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.

Partition table
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE Fellow)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
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.
babyb00merAuthor Commented:
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.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE Fellow)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
the only method, that a Hypervisor, (HYper-V or VMware ESXi) can access the USB disk, or any DISK (IDE or SATA) would be via a RAW MAPPING.

RAW MAPPINGs exist to access under disks under both, but not boot disks, and certainly not BOOT disks on an external USB disk.

You would be better with a VMDK or VHD.

Your VMDK or VHD do not work, because the Hardware has to match the virtual machine, e.g. they need t be converted.

Just like any hard disk I remove from my laptop, if I put it in my Desktop, it's not likely to boot, because hardware is different, e.g. storage controllers, BIOS etc
David Johnson, CD, MVPRetiredCommented:
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.
babyb00merAuthor Commented:
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.
babyb00merAuthor Commented:
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.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE Fellow)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Create a P2V from the original computer, to create a VM.
David Johnson, CD, MVPRetiredCommented:
if it won't boot there are several reasons why
master boot record is #1
many people don't image the entire drive but just specific partitions the problem being that the bcd store is normally in the system h hidden partition and it references a DISK GUID which will probably be incorrect. from the recovery console
bcdboot x:\windows (replace X: with the driver letter of the OS drive you wish to boot. It will be different from the recovery console than the running operating system.
bootrec /fixmbr /all will fix that from the recovery console
This will enable bootmgr.exe as the program to load you now need a proper bcd store
bootrec /scanos will
babyb00merAuthor Commented:
Okay, just to make sure I understand…

I will boot from my Windows 7 repair disk to start the recovery console.

Once the scan for Windows partitions has finished, I will click Next.

I will select the Command prompt option.

To identify the drive letter assigned to the partition in question, I will enter the following command:
vmic logicaldisk get name

Using the appropriate drive designation obtained from the previous command, I will enter the following:
bcdboot <drive>:\windows

Then I will enter, bootrec /fixmbr /all

…and finally, bootrec /scanos

I'm not sure whether the word "will" at the end of the string in your example is part of the command.
David Johnson, CD, MVPRetiredCommented:
where do you get the command guessing you meant WMIC vs VMIC
I use 'diskpart' then 'list volume'  then 'exit' to exit diskpart
wmic logicaldisk get deviceid,volumename

Open in new window

will do the same
and it is just
bootrec /scanos

Open in new window

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babyb00merAuthor Commented:
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.
David Johnson, CD, MVPRetiredCommented:
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 @
babyb00merAuthor Commented:
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.
babyb00merAuthor Commented:
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. :-(
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