VM Live Mode-mode - Immutable Disk Method on VirtualBox

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About this VM Live Mode/Immutable Disk Method on VirtualBox Page
Support Status testing
Difficulty medium
Contributor Algernon [archive]
Support Support

For VirtualBox there is also an alternate way to set the disks to read-only. This option is the official way for setting VM's to read-only in VirtualBox. This option will also only work with the grub-live package, which is installed by default. [1]

1. Make the VirtualBox disk immutable / read-only.

This step is important. Otherwise contents might be recoverable from the host drive. [2]

Follow these steps:

  1. Power off the VM
  2. In the VirtualBox main window, navigate to: FileVirtual Media Manager.
  3. Select the disk to write protect and release it.
  4. Click on Modifyset it to Immutable.
  5. In the VirtualBox main window, navigate to the settings of the VM.
  6. Under storage, select the top controller and add the existing hard disk there.

2. Launch live-mode.

A second boot entry called "VM Live Mode-mode" will be visible. Select it and then press Enter to boot the live system and use it as normal.

3. Optional: Steps to revert changes.

Click on expand on the right.

  1. Power off the VM
  2. Navigate to: FileVirtual Media Manager.
  3. Select the disk. It will now have a snapshot (~12.5 MB) attached to it.
  4. Release the snapshot and delete it.
  5. Click on Modify and set the hard disk to normal.
  6. In the VirtualBox main window, navigate to the settings of the VM.
  7. Under storage, select the top controller and add the existing hard disk there.


  1. This option will not work with the ro-mode-init pacakge.
  2. VirtualBox implements hard disk write protection differently. If an immutable virtual machine is booted, VirtualBox will always create a snapshot where data is written. After shutting down and booting the VM again (a soft reboot is inadequate) the old snapshot will be deleted and a new one created. The consequence is that data will not persist in the VM, even if Live-mode is not selected. However, since the data is written to the hard disk of the host (instead of memory), it is easily recovered. Therefore, it is necessary to select Live-mode to be safe. A snapshot file is still created, but it will not store any altered content from the VM.

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