Having the capability of booting from a USB drive in VMware is certainly useful, specially when you are creating and testing that bootable USB drive. However, neither VMware nor VirtualBox support booting from USB natively. Fortunately, there is a tool that will allow us to do just this, a free tool is called Plop. Plop comes in an ISO image that you boot. When plop is up and running, it will ask you whether you want to boot from USB or continue booting from your hard drive. It is basically a program that will give you the capability that the BIOS lacks. In this article I will demonstrate how the process works using VMware. Plop is supposed to be compatible with VirtualBox as well, however, it did not in my case.
Note: In this tutorial we are assuming that you have a virtual machine already created. It is not necessary, however, that you load an actual operating system on that virtual machine. Just having the “empty’ virtual machine will do.
Download Plop Boot Manager and uncompress the ISO image to your hard drive.
Select your Virtual Machine and click on “Edit Virtual Machine Settings“.
On the left-hand side of the “Virtual Machine Settings” window, select “CD/DVD“.
Then, on the right-hand side under “Connection“, select “Use ISO Image File“.
Click on the “Browse” button, search for and select the Plop ISO image you downloaded and uncompressed to your hard drive; the file should be named “plpbt.iso“.
Click “OK” to finish.
Now, you are ready to boot from your USB drive. Make sure you have your bootable USB drive inserted on the computer and start your virtual machine.
Note: VMware behaves almost exactly like a computer, it even has its own Phoenix BIOS. In order for you to be able to boot from your USB flash drive, you are going to have to change the order of the boot devices in the BIOS or enter the boot menu. The problem is that VMware boots so fast that it does not give you time to press the correct key to change the boot order. In order for you to solve this, you are going to have to increase the virtual machine’s boot delay.
Once you start your virtual machine, click the “Esc” key to enter the boot menu.
On the boot menu select “CD-ROM Drive” and click the “Enter” key.
VMware will not boot from the Plop’s ISO image.
On Plop’s boot menu, select “USB” and click “Enter“.
Plop is definitely a great tool for those of us who need USB booting capabilities in virtual machines. Plop is not only designed to work with virtualization programs; it can also be used in machines who’s BIOS lack USB booting support. Plop, however, does not work with all hardware or with all virtualization programs. In fact, I found myself transitioning from VirtualBox to VMware since, even though Plop is supposed to work with Virtualbox, it did not work in my computer. However, the fact I was not able to use it in Virtualbox does not mean it will not work for you. So, if you use Virtualbox, try it before making any assumptions.