Disk2vhd Last week, you couldn't hardly find an IT-related blog that didn't announce this new free Sysinternals tool. Disk2vhd copies the contents of a physical disk to a virtual disk in Microsoft's VHD format. Since Disk2vhd uses Windows’ Volume Snapshot capability, you can use the tool while the physical machine is online. In theory, it is possible to convert a physical system drive to a VHD.

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The size of the standalone tool is only 670KB, so you shouldn't expect wonders. I tried Disk2vhd on a Windows 7 system. I encountered my first problem with it when I had to decide which partition to convert. My boot and my system partition are separated. I selected them both and Disk2vhd packed them in one VHD file without complaining. The result was that neither Virtual PC 2007 SP1 nor the successor Windows Virtual PC was able to recognize the VHD. I didn't try it with Hyper-V, but, I guess, the result would have been the same. Perhaps, it would have worked If I ran the tool twice to create two separate VHD files. But I didn't explore this path because I have a 64-bit system and Virtual PC doesn't support 64-bit guests.

I then tried something different for which the tool was not really made for. I used it within a VMware Workstation virtual machine. Disk2vhd was indeed able to create a VHD from the VMDK disk. I could even write the VHD file to a shared drive on the host system. This probably means that the utility also supports network shares as destinations. Not every P2V tool has this feature. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to boot with this VHD in Virtual PC 2007 SP1 and Windows Virtual PC. The virtual machine always hung. I then tried to boot in Safe Mode. Virtual PC was loading the drivers, but then the virtual machine hanged again. Syspreping the source VM didn't help either, however, my guts tell me that this could work with a little more fiddling.

I admit my test Disk2vhd was not really fair. I suppose the tool works fine in common environments. Please share your experiences if you tried the tool already.

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  1. Avatar
    Greg Tate 14 years ago

    Thanks for posting your write up on this. VMWare’s free converter utility finally gets a match from Microsoft, thanks to Mark Russinovich and Bruce Cogswell!

    I used this tool on a Windows 7 64-bit RTM two-volume system, and it booted right up in Hyper-V from Server 2008 R2. Still have not tested it on Windows Virtual PC or Microsoft Virtual PC 2007.

    Mike, have you tried using the detecthal option in bcdedit.exe?

  2. Avatar

    Unfortunately Windows Virtual PC still doesn’t support 64-bit guests. I was surprised when I tried it. Do you think it could be a HAL issue? I thought such problems don’t exist anymore since Vista.

  3. Avatar
    Fred Jenkiins 14 years ago

    Note that VPC doesn’t support disks larger than 127GB (that’s documented in the disk2vhd help file and web page). Have you tried booting them in Hyper-V?

  4. Avatar
    Alex 14 years ago

    Did not work for me. I let it run to convert a single-partition Win XP Pro 32-bit system and save the VHD to a share on another system. Virtual PC 2007 SP1 cannot use it. Every time, after POST, I get:

    A disk read err r occurred
    Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart

    (Yes, it says “err r” and not “error”)

  5. Avatar
    Maurits 14 years ago

    A disk read error occurred
    Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart

    Same problem over here. My vhd file is 64 GB so less than max 127GB. Occurs in VirtualPC 2007 SP1 not tested in Hyper-V.

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    John 14 years ago

    For years now I’ve been taking Acronis True Images of disks and restoring them to virtual machines thanks to the universal restore feature. Hasn’t let me down yet but nice to know about other options.

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    Lukas Beeler 14 years ago

    I’ve tried disk2vhd today to migrate an Exchange 2007 Edge server on WS08 from a System x3250 to a Hyper-V R2 virtual machine. I disconnected the server from the network, ran disk2vhd, copied the VHD onto the Hyper-V server, booted the VM, installed the VM Additions, rebooted, changed the IP adress of the new Network Adapter, and everything was working again, as it should.

    Unfortunately, SCVMMs Conversion Feature doesn’t work if the target machine is behind a firewall.

  8. Avatar
    Lindley 14 years ago

    I did the same thing with Exchange 2007 and it booted without issue on Hyper-V (R2).

    My only wish was that I can use the tool in my Virtual Guests as an optional backup. I tested this feature by running the tool in a VM (not what it was designed for – I know), and powering that resulting VHD and no go – disk read error. Maybe or hopefully will be added feature.

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    Lowell 14 years ago

    Great little tool. Nice when migrating XP-to-Win7; backup the XP box to VHD, then mount in Win7 so you can grab whatever files you need.

    Would love to see a bare-metal restore tool that could take the VHD and restore. This is great in Vista and Win7 but I’d like to do this for XP as it doesn’t have that native capacity. And there are some other free tools that do image-based backup and restore, but they each seem to have their limitation…

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