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morphh's picture
morphh - June 25, 2009 - 1:57pm
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I can guess what you're thinking.

1) Illegal to do a portable Windows OS
2) A Virtual Machine of Windows would be too big and slow
3) A Virtual Machine can't be portable due to kernel drivers

I think we can get around these issues, read on...

This is my first post and I'm very new to so don't drill me too hard if this is way off. I'll lay out my idea and you can let me know. I'm not putting this in requested apps, as I actually plan on developing this if it sounds feasible.

  • A full Windows install is likely illegal, but I don't need a full install and maybe others don't as well. I'm thinking about Windows PE, which is available for free as a component of the Windows Automated Installation Kit (AIK) to all Windows licensees. This license not only applies to deployment, but also to the use of Windows PE for recovery and troubleshooting purposes (which is my intent). I was thinking of the Windows 7 AIK myself but the Vista / Windows 2008 AIK is available as well. We can use common methods for creating a bootable Windows CD - WinBuilder.
  • Since WinPE is designed to be light weight, it should be much smaller and faster than a full Windows install. Light applications that require an install could be done in this environment.
  • I've been looking at the forums for the discussion of creating a portable virtual machine. Portable Virtual Box (also available here) appears to be usable, but looks to require Super User mode and loads/unloads drivers in the host OS. Virtual PC or Moka5 Player looks like it could be usable, but would also load/unload drivers in the host like Virtual Box. So this lead me to Bochs and QEMU, which I think would both provide the portable emulation needed to virtualize WinPE without the driver issues of the larger VM tools. At this time, I'm leaning toward Bochs, but I don't know either product so I'm open to suggestion.

Would love to hear thoughts and would appreciate and direction and help.

( categories: )

Something that I think would

Something that I think would be good to at least develop your concept to a functional level(And very desirable for a lot of us) is a VirtualBox of Ubuntu. That is a portable version of Virtualbox that has an Ubuntu or alternative Linux distro on it. WEhat you think? Gets around the legal issues I think. Advocate


A Windows PE would need to be built by the end user for it to be legal.

Various attempts at a VirtualBox Portable have been made, but as you say there's the issue with it requiring a service. This will be made easier to deal with with the Launcher, which will support services, but it will still be admin-only.

Microsoft Virtual PC is closed source, as is Moka5 Player.

QEMU has issues with its sound module not being open source, so it's no go here at the moment. Last I heard someone here was trying to rewrite an open source sound driver for it.

Bochs is slow and not terribly compatible.

I am a Christian and a developer and moderator here.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1


uses also some additional driver, not exactly essential but it is not very nice without (qemu accelerator) which also need to be installed either prior using it on the particular pc or it will be installed when qemu tries to run.

All other virtual environments need drivers, otherwise they can not communicate with the local hardware. This is probably due to the fact, that windows will not allow any access to any hardware directly as long as it is loaded. So if such app has to run under windows , drivers are a must.

Producing own PE environment by extracting files from original windows is other matter, this would give sense for bootable device. Many ways of doing it, winbuilder or others have shown how to do it. But this is not a subject for portable apps I think, this is something everybody has to do for himself from his own copy of windows, distribution of any such components would be illegal.

Otto Sykora
Basel, Switzerland



yes kqemu

it seems to be called, at least on my pc this what I have installed so can run qemu to some useful extend.

Otto Sykora
Basel, Switzerland

On-the-fly generation

A Windows PE would need to be built by the end user for it to be legal.

This is potentially something that could be done for the user with a simplified user interface.

Intelligence is like four-wheel drive. It only allows you to get stuck in more remote places. ~ Garrison Keillor

yes like winbuilder

but the things are not that simple so far. Collection of universal drivers has to be included or drivers for the particular hardware the user is going to use it.
Then the computer to be used on has to be able to boot from that stick. To run windows PE inside some emulator, well possible, but what for? The apps run on windows already. To run it in some qemu, well this could work, but kind of semiportable.
In virtual machine , well all the drivers have to be installed.

If the make of portable windows would be so simple, this would be the standard today, since this would allow (physically not legally) any number of copies to be distributed all over the world. Many people try to simplify this for years, but they did not succeed in a way an unskilled user could do that just from nothing.

Otto Sykora
Basel, Switzerland

Yeah, now formating for space...

Actually I'm gonna do it
1. Backup 'n' Copy
2. Format
3. Burn the Windows 7 DVD
4. Install
5. Set up new settings to ex. Firefox (add-ons) and system.
Yep! Quite siple.
PortableApps are Lightweight use them instead!

format what?

Did not quite get it. What do you format and what install? On what media?

Otto Sykora
Basel, Switzerland

Re: format what?

Format the Portable Hard drive
Install windows 7

I 've got it

, I am gruftie, so all takes longer to explain to me...Eye-wink

Otto Sykora
Basel, Switzerland

Virtualbox + Windows XP FLP

Hi, i using Virtualbox Portable + Windows XP FLP for testing.

it use around 800mb only.


Looks like no one has figured

Looks like no one has figured this out yet. My boss wants me to get portable apps running on WinPE3 and anyone who thinks this isn't possible, doesn't understand WinPE3.

Out of the box the starter and some of the apps work. Right now I need to know what open office portable needs to run. Like specifically the files it imports from Windows so I can add these to my winpe build.

PE3 is awesome. In theory you should be able to create a full windows install that will run portably on any machine. This is not my goal. I just want a quick loading portable OS that I can run a few key apps on.



I just wanted to inform you (and any one looking for the same), that i am running Win7PE from an USB Memory Stick and i am using (alot) of portableapps from it, also i am able to boot other OS'es like Ubuntu, Lubuntu, Fedora, Linux Mint, as well as some Linux Utilities.

app scripts + portable apps


My name is Nuno, I'm one of the developers at the WinBuilder project.

To add applications inside Windows PE 1/2/3/x we use a type of scripts called "app scripts".

They basically define the required registry entries, dependencies and the such that are required to run a given program under a very slim Windows environment, they are described here: or you can check some real-world examples at


Recently, we've began to revise our app scripts. One of the ideas is that we should use app scripts to become a bridge between Windows PE and PortableApps since this way we don't need to reinvent the wheel.

This is a good match since portable apps are tested under a "normal" windows environment while app scripts can fill in the gaps to add the missing dependencies that are required on Windows PE operative systems.

This way, at winbuilder we can simply code portableapps and share them with others around here or also use them in our projects where we both can share and contribute to a larger repository of available programs.

App scripts will be used as wrappers to ensure that a given portableApp can also run on Windows PE without trouble.

Once I get more news on this development, I'll say something.

This is just a heads up to let you guys know that we're already looking into this matter very seriously.

If anyone also wants to volunteer and join so that we can get this done faster, just drop me a message.


How About Ubuntu on a Stick instead ?

(I'm not referring to unbuntu that is already on a stick but getting these apps to work via ubuntu on a stick rather than windows!) this may have been ruled out already as all the apps are exe files which I think is windows (no I am not a techie) when my windows broke down but the machine still seems to fire up okay - I added ubuntu and it worked - but windows apps don't work on it - I reckon in this recession unbuntu will become a lot more popular with a larger number of people like most web people know the name open office - so a choice of OS would be great - I realise though that alot of apps aren't made for ubuntu yet either - but most of my gadgets and drives work.

hello world!

Wine (not the drink)

You can run PortableApps in Wine on Linux. So I guess in theory if you have Ubuntu on a stick, then you have Windows PortableApps for Linux on a stick also. Seems terribly convoluted but there you have it.

sorry no

Ubuntu has come a long way and there's no denying that. In the real world though the majority of the population will stick with windows and mac. For Linux to really be feasible Microsoft and Apple would both need to start supporting it. I just don't see that happening.

Release Team Member

i make with Qemu win xp

i make with Qemu win xp portable, looks like a PA app Eye-wink

Windows Mobile?

What about using something along the lines of Windows Mobile? I've seen it utilized in MP3 players so I would imagine something like that could be used.

Not Windows

Windows Mobile is Windows in name only. It is not Windows like XP\Vista\7 and can not run standard Windows software.

Sometimes, the impossible can become possible, if you're awesome!

ReactOS is an open-source attempt at making a free Windows. It's come far enough that you should be able to run most applications, though I have yet to test this myself. In the downloads page there is a prepackaged QEMU download, which I have tried, and it worked decently well. ReactOS also got an update yesterday, so it looks like I get to try that one.


"Please bear in mind that ReactOS 0.3.13 is still in alpha stage, meaning it is not feature-complete and is not recommended for everyday use." (emphasis theirs)

Sometimes, the impossible can become possible, if you're awesome!