Booting an existing Windows 7 installation from Fedora using Virtualbox.


WARNING: After a month, I ran into problems with the windows activation. I couldn't activate the virtual and the physical windows at the same time. I tried what's on under 2. Bios Settings, but it didn't work.

My laptop is a dual boot system with Windows 7 and Fedora. Now I want to create a virtual machine in Fedora, which boots the existing Windows 7 installation. It worked for me (TM) on a Dell Precision M4500, with the native Windows. This is how I did it, starting from a completely updated Fedora 14.

  • Surf to, and download the .repo file at the bottom of the page.
  • Put the .repo file in /etc/yum.repos.d and install VirtualBox-4.0.
  • Install the kernel source: yum install kernel-devel gcc
  • Install the vboxdrv kernel module issuing /etc/init.d/vboxdrv setup.This didn't seem to work the first time, so i issued the command again until I got Starting VirtualBox kernel modules [ OK ].
  • Create a directory to store the virtual disk file: mkdir ~/vm
  • A typical Windows Vista installation exists of 2 partitions: a small boot partition, and a big one for the rest. You need to identify them. In my case, the partitions are /dev/sda2 and /dev/sda3 respectively.
  • I want to run virtualbox under my normal user account. So I had to add myself to the group vboxusers: usermod -a -G vboxusers johanv. I will also need read/write access to /dev/sda2 and /dev/sda3. But every time I change something to the security settings of these block devices, some time later Fedora changes it back for me. I'm not sure how to handle this, so for the moment, I did
    usermod -a -G disk johanv
    which grants me r/w access to all raw disks and partitions. Which is very unsafe! Any suggestion of a better way to arrange this, is more than welcome.
  • We need to generate an mbr which our virtual machine will use.
    • Debian based distributions contain a package ‘mbr’, which can be used to create such a mbr. But it isn't availiable for Fedora. So let's build it from source.
    • We need to install dev86: yum install dev86.
    • The source for mbr is available at Unpack the archive, and compile and install mbr issuing these commands:
      su -c "make install"
    • Create a mbr as follows: (change the 23 to the numbers of your Windows partitions. 23 is for /dev/sda2 and /dev/sda3.)
      /usr/local/sbin/install-mbr -e23 --force ~/vm/vm.mbr
      This creates a file ~/vm/vm.mbr of 512 bytes, containing our mbr.
  • Now create the virtual disk for your virtual machine. I did this as root. Remember to adapt the partition numbers to your needs:
    VBoxManage internalcommands createrawvmdk -filename /home/johanv/vm/win7.vmdk -rawdisk /dev/sda -partitions 3,2 -mbr /home/johanv/vm/vm.mbr -relative

    I typed ‘-partitions 3,2’ instead of ‘-partitions 2,3’, because I think that otherwise the OS-partition will get the drive letter D instead of C. I'm not sure of this.
  • At last: create the virtual machine using VirtualBox Manager:
    • Click ‘New’.
    • Name your machine, and choose an OS (in my case Windows 7 64 bit)
    • Assign memory
    • Choose ‘Use existing hard disk’ and browse to the vmdk.
    • When the virtual machine is created, click ‘System’, ‘Motherbord’, and disable IO APIC
    • Read what's under ‘DMI BIOS settings’ on It seems that for OEM versions, you need to copy some of your real bios information to your virtual machine. I just did it as told on the page, although I'm not sure it is necessary for Windows 7.
  • The virtual machine doesn't boot right now. You need to insert a Windows 7 installation CD, choose 'Repair computer', and let it fix the Windows boot loader.
  • After this, my system booted, I got the Windows 7 splash screen, and then the computer crashed with the following BSOD:
    A problem has been detected and windows has been shut down to prevent damage
    to your computer.

    If this is the first time you've seen this stop error screen,
    restart your comptuer. If this screen appears again, follow
    these steps:

    Check for viruses on your computer. Remove any newly installed
    hard drives or hard drive controllers. Check your hard drive
    to make sure it is properly configured and terminated.
    Run CHKDSK /F to check for hard drive corruption, and then
    restart your computer.

    Technical information:

    *** STOP: 0x0000007B (0xFFFFF880009A9928, 0xFFFFFFFFC0000034, 0x0000000000000000, 0

    It seems Windows doesn't like it when the type of your hard drives changes. I managed to fix this problem as follows:
    • Boot in your original Windows 7
    • (Backup your registry)
    • Download, unpack it, and import the .reg file
    • Reboot to Fedora
    • Open VirtualBox manager, Select your virtual machine, Click 'Settings'
    • Click 'Storage', remove your hard disk from the SATA controller, and add it to the IDE controller
    • (Not sure this is needed:) For the IDE controller, choose 'PIIX3' as type, and disable host I/O cache.
  • If you boot up your virtual machine now, it should just work (TM).


UPDATE: Fixing the security

As mentioned, the security of the above implementation is very bad. I improved it a little, creating a dedicated user to run virtualbox.
(uid 899 is arbitrary, but less than 1000, to prevent the user from showing up in gdm)

useradd -u 899 -m -g vboxusers -G disk vboxuser
passwd vboxuser
cd /home
#replace 'johanv' by your own login below
cp -rp johanv/VirtualBox\ VMs/ vboxuser/
cp -rp johanv/.VirtualBox/ vboxuser/
cp -rp johanv/vm vboxuser/
chown -R vboxuser vboxuser
sed -i 's/johanv/vboxuser/' vboxuser/.VirtualBox/VirtualBox.xml
sed -i 's/johanv/vboxuser/' vboxuser/VirtualBox\ VMs/win7/win7.vbox
# replace 'win7' by the name of your virtual machine above.

Enter visudo, and add the following line:
johanv ALL=(vboxuser) NOPASSWD: /usr/bin/virtualbox

(Change the account name as appropriate.)

If you want to enable sound for your virtual computer, download and install paprefs:
yum install paprefs

Run paprefs, click on the ‘Network Server’ tab and enable network access to local sound devices. (Again, probably not the most safe way to do this, but it works.)

Now you can run virtualbox as follows:
xhost +si:localuser:vboxuser
sudo -H -u vboxuser virtualbox

! Don't forget to remove your ‘normal user account’ from the ‘disk’ group !

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