Posts Tagged ‘VM’

Download Blank VHD Images


VHD is the virtual hard disk file format originally used by Microsoft Virtual PC, but fully compatible with VirtualBox, Citrix and VMWare.

Despite the fact that VHD is not native to any of these VM hosts, it is actually a very useful file format, widely compatibility with (and thus portable between) various pieces of host software. There is also a broad range of useful tools for modifying and working with VHD images. I’ve recently been experimenting with the Plop VHD Loader, one such 3rd party tool which allows the user to boot a real machine from a VHD file.

Although they are VHD compatible, hosts like VirtualBox and VMWare prefer to create images in their own (.VMDK, .VDI) file formats, so I’ve created some blank VHD image files of different sizes which are available for download below:

These are all self-expanding, so the files themselves are very small (you don’t have to download a full 40GB of nothing). Hopefully these will help you get started experimenting with VHDs. Enjoy!

Booting a Virtual Machine from a USB Disk (Easily)

Virtual Machines are fantastically useful – whether you want to try out something beta, something old, run apps across platforms or in the cloud, VMs are a killer part of any power user’s repertoire.

One thing which I’ve felt has always limited their flexibility, however, is their storage mechanism, the virtual hard disk. In a previous tutorial, I used Oracle’s VirtualBox to install Ubuntu Linux to an external storage device. Out-of-the-box, however, VBox and its ilk don’t make booting from a physical disk a particularly simple process (see here, for example).

Luckily, this doesn’t need to be, thanks to the Plop Boot Manager.

This boot manager obviates the need for any command line trickery to boot your VM from USB. (This assumes you’ve already got an OS installed to a USB drive – if you don’t, have a look at this tutorial, which demonstrates how to install Ubuntu to a USB disk from within a VM).

How to:

1. Download the Plop boot manager to your host computer (here)

2. Open up your virtual machine and connect ‘plpbt.iso’ to your virtual CDROM drive.

3. Connect your USB disk to the virtual machine.

4. Boot up the VM. When the Plop boot screen appears, select USB.

The machine will now boot from the external disk. Once the OS has started loading, it’s safe to ‘remove’ the Plop image from the virtual CDROM drive.

VirtualBox ostype List

When you’re creating a VirtualBox VM, you need to specify an –ostype when using ‘VBoxManage createvm’. A list of these options is, bizarrely, not in the VBox documentation. You can get this list by typing ‘VBoxManage list ostypes’ at the command line, but here it is reproduced for reference.

ID:          Other
Description: Other/Unknown
ID:          Windows31
Description: Windows 3.1
ID:          Windows95
Description: Windows 95
ID:          Windows98
Description: Windows 98
ID:          WindowsMe
Description: Windows Me
ID:          WindowsNT4
Description: Windows NT 4
ID:          Windows2000
Description: Windows 2000

Setting Up a Headless VirtualBox VM in Ubuntu Server

In the past week, I’ve been asked to reinstall Windows XP onto a PC which has recently suffered a hard drive failure. One of the problems with the continuing use of this OS (which celebrates its tenth birthday this year) is its antique selection of included drivers and inability to load from anything except a floppy disk at install time – press F6, etc…

Thankfully, we have nLite, which helps the process of slipstreaming drivers written this century into an installation and creating custom media for loading the now ancient XP onto machines with such advanced features as…SATA.

This is exactly the issue I faced with this particular machine, but without a Windows machine on which to run nLite (which is sadly not available for Mac OS X or Linux) I was pretty stuck. For my own work, I never have any need to use Windows, however there is one killer application for Windows which means I do sometimes have use for it once or twice a year – repairing other Windows computers. A virtual machine is the perfect solution for this problem.

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to set up VirtualBox on a headless Linux server and access the VM from any internet-connected computer.

(These instructions are written for Ubuntu Server 10.04, however they should work with other versions of Ubuntu and be similar to other distributions as well)


  • Oracle VirtualBox 4.0
  • Operating system installation media
  • Microsoft Remote Desktop for Mac (or equivalent)

Step 1: Installing VirtualBox

  1. Visit Oracle’s VirtualBox download page on your client machine. There is a wide range of supported Linux distributions and versions, so find the one you are running. Right-click the appropriate link and select ‘Copy Link Address’
  2. Open an SSH connection to your server and navigate to the folder you wish to download the installer to (for example /home/user/downloads). (more…)