You may have heard that the boot manager of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 has a new feature that allows you to a boot natively from a VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) on a physical computer. I had a closer look at this interesting new feature and was surprised by how easy it is to set it up. In this post I will outline how this feature can be used and in the next two articles I will describe how you can create a VHD with a Windows 7 installation and how to add a corresponding boot entry on a Vista machine.
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You might wonder why anyone would like to boot a physical machine from virtual disk. Actually, there are several scenarios where this could be useful:
The first thing that comes to mind is the VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure), which is supported by Windows Server 2008 R2. The idea of VDI is to run virtual desktops on a Hyper-V machine; however, with this new Windows 7 feature, you can boot the same virtual machine from a VHD on the desktop without hypervisor. This can be useful if your organization decided to give up VDI. I suppose there will also be solutions that allow users to switch between physical and virtual machines. For example you could work on a physical machine at work, and use VDI from home.
This new feature can also be used to move a virtual server to a physical machine (V2P). For example, if the server has performance problems in the virtual environment, you can simply shove its VHD to a physical server and boot it up again.
Windows 7's VHD support is also useful for dual boot configurations. If you want to try Windows 7 on your desktop or laptop, but want to keep Vista until the final version comes out, then you can easily store both operating systems on the same machine. The advantage over a common dual boot configuration is that you don't need a free partition and, as well, you don't risk mingling your Vista installation with Windows 7 since Windows 7 will be stored in an isolated VHD.
Can you think of any other ways that this new Windows 7 feature be used?
In my next article, I will show you how you can install Windows 7 on a VHD.