Put your virtual machines in your pocket with Portable VirtualBox

There is a beautiful little program created by Runar Buvik that let’s you run any operating system from a lowly USB stick, without actually creating a full-fledged separate installation for it.  In other words, Buvik created a portable version of Virtualbox that lets you run your images from any PC.

So… who cares?

Well by default, you can’t install VirtualBox on a USB drive and lift off from the stick because Virtualbox extends its digital tentacles into the host operating system’s core.  Installing VirtualBox comprises many components including lowe-level kernel drivers, a myriad of configurable settings and special services that need to get registered in Windows.

The benefit of the portable installation is that you can simply hop on a PC and run your images directly from the USB stick.

When you’re done, just eject the USB drove and the portable version of VirtualBox is automatically uninstalled.  All related services stop and drivers are yanked as if you never installed it: Mission Impossible style.

Besides, using the Portable version is smart way to test something especially when you don’t have the time to wade through the full installation process.

Buvik’s eponymous solution works on both 32-bit and 64-bit systems and is a breeze to setup.

The program requires Administrator credentials on the PC but is pretty straightforward. Let me walk you through it real quick:

First, grab and run the latest version of the Portable-VirtualBox installer and extract it to your USB thingy.

Extract Portable VirtualBox

Double click Portable-VirtualBox.exe and get ready to rock.

Run Portable-VirtualBox

When the Extract and Compress box arrives check on all options and click the big ‘ol Download installation files of VirtualBox button.

Download installation files of VirtualBox

When the download completes click OK to initiate file extraction. If you see an arcane message about adapted paths just click OK to make it go away.

(hey that rhymed)

Please start VirtualBox  again, so that all paths can be adapted

VirtualBox opens but can’t do anything yet.

You can either create a new Virtual Machine via the New button or press Ctrl+a to add an existing machine.

Add a new Virtual Machine to VirtualBox

I’m feeling nostalgic so I’m going to add my Windows XP VM to the mix.

Add VirtualMachine to VirtualBox

Now you’re almost good to go.

The caveat is that both Network and USB support are disabled by default so we need to enable these guys.  The good thing is once we make the change here we’ll never have to make it again because the settings are saved to your USB drive.

Let’s kick open the Notification Center so we can finalize these settings.

Press this secret shortcut to open the System tray: Windows Key + bspacebar.  Next, right-click the VirtualBox cube icon in the tray and choose Settings.

Windows notification center shortcut Windows Key + b + spacebar

Click on over to the USB and Network Tabs, make your adjustments and click Save.

Network and USB Portable VirtualBox settings


You’re done done – done.

Now you can kick open Windows XP and marvel at the verdant hills flaunted in the default wallpaper.

Windows XP virtual desktop

Ahhh, cathartic isn’t it?

You can now do your virtual thing on the go without being tethered to a specific computer.  Just make sure you safely remove your USB drive to preclude a file fiasco in the future.

VirtualBox was already pretty cool but now, it just got a whole lot cooler. Enjoy!


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Posted in Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 Tagged with: