Hi folks

Using a VM you can make a really good bootable portable system which can be used also as a recovery toolbox - even when if using a Windows host the system won't boot.

Here's what to do.

1) ensure you have a SATA-->USB3 connector and an SSD - an old 120GB one is perfectly good for this. SATA-->USB2 will also work satisfactorily but obviously a USB3 connection is so much faster.

2) create a USB bootable install USB stick of a Linux distro you like - usually download an ISO and then running rufus to make the USB stick bootable.
I'd choose use MBR for both UEFI and MBR systems as this gives most flexibility.

3) Boot the USB stick and install a Linux system on the SSD - ensure the /boot is also on the SSD so the system boots totally independent of the Host computers HDD

4) After booting and doing any updates on your Linux system ensure the following packages are installed -- Ntfs-3g (read / write access to NTFS files) and SAMBA for network connectivity.

5) now install VBOX / VMware player -- you'll need to ensure kernel headers and gcc (compiler) are installed on the Linux system to create a VM.

6) Install a Windows VM on your Linux system -- if you already have one then ensure at first boot say I MOVED it otherwise you could run into activation problems.

7) install anything on the Windows vm -- Macrium is a good starter, as is a partition manager - I also have Office on mine as I like to have another language available when I'm on working gigs and an Icelandic version of Windows without hosing up other peoples machines !!!!.

8) to fix problems on HDD's on the HOST system simply add those HDD's as RAW (Physical) Disks to the Windows VM. Windows will now see those disks too where you can perform your relevant recovery actions.

If you get error message about partition table when changing the VM's config - ignore that's a VMWARE bug -- I'm not sure if VBOX gives same message but if it does simply ignore.

On even a half way decent machine response time is pretty good so although this looks fairly complex it isn't actually - and you have a really portable reliable system.

Advantage of this approach compared to using Virtual disks for the boot is that this system will boot even if there's no functioning HDD / SSD in the host system at all and is portable as well. If you have a larger SSD you can also keep your last macrium backup on it making restore really fast - remembr though to have the physical disks defined in the VM config.

When using on a different machine change the RAW HDD's in the config to the new ones and always say on first boot of the Windows VM "I Moved it" not "I copied it" to avoid activation problems. If you don't need to access the hosts physical HDD's then simply comment out or remove the definition in the config.

Have fun

Cheers
jimbo