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.

Michael Pietroforte

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor in chief of 4sysops. He has more than 35 years of experience in IT management and system administration.

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.

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  1. Claus Valca 11 years ago

    Hi Michael

    Loved the review of GImageX you did recently. I really love using in with my WIM work.

    Anyway...I saw this post and am looking forward to your how-to on installing WIndows 7 on a VHD.

    I also have been wanting to do the same, but (eventually) my target is going to be using my Vista Home Premium laptop system but install Windows 7 on it in a "modified dual-boot" configuration so I can test-run Windows 7 (public beta) on it with real hardware.

    Figure that will give me a better test of Window 7's performance on the laptop hardware rather than just playing with it in a Virtual PC session on the same device.

    Using the hard-work of others before me I worked out the method to add/remove just such a Vista / Win7-VHD-based install.

    It was cool!

    GSD How To: Dual Boot Windows 7 on Vista via VHD file -

    I thought that you might find some useful info in there for your post as well.

    Love the 4sysops blog and your steady postings! I'm learning lots from your hard efforts.


    --Claus V.


  2. Adam Ruth 11 years ago

    I could see going in the opposite direction, from physical to virtual. While developing software, I quite often need high performance for a brief period right after I install a virtual machine to do some testing. After done with my initial testing, it can go into the virtual world just to be brought back to life for an occasional test.


  3. Michael Pietroforte 11 years ago

    Claus, thanks for the link. I am a regular reader of your blog. Performance might not be as good as in a virtual environment, but the advantage is that you can go always back to a snapshot if you messed up your test system.

    Adam, P2V is certainly also an interesting way to use this feature. Perhaps one day Windows will be installed by default on a VHD just to make sure that P2V is possible without much hassle.


  4. milos 9 years ago

    ok, it's nice to install windows 7 to vhd file, but how to remove it??? can anybody help?


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