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Tools to manipulate Native Boot VHDs

vhd tools native boot win7

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#1 sambul61


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Posted 19 November 2011 - 02:01 PM


Booting Windows natively from VHDs becomes a hot topic, since they can boot from real PC hardware, allow to install any apps and OS updates, and deliver almost the same performance as OS directly installed on a hard drive, while also offering all advantages of Virtual Drives - i.e. files that are easy to delete, replace and transfer fast to any medium. The ways to Create Native Boot VHDs were discussed in that Tutorial.

This Tutorial is dedicated to collecting info and links to tools that can manipulate VHDs - create, resize, convert, mount, make bootable, etc. More VHD Tools related posts scattered on Reboot.pro will be added to it, and the content will be edited. :)

One can create and attach a new VHD in Win 7 Disk Management and use Windows Backup, or backup an entire system drive to it (but not a single volume) with Disk2VHD. Or install OS to it from a Setup ISO inside VMWare, QEMU Manager or Hyper-V VM - it makes a bootable VHD when no other method does, and Hyper-V is really fast. Windows Virtual PC works with VHDs, but doesn't offer full range of VHD format features, though MS Hyper-V Virtual Server offers more - its a standard component of Windows Server 2008R2 and Win8, but can also be installed standalone to a Win7 host. Mounting a VHD is easy in Win 7 Explorer with VHD Explorer or VHD_MNT shell commands. In WinXP one can use VHD Mount to work with VHDs. If you already have a system drive's backup, it can be converted to a VHD by several tools: RAW image backup can be converted with Raw2VHD, CloneDisk or similar, and a VMWare disk with VMDK2VHD.

Popular backup packages like Acronis and Paragon (virtual editions) offer similar P2V features, but the cleanest way would be using MS tools for manipulating VHDs. One can also use a favorite Backup Tool to backup a selected drive or partition to an archive, and then restore it to an attached VHD. It may work better than Disk2VHD that copies the whole drive instead of select volumes and makes it dynamic. Yet a dynamic VHD can be converted to fixed type with VHD Resizer or Edit Disk feature of Hyper-V Manager. The "restored" VHDs are easily resizable with VHD Resizer or VHD Tool that expends a VHD much faster, while P2V and Disk2VHD conversions might be harder to resize. If your original VHD file is too big, attach the disk and defrag its content, then compact in Hyper-V Manager, shrink its partition in Win 7 Disk Management, then resize the file in VHD Resizer (note, the tool doesn't give much feedback, when coping VHDs).

If OS on VHD doesn't boot even in a VM where it was created, after some manipulation with the VHD file or its system volume, or mounting it when its source system drive was present, try using Paragon Adjust OS utility to fix the issues, or delete Mounting Devices registry hive in offline OS on attached VHD. Yet another approach is to prepare a universal Windows IMG or VHD bootable on any PC with IMG_XP.

If a VHD boots in the VM, but doesn't boot natively on your PC in Win 7 boot environment, try fixing its BCD entry settings. Editing Win7 Boot Menu to add or fix native boot from VHD is a lot easier with EasyBCD, while more comprehensive and narrow in scope Visual BCD Editor offers more refined control of offline BCDs of multiple drives and partitions. OS can also be booted from a fixed contiguous VHD in Grub4DOS or another bootloader like VBoot after installing a special Virtual Disk driver to OS like FiraDisk, WinVBlock, Vboot Port or similar.

#2 sambul61


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Posted 19 November 2011 - 02:13 PM

Here is a list of tools, capable to manipulate VHDs or allowing to boot OS from VHD images saved on various disk types, mentioned in this and other VHD related threads - it will be kept updated. Hopefully, someone with good coding skills will get interested to create a GUI-based tool that would incorporate most of relevant VHD manipulating tools and functions listed above. :)


Disk Management Console
Windows Backup
Hyper-V Manager
VHD Mount


Clone & Convert & Resize

VHD Director
VHD Resizer
VHD Tool
VHD Attach
VHD Explorer

Partition & Format & Backup

Acronis Backup & Recovery Advanced Virtual Server or Workstation
Paragon Hard Disk Manager for Virtual Server
Paragon Adjust OS
VMWare Converter
Hyper-V VHD Explorer

Boot from VHD

Visual BCD Editor
VHD Loader

#3 sambul61


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Posted 10 January 2012 - 03:00 PM

I don't understand, what you mean. You want someone to create a starter for all those tools?
How about using PStart for that purpose?

I don't suggest to integrate ALL listed tools , but only selected features and free open source small tools under a well organized GUI sufficient to automate the process of creating, resizing, converting and making VHDs universally bootable. :) It looks like we are moving in that direction with VHD Director. :thumbsup:

#4 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 04:34 PM

Maybe, when you have time, adding besides each listed tool a link to it's home page or however to related resources/info might be of great use for interested users. :dubbio:


#5 i


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Posted 10 January 2012 - 07:02 PM

having these tools with download links is cool :D

So... do you also know of such tools for *.IMG??? would be nice for a reader like me to know of more tools...

#6 sambul61


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Posted 10 January 2012 - 09:04 PM

Adding besides each listed tool a link to it's home page... might be of great use for interested users.

Hmm.... Then some would complain, I hijacked The Finder status... :dubbio: Risky proposition... :whistling:

Attached below is VHD_MNT shell tool offered by chenall. I translated it to English and fixed to run on Win7 Eng 32 / 64-bit. It allows to Attach / Detach VHD, and Create & Label Dif VHD of a selected Parent VHD from File Context Menu. Its more convenient to use compare to Disk Management Console, but can be improved, if anyone interested: :)

- Check "available drive letters" and auto Assign Drive Letter to an attached VHD, if none assigned
- Make the batch Cmd running silently for Attach / Detach like here

Attached Files

Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: vhd, tools, native boot, win7

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