Tip: Create and Use a Virtual Hard Disk on Windows 7

Virtual hard disks (VHDs) are a file type that acts like a hard disk. In previous versions of Windows, VHDs were used by virtual machines, such as those created by Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 or Microsoft Virtual PC. Additionally, Complete PC Backup in Windows Vista created a copy of the computer’s hard disk as a VHD disk image.

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Beginning with Windows 7, you can now mount VHDs exactly like a physical disk. By mounting a VHD, you can easily copy files to and from the virtual disk. Additionally, Windows 7 can be configured to boot from a VHD.

You can create a VHD from either the Disk Management snap-in or the command line. After you create the VHD, you must attach it and then format it before you can use it, just like a physical partition.

From the Disk Management console, follow these steps:
1. Right-click Disk Management and then click Create VHD. Follow the prompts that appear.
2. Right-click the new disk and then click Initialize Disk. Click OK.
3. Right-click the new disk and then click New Simple Volume (or select a different volume type, if available). Follow the prompts that appear.

The new virtual disk is ready to be used, just like any other disk.

From the DiskPart command-line tool at an elevated command prompt, run the create vdisk command and specify the file (to name the file) and maximum (to set the maximum size in megabytes) parameters. The following code demonstrates how to create a VHD file at C:\vdisks\disk1.vdh with a maximum file size of 16 GB (or 16,000 MB).


Microsoft DiskPart version 6.1.7100 
Copyright (C) 1999-2008 Microsoft Corporation. 
On computer: WIN7 
DISKPART> create vdisk file="C:\vdisks\disk1.vhd" maximum=16000 

Volume ###  Ltr     Label       Fs  Type        Size    Status      Info    
----------  ---     -----------     -----   ----------  ------- ---------   -------- 
Volume 0    F   New Volume  NTFS    Simple      20 GB   Healthy 
Volume 1    E   New Volume  NTFS    Simple      40 GB   Healthy 
Volume 2    R               DVD-ROM     0 B     No Media 
Volume 3    C           NTFS    Partition   75 GB   Healthy     System 
Volume 4    D   New Volume  NTFS    Partition   52 GB   Healthy 
DISKPART> select volume 0
Volume 0 is the selected volume. 
DISKPART> delete volume 

DiskPart successfully deleted the volume.

For additional options, run the command help create vdisk at the DiskPart command prompt. After you create a VHD, you must attach it, create a partition, assign it a drive letter, and format it before it can be used. The following script (which must be run within a DiskPart session) demonstrates how to do this.


create vdisk file="C:\vdisks\disk1.vhd" maximum=16000 
attach vdisk 
create partition primary 
assign letter=g 

From the Microsoft Press book Windows 7 Resource Kit by Mitch Tulloch, Tony Northrup, Jerry Honeycutt, Ed Wilson, and the Windows 7 team.

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