ISO images are a very convenient way to distribute software, but testing them is more of a hassle, especially if they’re bootable, as normally you’ll have to burn them to disc, first.
But it may not always have to be this way, particularly if you grab a copy of Qemu Simple Boot. As with just a little work the program can boot the image (ISO, IMA or IMG formats are supported) in a window on your own desktop, no disc required.
Just as its name suggests, Qemu Simple Boot is very easy to use. It’s portable, for instance, so there’s no installation required – just unzip the compact 3.4MB download and you’re ready to go.
Configuration is no great hassle, either. Point the program at your ISO image, choose “ISO” in the Boot Option section, decide how much RAM you’d like to allocate to the process and you’re done. All that’s left is to click “Start Qemu Test”, and wait as the Qemu emulator creates a virtual machine, launches your image and displays the results in a window on your desktop.
Can it really be that easy? Well, not always. We thought it might be interesting to try booting Ubuntu 12.10, only to be left watching the boot animation for more than 5 minutes. At which point the system crashed with an error message: not too encouraging.
If you’d like to try something a little more lightweight, though, it can be a very different story. We tried launching the rescue CD image for Macrium Reflect, for instance, and the program appeared within 40 seconds, not too bad. And we could then explore its features with no problems at all.
If you regularly need to boot ISO files in a virtual machine then we’d still prefer something like VirtualBox, by a huge margin. It has far more features and is faster by an order of magnitude.
Qemu Simple Boot’s portability and straightforward nature does mean you can run it almost anywhere, though, and if you can live with the program’s fairly limited performance then it could still be worth adding to your portable toolkit.