Creating an external Boot Camp drive?

New Contributor

I would like to be able to create a way for a couple of my users to have Boot Camp (with Win7) available without using the drive in their MacBooks. There is just one program that they need occasional access to. We have tried a normal Boot Camp setup, and using Parallels, but the space requirements on the internal drives were creating issues. A coworker and I have been trying various schemes suggested elsewhere to set this up, but can't seem to create an end product that a MacBook is happy to boot from. Has anyone else ever succesfully done this?


Honored Contributor II
Honored Contributor II

I have tried this in the past but not had good results. Usually getting driver issues trying to get the OS to boot.

I would suggest setting up a PC for them to RDC into, or if a bigger budget is available, a terminal server.

Valued Contributor III

Parallels or other VM system using an image file (as opposed to having Windows installed directly on the external drive) should work with the image file almost anywhere shouldn't it? Would have the added advantage that you should be able to move it if need be.
As @davidacland you can have have them RDC. You could even go further and have a Windows geek virtualise just the one app on a server for you, it's kind of like an RDC session but delivers just the one app so you never see the Windows desktop itself, you can also have it launched from a webpage or shortcut depending on how you want to deploy it, both would require Microsoft RDC client present on the machine.

New Contributor

If you're dead set on an external bootcamp partition, I've had luck with Winclone.

Its not a pretty process but it works.

New Contributor III

I agree with @davidacland I tried to make an external drive with windows bootable, and it worked, sometimes, and sometimes even on different macbooks (of similar type).
Driver issues, re-numbering of hardware device issues; this is NOT a recommended way to do.

I have an SSD in an external USB3 enclosure, and that is fast. Putting a VM image on it is a perfectly workable solution. It is not as fast as bootcamp, but otherwise OK. I use this solution to have several demo VM's around while the SSD in my MBAir is limited in size.

Positive side effect: any Mac that has the VM (VMware, Parallels, VirtualBox) software installed can work with the same external disk (as long as you click the option ' I moved it ' in the dialog box any time you run in on a different machine, see link