Typically, I can just copy & paste Linux distro ISOs onto a thumbdrive alongside Ventoy, which allows you to pick and choose which ISO boots from the usb drive.
Or I will just boot from the ISO in a VirtualBox machine, and I’m able to run the OS, test it out, and then install it if I like it.
Why does Start9 require the use of Balena Etcher?
Hi, you can definitely use a hypervisor to run StartOS in a VM. I personally run a few instances in ProxMox Servers so I can allocate more Storage when necessary.
That said, Balena Etcher is merely a recommendation but not a requirement. I have personally used the Raspberry Pi Imager to flash StartOS many times without fail for different DIY projects.
Yes, you can run StartOS in a Virtual Machine, test it out & see if you like it, if you don’t like it then you can simply delete the Virtual Machine.