How to make Portable Windows system (any version)

jimbo45

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Hi there

ADDED Notes for UEFI systems --- see my last post in this thread for details when using UEFI systems.


If you haven't got Windows 8 Enterprise and you want to make a portable Windows system then it can still be done quite easily (and a good learning process too).

What you need to get acceptable performance is a USB3 stick (large enough for a Windows system) or better an SSD - if you've got or replaced an older 120 GB SD for example that will be perfect.. An SSD connected to even a USB2 port will provide a decent enough response - better if you connect the SSD to a USB3 port even with the standard SATA==>USB2 cable. An esata connection is fastest. You need also a USB installation stick.

1) Download OPENSUSE 13.1 either the full version or the Live CD -- while the live CD is less download the full version seems to work better.
2) Create a bootable USB of the downloaded distro. To do this read this link - it's better on a USB even if you DO have DVD/CD's in your machine. Faster and easier.

https://en.opensuse.org/SDB:Create_a_Live_USB_stick_using_Windows

3) boot the USB -- Very important press F2 to select your language and keyboard and F3 to select the correct video resolution for your monitor.

4) In the selections after boot choose KDE (it's the easiest and most Windows like interface for people not used to Linux).

5) Now follow the instructions here EXACTLY - especially the BOOT LOADER otherwise you will write the boot record to your Windows HDD and you'll get problems booting Windows if the external HDD isn't connected to your system. (You can use EITHER the full distro like I've suggested or you can use the live CD. I prefer the full distro as there are some things I like to run on the Linux system. The Live CD is better for just a leaner mean machine.

6) after booting install VMWARE PLAYER

(instructions -- two links)

Installing openSUSE 13.1 onto an External Hard Drive. - Blogs - openSUSE Forums

How to install VMware Player on OpenSUSE 13.1

7) Install your Windows Guest OS

8) Now you've got a 100% PORTABLE decent Windows OS (and Linux too).


The same mechanism can be done with other Distros -- the main thing is to ensure the GRUB LOADER doesn't get written to your internal HDD's. Linux has no problem booting and running from external devices.

If you hose up GRUB so it gets written to your Windows HDD - simply insert your Windows install media, choose repair system ==> command prompt

uninstall - Removing GRUB from windows system after uninstalling Ubuntu from Windows 7 - Ask Ubuntu

(Although this refers t UBUNTU it's the same for almost any Linu distro).

Have fun -- great learning tool too for Linux and Virtual Machines.

(Allow your machine to boot legacy OS'es if you have Protected boot / EFI - that way the system is genuinely portable rather than by creating an EFI version).

Screenshot -- Suse 13.1 with Vmware workstation 10.1 and BBC TV running totally off eternal SSD.

Cheers

jimbo
 

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I've got to get me a 64GB USB3 stick to try this with, sounds like fun.
 

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whs

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Great idea. Since I have A full blown Linux Mint on a stick, I'll try with that.

To create a Mint stick, you can use this method (very easy)

For the VMware Player installation I will try this method. That looks the easiest to me.

I have already 6 VMware Player virtual systems parked on a SSD attached via eSata - including Windows 8.1. I currently run those system from VMware Player on Windows 7 hosts. On some systems I use USB3 which works well too.
 

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jimbo45

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Great idea. Since I have A full blown Linux Mint on a stick, I'll try with that.

To create a Mint stick, you can use this method (very easy)

For the VMware Player installation I will try this method. That looks the easiest to me.



I have already 6 VMware Player virtual systems parked on a SSD attached via eSata - including Windows 8.1. I currently run those system from VMware Player on Windows 7 hosts. On some systems I use USB3 which works well too.

Hi there

it's no problem running VM's parked on external media - however the purpose of the post was to explain that this system BOOTS and RUNS entirely on the external media - even if there's no INTERNAL HDD on the computer (or it's broken).

That's why I explained on how to install the bootloader without touching your existing system in any way. This makes the external USB a totally portable system - although you might on rareish occasions find the Linux system needs to have another graphics driver installed if you run the system on WILDLY dissimilar hardware - such as a computer with an external NVIDIA specialized gaming GPU - however it boots fine to lots of different laptops without any problem.

VBOX should work too or even XEN (although you need to access the VM then by RDP / VNC) - the trick is to make the bootloader ONLY USE THE EXTERNAL BOOT USB. You want the system to boot normally when the usb is not attached of course.

I want to try and find an absolutely MINIMAL Linux system now to do this on. Something based on Knoppix might be a good idea as it dynamically determines the hardware set at boot time and loads the appropriate drivers --this would make the system REALLY flexible.

The Linux system would need 1) simplest GUI possible
2) VMWARE or VBOX software
3) An Internet browser - OPERA / MOZILLA etc
4) Optional - VLC / Video / audio software, and possibly CD / DVD burner.

(Depending on your Host's graphics you might get better graphics on the Linux system than the VM but I've found graphics (non 3-D) perfectly acceptable on the Guest. DVD playing (virtual ISO mounting) and video streamed from the net works just fine).

On your Virtual machine(s) just install anything you feel is useful my main VM is a Windows 7 system where I have Office 2010 (Eng and Icelandic versions), Photoshop CS6, IE11,Acronis, SQUEEZEBOX audio server, Mini SAP testing system SAP 7.02, SAPGUI 7.20, CALIBRE e-book management, NERO v9 and De-DRM all installed.

Very useful portable system -- also useful when working with a work PC with hideous versions of Office etc (French !!!!).

Those with XP systems could do this really easily on a very small USB stick and you can isolate it from the main network so security not an issue when support ends -- I also have an XP system which have an old scanner (canoscan- still excellent), and some blue print plotting / drawing software - works fine.

Cheers
jimbo
 

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whs

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This is fun. I am making this post from my virtual Zorin that is running from the external SSD under VMware Player on my Mint Mate Flash drive. I did not even have to install any tools. I can copy/paste between both systems. Below the picture with the Mint Mate taskbar on the bottom and Zorin above.

It was relatively easy to install VMware Player although I had to wrestle a bit with Terminal. If there is a general interest, I'LL make a little tutorial on how to get Mint on a flashdrive and how to install VMware Player. Next I will try to run my Windows 8.1.


Virtual Zorin.jpg

Update: Just ran Windows 8.1. Runs like on rails. Beautiful. :dinesh:



Workspace 1_003.png
 

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jimbo45

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Hi there
Windows 8.1 runs actually a LOT faster than W7 using this method -- even PHOTOSHOP works acceptably fast --Office (2010) gives almost as good a response as a Native system.

On a laptop also on the W8.1 VM the Touch facility works just fine - touch keyboard / on screen keyboard etc -- even though the Host Linux system doesn't know anything about it !!!.

BTW so long as your VM is <4GB and the Intel Hardware virtualisation feature is enabled in the BIOS you CAN run a 64 bit GUEST from a HOST 32 bit system such as XP -- however as we are running from the SSD directly the actual (original) HOST system on the PC is irrelevant since we aren't running anything from the installed OS.

@WHS -- seems like a lot of cruise ships in your screenshot -- I'm ALREADY thinking of Summer hols - even though we are still only at end of March !!!. At this time of the year the days in Iceland get really long now -- sunset is around 20.10 !!! - later on we get sunset at around 23.40 !!

Cheers
jimbo
 

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Now is the best time for cruises in the Carribian. You don't want to go in the summer - too hot and always risks of Hurricanes.
 

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Britton30

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With all these portable Windows running around, doesn't that run up a huge activation key bill?
 

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With all these portable Windows running around, doesn't that run up a huge activation key bill?

Hi there
Not really -- since a VIRTUAL MACHINE uses the Virtual hardware these things can be cloned and as they are identical there's no hardware change that requires activation. (It's all "Virtual Hardware").

That's one of the advantage of Virtual machines -- unless you REALLY need to access the physical hardware the Virtual BIOS manages it all.

(Note extra addons such as USB devices etc are fine - just install the hardware drivers in the usual way if required -- these won't cause an activation).

It might be if you run the VM on a host with a hugely different processor you *Could* get asked to re-activate windows --hasn't happened to me yet. I've run my system on Intel 3/5/7 and an AMD Quad processor machine -- no probs although the NVIDIA video driver on the machine with the AMD processor gave some weird effects -- probably because the HOST LINUX had problems with it. No probs on INTEL graphics though.

Note also this system isn't intended for Hard core gaming -- I simply use it as a decent Windows system when I've got to use a stupid work laptop with hideous versions of OFFICE etc on it . Also makes a great recovery system too. It also allows me to run my own stuff separate from a Works PC - such as things as PHOTOSHOP, NETFLIX, MUSIC /VIDEO STREAMING and SKY GO as well as accessing the work VPN.

Tip - when building a VM - DON'T ACTIVATE until you've got the configuration you want. With W7 VM's you get 30 days before activation is required. For testing purposes with Windows 8.1 download the TRIAL version of W8.1 enterprise -- then you can mess around before activating your normal RETAIL version !!.


Problem with Virtualising W8 / W8.1 normal versions is that the key is required at install time - it gets activated at once. That's why I recommend testing with the Enterprise version (Free trial from Ms).

Cheers
jimbo
 

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jimbo45

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Hi there
I'll try and make a proper tutorial on this - with proper diagrams etc.

I'll see if it works for THREE common Distros -- OPENSUSE 13.1 (running currently), Debian Wheezy --- had issues compiling VMware but now fixed., and Linux Mate. All these allow the GRUB bootloader to be written to and run totally from an external device so your main Windows HDD boot isn't touched.

I'm about to test one version on a standard external laptop (2.5 inch) HDD to see what the response time is like -- on an external SSD the system seems just as snappy as running Native (and remember I have to start the VMWARE system AFTER booting the Linux OS.

(I probably could make a script to bring up the VM automatically but I'm not that expert in Linux scripts. !!!)

What I'd like to do eventually is bring the VM up automatically in KVM mode -- this would then start the VM straight in full screen with no VMware menu!. This needs vmware WORKSTATION though.

What?s Cool about the VMware KVM Utility. | VMware Workstation Zealot - VMware Blogs

Cheers
jimbo
 

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Britton30

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With all these portable Windows running around, doesn't that run up a huge activation key bill?

Hi there
Not really -- since a VIRTUAL MACHINE uses the Virtual hardware these things can be cloned and as they are identical there's no hardware change that requires activation. (It's all "Virtual Hardware").

That's one of the advantage of Virtual machines -- unless you REALLY need to access the physical hardware the Virtual BIOS manages it all.

(Note extra addons such as USB devices etc are fine - just install the hardware drivers in the usual way if required -- these won't cause an activation).

It might be if you run the VM on a host with a hugely different processor you *Could* get asked to re-activate windows --hasn't happened to me yet. I've run my system on Intel 3/5/7 and an AMD Quad processor machine -- no probs although the NVIDIA video driver on the machine with the AMD processor gave some weird effects -- probably because the HOST LINUX had problems with it. No probs on INTEL graphics though.

Note also this system isn't intended for Hard core gaming -- I simply use it as a decent Windows system when I've got to use a stupid work laptop with hideous versions of OFFICE etc on it . Also makes a great recovery system too. It also allows me to run my own stuff separate from a Works PC - such as things as PHOTOSHOP, NETFLIX, MUSIC /VIDEO STREAMING and SKY GO as well as accessing the work VPN.

Tip - when building a VM - DON'T ACTIVATE until you've got the configuration you want. With W7 VM's you get 30 days before activation is required. For testing purposes with Windows 8.1 download the TRIAL version of W8.1 enterprise -- then you can mess around before activating your normal RETAIL version !!.


Problem with Virtualising W8 / W8.1 normal versions is that the key is required at install time - it gets activated at once. That's why I recommend testing with the Enterprise version (Free trial from Ms).

Cheers
jimbo

Now ya really cornfused me mate. :confused:
 

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adamf

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Now ya really cornfused me mate. :confused:

Not hard. If you bought a computer with windows installed and haven't bought another license then you do not have a license to run another copy in a VM.

My situation in fact.
 

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That's the whole crux of it. For Windows, you need a seperate license to run in virtual. But then you can run it on any machine because VMware or vBox is the system where it is installed.

The biggest advantages running it off a stick is that you need not install VMware or vBox on the systems where you want to run the virtual systems and running from the stick under Linux is faster than running under Windows on the host.

But the whole project is a lot of fun and you can always run other Linux distros in virtual. Then you have no licensing problem.
 

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So....I think the answer to my question is, yes, a Windows running in a VM does need a license.
 

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That's the whole crux of it. For Windows, you need a seperate license to run in virtual. But then you can run it on any machine because VMware or vBox is the system where it is installed.

The biggest advantages running it off a stick is that you need not install VMware or vBox on the systems where you want to run the virtual systems and running from the stick under Linux is faster than running under Windows on the host.

But the whole project is a lot of fun and you can always run other Linux distros in virtual. Then you have no licensing problem.


Hi there

Running a Virtual machine on Windows or almost ANY common flavour of Linux (Debian based stuff - Debian, Linux Mint, Ubuntu etc / RPM based stuff sych as FEDORA, OPENSUSE etc) won't require any re-activation in most cases -- you can store your VM on a separate disk if you want and run it on ANY HOST where the vmware software is installed.

The SAME VM is IDENTICAL whether Windows or Linux reads it - the VM is compatible between the two systems. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO RE-INSTALL YOUR VM IF YOU SWITCH BETWEEN LINUX AND WINDOWS. Just read the same vmx file when you open vmware workstation or player.

The only (minor) fifference is that some Linux distros will disable the 3D graphics (not permanently) - a very minor problem. Works fine with INTEL graphics, and Linux mint on the Host and W7 / W8 VM's though.

You need an INITIAL Windows license of course to create the original VM -- if you got a retail copy of Windows - re-activate by phone - just tell Ms you are installing on a new machine (Not OEM copies though).

Of course having the Linux distro WITH Vmware installed on your removable device as has been pointed out means the VM software doesn't have to be installed on the HDD of the Host laptop (or whatever) but the whole thing including the VM's run from the external device not touching the HDD of the host machine.

Cheers
jimbo
 

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Hi there

Important addition to creating Portable Linux systems when using UEFI enabled machines.

If you are using a UEFI computer -- select the NON UEFI boot from the boot menu when you first load the Live distro which is what we will be using for the install -- you'll probably see two options in the BIOS boot menu such as USB DISK - name UEFI and another one USB DISK - Name with no UEFI indicator. Choose the one WITHOUT the UEFI indicator.

Also ensure your target external HDD / SSD is MBR formatted (not GPT).

If you don't do this you won't get any choice where to install the bootloader -- the bootloader will choose GRUB2-EFI and you can't chose where it goes (goes on the INTERNAL boot HDD which is what you don't want).

Now you can select GRUB2 options and choose install grub loader to root (/) partition. Choose all the options shown in the diagrams and ensure that the boot disk order is in the order YOU want with your external HDD/SSD FIRST in the list. Check it carefully or the system won't boot.

I haven't found a way yet of creating an external portable UEFI system -- you can create it but I haven't been able to get the UEFI GRUB boot loader to work on external HDD''s -- I suspect that as each UEFI system is different the boot has to come from the INSTALLED (internal HDD) drive. Running a NON UEFI system makes it generic -- boots on any machine (so long as the hardware isn't too horrendously different). Enable your machine in the BIOS to be able to boot from Legacy devices (Non UEFI) too,

Cheers
jimbo
 

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