containing Windows 7 to show up in the multi-boot screen, it wouldn't boot. Also, none of my attempts to create viable virtual disks succeeded. When I use those discs to create virtual machines (both Hyper V and VMware), they wouldn't boot. Those images were huge, and so I kept deleting them. Before I could create a new one, I accidentally destroyed the source. :-(