How to Install VirtualBox in Your USB Drive and Run any Operating System

As we walk in the year 2010, Operating systems are not machine specific anymore. Google chrome OS has launched which marks a new era in the beginning of cloud based Operating system. But sometimes the cloud can be a little difficult to maintain, especially when you prefer using a USB stick for doing your day to day tasks with the computer, taking backups, moving files and working in multiple computers like in Office, home or may be some other place.

Thus sometimes you may need an operating system that would be portable, so that you can run it from your removable drive and from any computer. We have covered Mojopack earlier, which lets you carry a “self made system environment” in your USB drive. But Mojopack is not any operating system and it depends upon the host computer where you would be using it.

What if we could install and carry an operating system of our choice from the USB drive?

The answer: Virtual box made portable. The idea here is to install Virtualbox in your USB drive and use it to install a guest operating system. With this portable virtual disk, you can use this system in any computer you want.

How to Make VirtualBox Portable

1. To install Virtualbox in your removable drive, go to vbox and download the package (957 Kb). Choose the version 3.0 as shown below.


2. Run the set up and it will ask you for a location to unzip the files. Extract all the files to your USB drive.


3. The setup will extract all the files required to set up virtualbox in your USB drive. Now open the “Portable-Virtualbox” folder from the removable drive and double click the set up file as shown below.


4. Now you will be shown something like this


5. Select the checkboxes “Extract the files for a 32 bit system” and “Extract the files for a 64 bit system“. You can also choose to compress the files to save some precious space in your removable drive.

6. That’s it. Click the “Download Installation file for Virtualbox” button.

7. Immediately after that, you will see that the application has started downloading the setup files required to install portable Virtualbox. Wait for the download to finish. You will see a notification right in the middle of the screen and also in the system tray.


8. It would take some time to download the Virtualbox files. After the download is over, you will see a prompt as shown below


9. Now open your removable drive again and you would see a new icon named as “Virtual Box” (not to be confused with Portable Virtualbox icon). Double click it and you will see the usual Virtualbox wizard.


Complete the wizard and you are done with the installation part of portable Virtualbox in the removable drive.

Install a Portable Operating System in your Removable Drive

Now that Virtualbox is in your removable drive, you can easily create a virtual hard disk and install any operating system such as Windows XP, Windows Vista, Linux etc. Start the virtual Box program and you can create a virtual hard disk. Save this hard disk in your removable drive as you would be using it from the USB drive only. Now here are some useful guides on how to install a new operating system with Virtualbox:

Once you are done with the installation part you can carry the Operating system in the removable drive and use it on multiple computers. That concludes the tutorial on installing a portable operating system in your USB stick.


There are a lot of advantages of using a portable Virtualbox hard disk and running an operating system with it. The biggest advantage is that you can run the OS on any computer which does not have virtual box installed. Another major advantage is keeping your hard disk free from virtual hard disks or you may even copy the virtual hard disk from one computer to another.

Hope you would find this software useful. What’s your take on portable Virtualbox? Do let us know through a comment.

Soumen Halder

Soumen is the founder/author for Ampercent, a tech blog that writes on computer tricks, free online tools & software guides.


  1. Doesnt VirtualBox need a lot of Kernel-Extensions, for which you need Admin-Privileges on every Computer anyway? And for every platform you would need a VirtualBox-Binary, if you want to use it on Computers with different OS’es than Windows.

  2. Does this method allow You to run Linux on a flash drive under any windows system, such as an Internet cafe where You do not have admin privileges?

  3. Well i was not aware of this portable virtual box and recently came across this post and i think its great.With these two of its advantages makes it very important to have it.But how can i get it ?Ne ways i will keep looking around for more information.

  4. I’ve previously written on how to install VMware Server on Ubuntu 7.10, install VMware Server on Ubuntu 7.04 and install VMware Tools, but installing VirtualBox has a few of its own benefits. One, it is actually Open Source / Free Software whereas VMware is freeware. This is very important to a lot of people, myself included. When possible I prefer to run the “Free Stuff” vs the lock-in, trade-secrets, we-don’t-get-how-open-source-can-save-us stuff. VirtualBox will do that for us. It has also been found that VirtualBox can be faster thanVMware Server in many cases. I haven’t done any direct side-by-side comparisons, but many of the articles that I have read refer to this. If anyone is able to do some direct testing I would be interested in hearing about it.

  5. Now open your removable drive again and you would see a new icon named as “Virtual Box” (not to be confused with Portable Virtualbox icon). Double click it and you will see the usual Virtualbox wizard.

    Is this installation to be done on the USB?

    1. Uhm I got the same question, because I got also Virtual Box installed on my local pc…

      But I for the rest I Love it!

  6. This doesn’t work at all. The file that it downloads is just a virtual box installer that installs to your PC even if you tell it to use the thumb drive directory. All registry entries and components are actually installed to your PC and your USB machine will only work on the computer that you did this with.

    There is nothing portable about this.

    1. Uhm, not realy. You say that Portable VirtualBox isn’t portable !? :|
      Sorry, but the best way to install VirtualBox on the USB machine is to install it using a PC, where VirtualBox isn’t on installed.

      Then the installation just goes fine. Yes, Portable VirtualBox is portable! I tested on diffrent PC’s/laptops, some of them has never runned a VirtualBox installation, but everything works OK.

      1. When I run “Virtual Box” after downloading, it goes through an install/setup process. If you choose to install to your USB drive, or local C:, it goes through the same process. It installs the necessary services, creates start menu entries, etc.

        Basically it DOES install to the right directory (your thumb drive), but not all the necessary components go there as well.
        The thing that gets me is: Why would it create start menu entries if it’s portable? It should “know” that it’s not going to be used on that system.

        1. Its look you forgot to click on Download and to check the boxes Extract (32&64bit) & start Portable Virtualbox before you click on ‘OK’.
          Because then the VirtualBox installation just install it on your USB driver, no files are left at the PC. Also the services will be started/stopped when you start-up or close Portable VirtalBox.

          1. I just tried this yet again. The boxes were definitely checked. The download goes smoothly.

            The VirtualBox Setup Wizard start up as shown, but conveniently the instructions leave off there. It says to go through the wizard… lots of help there…

            The setup program shows the install location as: C:Program FilesSunxVM VirtualBox, This is what I mean by “just a virtual box installer that installs to your PC”. No matter what you set that location to, it installs VBox to your computer. It shuts down your internet and installs the networking components. It goes through a virtualbox install just like any other. Please tell me I’m doing something wrong.

          2.  From what I understand, the portable installer needs to install virtualbox to be able to set up the portable version on the thumbdrive.

            After it is created, it should work in any computer.

            At least that’s my understanding of it.

    2. Well I figured out where the problem was…

      “That’s it. Click the “Download Installation file for Virtualbox” button.”

      That’s not it! This does not at any point mention that you have to click ‘OK’.
      That’s all it was. If you don’t click OK after downloading you’ll get the same errors I did.

  7. So…. Conclusion just what I said:
    Its look you forgot to click on Download and to check the boxes Extract (32&64bit) & start Portable Virtualbox before you click on ‘OK’.

    For clarity, the boxes “Extract (32&64bit)” and the box “start Portable Virtualbox” you nee to check, then click on OK.

  8. Nah it’s still rubbish. I got it “working”… Even with its own dedicated processor and a gig of RAM this is the slowest windows I’ve ever used. I don’t know if it’s virtualbox’s fault or what but this is just terrible.

    Also, when you take this to another computer you get an error that the hard drive of your virtual box can’t be found. You have to recreate the virtual machine every time you move this.

    This is technically “portable” and “working” but not really “good for anything.”

  9. I have re-created a portable virtualbox xp on an 8gig usb 4 times in the past week. I can access it a couple of times on the same pc but if i take it to another pc I get a “inaccessible” message. It tells me that it “cannot find cd/dvd image with UUID”.
    Having my own xp at hand would be a great boon to me so any help you can extend will be greatly appreciated.

    1. i use a program called Truecrypt to make a virtual hard drive on the usb hard drive and mount that virtual hard drive with the drive letter of my choice. and so bypassing the error message “system is ineccessable”. i put the portable virtualbox install on that virtual hard disk and mount it every time with the drive letter z: . that works every time. i tested it on 3 pc and it works every time. i hope that wil get you going.

  10. portable my a$$. this does not run all components off the usb. It shows as installation in registry. Take a look at on what to call “portable”. A truly portable app is one that has no/none/zip permanent residence on the OS. No reg entry/ no files stored/ no profiles / nothing. Whats up with dman’s dropper trojan comment? anyone else?

  11. Nice idea, but when I double-click on VirtualBox.exe I get a wizard inviting me to _repair_ or _uninstall_ my PC VirtualBox setup, not setup VirtuaBox on the USB device!


  12. Wouldn’t it be more effecient to run Virtualbox in a live Distro. Such as Slax with Virtualbox installed? that way it doesn’t matterhat os you have.

  13. I download and tested it now and it is working fine, it automatically did the installation/extraction after clicking the ok button

  14. my system had generated the message “please wait, extract and/ or compress”…how long will it take…?

  15. Sounds like someone needs to go to the drawing board and map out the logic.  The crosstalk in pseudocode is getting stupid, god help us when people start using OS syntax like corpspeak buzz words.

    I can see someone being able to run Virtualbox on a LiveUSB of an OS, and I could see the benefits of being able to have multiple guest OSes running on ‘that’.  But the base problem is finding a version of Virtualbox that can run on a USB connected to ANY OS it gets plugged in to…no breadcrumbs, no OS reliance, no trail.

    Until that happens this is all academic outhouse lawyer talk.

    Now who’s got the toilet paper so I can get up?

  16. Not portable. It installs to your pc. The only thing portable is the installer application which isnt special since EVERY installer application can be portable.

  17. I wish to try this. What is the minimum capacity of the USB drive? Once the VitualBox is created, how do you create a Virtual Hard Drive? Can I then install Windows 8 Preview on to this drive…and carry it around and plug it in any PC to test/play with it? Please elaborate. Thanks.

    1. If you want to install Windows 8, make sure your USB drive is at least 16GB. The speed might be slow though.

      1. Thanks much for your response. Have you tried this yourself? And if so, are you successful installing and running this VirtualBox? Kindly comments.

        1. I have installed Windows 8 on Virtualbox, but not on the portable version. For the desktop version, you need to have plenty of disk space and a relatively recent hardware, with plenty of RAM to install it. My advise is, for the portable version, install a lightweight OS, like WIndows XP or Linux. Don’t attempt to install heavyweight OS. It will either fail, or the performance is bad.

  18. Does this method allow running vbox on systems where you do not have admin privileges? If not, any alternative?

      1. Nope. Tried it and the computer says cannot install as you do not have admin rights. Followed the instructions above to the letter.

  19. Hey I want to run SAP ides via plug n play portable HDD. Is this possible via this process. I hope so atleast after reading all of your comments.

  20. “you may even copy the virtual hard disk from one computer to another.” It means that if I hv installed MS Office in one portable HDD/USB, now I hv no need to install it to other portable drive, just copy n paste installed files and the second HDD with VM is ready to use MS Office….. Am I missing something?

  21. Wonderful!!  Works amazingly!  One question, I havent tried yet but does bridged networking work??  Now that would be PFM!

  22. Get this put on the developers site and included in the install PLEASE :)

    Very useful, thanks.

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