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Say I have a windows machine with a recovery partition that is locked with system permissions and is inaccessible through the windows operating system.

Is it possible that a virtual machine running within windows could mount other drives as read/write or somehow gain greater permissions than granted by windows? While I understand this may not be feasible for the drive the operating system is running on, what about external drives?

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  • Well it depends what virtual machine host you are using. For example, if I setup Windows 10 machine in KVM in Linux and I plug my mobile phone it gets mounted in Windows via USB. This is because in KVM VirtManager there's USB Redirector device added automatically as it's designed for Desktop use. However for XEN or VMWare managers which are for Servers it's not happening by default. However, as long as there's no USB Redirector nor the specific drives are added to the list of devices in guest, the drives will not be accessible.
    – Aria
    Aug 3, 2016 at 13:36

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Looking at Aria's comment I feel like I have enough information to answer my own question. Access to external storage or USB peripherals from within a virtual machine is dependent on the host operating system and the virtual machine software being used. For a virtual machine to access actual external hardware, it needs access from the virtualization software, which in turn needs access from the operating system. Security then comes down to the level of protection implemented by the virtualization software which is isolated from virtual machine itself.

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