Portable Ubuntu (for Windows)

Portable Ubuntu Icon

I discovered “Portable Ubuntu for Windows” by accident. It was linked in an odd thread on the Ubuntu Forums :

Can’t run native Linux applications in XP, PLEASE HELP. (See post # 45 )

The home page is here : Portable Ubuntu for Windows (sourceforge)

No, this is not dual booting Ubuntu from a flash drive, it is portable virtualization the runs in user space (no administrative access required).

Portable Ubuntu for Windows is CoLinux with an Ubuntu 8.04 (desktop) image and Xming. Colinux is bare metal (low overhead, no fancy gui or management tools) virtualization for Windows. Xming is a X server for windows (cygwin would be an alternate X server).

Colinux home page
Xming home page

OK, I am familiar with CoLinux as I had taken it for a spin a few years ago. Time to take a second look at CoLinux and see what, if any progress had been made.

Portable Ubuntu, once the archive is decompressed, takes about 2 Gb of space on your hard drive / Flash drive.

The improvements are (in no particular order) :

The biggest improvement, IMO, is that Colinux and Xming are portable as advertised. They are distributed as a set of binaries and DO NOT require either installation onto the Windows host or administrative access.

Networking is obtained via NAT but does not require a TAP or change your Windows Network configuration. Again the Networking is all run in “user space” and does not require administrative access on Windows. iptables works well on the guest if you wish to firewall the guest. Ping does not work on the guest.

The Ubuntu guest runs on 256 Mb RAM. Despite this small amount of RAM it actually runs quite fast (from hard drive, slower if you run it from a flash drive). You could add swap disk if you wish (I have not done this yet).

The Ubuntu image can be increased in size from the Windows command line.

Integration between guest and host is outstanding. First there is a shared clipboard (on Xming) and copy-paste between host and guest works well, although in most applications you have to use the menu to copy and paste as the keyboard and mouse short cuts often fail. Sound integration also works out of the box and I was able to stream audio (radio stations) using audacious in Ubuntu and the sound was quite good on the Windows host.

Last file sharing is a snap. The Windows C:\ drive is mounted in the Ubuntu guest. No need for samba, NFS, ssh, ftp, etc to share files between host an guest. I was able to open documents on the Windows host, edit them, and save the changes with both gedit and Abiword (OpenOffice is NOT included on the Ubuntu image).

Conclusion: As you can see, I was impressed with the improvements in CoLinux since the last time I took it for a spin. Portable Ubuntu for Windows is a Open Source option which allows bare metal virtualization on Windows without requiring either installation onto the Windows host or administrative access.

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15 Responses to Portable Ubuntu (for Windows)

  1. Pingback: Peng’s links for Saturday, 28 March « I’m Just an Avatar

  2. flows says:

    That’s nice :) I’ll give it a try as soon as possible when I have a Windows PC at hand. The fact that OpenOffice is not included is.. well, not optimal, because it would be the primary reason for me to use it (in school , there’s only an ugly office 2000 installation that cannot deal properly with my presentations).

  3. bodhi.zazen says:

    @flows : If it helps, you can easily install Openoffice (or any other application from the repos) if you chose.

  4. Francois Eraud says:

    Just for your information, running portable ubuntu do needs admin rights on your windows pc.
    ie. fsutil needs admin rights

  5. bodhi.zazen says:

    @Francois Eraud That is true, but that is but one command and it does not prevent you from running Portable Ubuntu, only managing the virtual hard drives / root image.

    You can obviously do that on a machine you have admin rights on if needed.

  6. bodhi.zazen says:

    @Francois Eraud : I am going to remove your last comment as it appears you are doing no more then trolling any your comments add little or nothing to this blog.

    I would remind you that this blog is not titled colinux runs on windows without admin privilages.

    You do not give me the impression you have bothered to try Portable Ubuntu for Windows. If you did you would see in fact you can run Portable Ubuntu on Windows without admin privileges which is all I ever claimed.

  7. Pingback: Portable Ubuntu | christoph-langner.de

  8. Daniel says:

    I works without any problem in my Vaio with Windows XP. I have installed applications (OpenOffice) and updated Ubuntu without problems. Doing the proper adjustments It is posible to upgrade to 8.10 but I didn´t have the time yet.

  9. Amit says:

    Tried it on a vista machine, and had no luck. nothing appears after the splash disappears. Anyone has an idea?

  10. Alan says:

    I upgraded from 8.04 to 8.10 without any problem. Just do
    sudo upgrade-manager -d

    It took a long time but succeeded at the end. Now I am installing OpenOffice.
    I wish the developers of Portable Ubuntu update the distribution regularly. And also allow for username change (instead of pubuntu, changing that username manually broke the system).

  11. Klaus says:

    Successfully installed Rails here.

    Does anyone know how to access existing Windows files?
    Places -> Network -> Windows Network is not doing the trick for me. Running on Vista.

    Also, upgrade-manager was “not found” :-(

  12. bodhi.zazen says:

    I believe you windows drive is under /media/c:

  13. Robin says:

    Does anyone know how to get Windows to ping Ubuntu? Ubuntu’s IP address is, windows is

    Ubuntu can ping “” and “” (gateway) but not “google.com” – even though Firefox can access the web.

    Windows can ping “” and “google.com” but not “”.

    I want to be able to ping the Ubuntu box so I can run a development web server on Portable Ubuntu and test with IE on Windows.

    Any ideas?

  14. bodhi.zazen says:

    You will need to configure your colinux network interface.


    If you like colinux you may wish to install your own machine ;)

  15. Clint says:

    I’ve installed and tried it … but it’s killing me. Bursting with potential that is just out of my reach.

    1) Purpose: Why would someone want to run ubuntu on windows?
    – Because there are applications that are on ubuntu, that cannot be used on windows (exceptions include sharing .mozilla profiles and using thunderbird/firefox etc which I currently do)

    2) Application: The real-life application would be, for example someone is using linux at home with apps like perhaps mutt, snownews, – then they would want to take this with them to a windows only computer (The work computer would be a good example)

    3) The brick wall:
    There should be some way (and I’m not saying there isn’t) to share the home directory from the linux-only machine to the flash-drive which contains Portable Ubuntu.
    Portable ubuntu needs to be pointed to the shared home directory on that flash drive.

    4) The Possibility:
    The use of linux applications completed with saved configurations and settings on any windows machine… remember, when I get home, I’m not going to boot windows, I’m going to boot linux – infact, I can’t run pubuntu at home as I don’t have windows – unless I run it on wine! LOL infinite OS regression.

    Any ideas – anyone?

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