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Running from USB or VM?

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I saw mention in another forum of someone running from a USB or VM.  Forgive my ignorance on this.  I know that UnRAID is an OS.  I know that it is not an application that you can write to a USB drive, put into a Windows system, and run it.  I am positive that any mention of using with a USB means that you boot from that USB drive and then run the OS that way.  There is just one part I would like clarification on...  Is it that you just "setup" the drives while booted into the OS, and then they can be accessed from a Windows system?  If I am correct, that is not exactly the case even if the OS is used only for setup (without a special driver)...because unRAID uses ZFS, BUT, is that even how it works anyway, or does that server have to be running all the time (what I suspect)? 


What I am getting at is...  I have a desktop PC and an HTPC (both Windows)...and an external drive enclosure (not a NAS) connected to the desktop PC.  I have the  enclosure's files shared through the desktop PC, and I can access them on the HTPC via wired network.  Can I use unRAID with this setup without buying additional hardware?  I think the answer is "no", but I wanted to be sure.  Perhaps something has changed on that front with newer versions.  


Thank you. 

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