Windows 7 VHD Native Boot without any Hosting Operation System

VHD native boot is a big thing in Windows 7. Despite the fact that the guest OS has to be on either Windows 7 or Windows server 2008 R2, the host operating system can be either Windows 7, Vista, or even nothing. If you don’t believe it, follow the steps below, and tip your hat to Vineet, if the trick works.

To get started you will first need to create a Windows 7 WinPE USB Disk (this can be done using the Windows 7 AIK)

  1. Boot the machine from the USB Drive into WinPE
  2. Format C: /q   — This is optional, but make sure you delete c:\bootmgr
  3. Copy Windows 7 VHD file to any location on the hard disk [In this case I copied it to C:\VHD\Win7.vhd]
  4. Copy Bootmgr from the USB disk – Very important step, only the windows 7 Bootmgr will allow boot from VHD
  5. Type the following commands in the WinPE command window
    • C:\>DISKPART
    • DISKPART>SEL VDISK File=C:\VHD\Win7.vhd
    • DISKPART>ATTACH VDISK
    • DISKPART>LIST VOL (This lists the drive letters and mappings, assuming F: maps to the VDISK)
    • DISKPART>Exit
    • C:\>Bcdboot F:\Windows

Now the system is ready, just Reboot the system and this will take you straight into your VHD.

For the step 1, as Vineet pointed out in the comment, you can also do it by booting from Windows 7 DVD, when it comes to the first screen, press SHIFT+F10 and you will get the comment window, and you can do the rest from now on.

Credit also should go to Mark Wilson for sharing it by commenting on 7 things about Windows 7 native boot VHD, which you also should be checking out if you want to know more about VHD native boot.

  • Pingback: 7 Things about Windows 7 Native Boot VHD | Windows 7 Hacker

  • Greg

    I read (I think the MS version comparison page) that Native Boot is only possible for Ultimate and Enterprise. Is this true, can you confirm this?

    • Kent

      Hmm, I didn’t see anywhere that mentioned this limitation. Maybe I missed something. Please forward me a link where it says so.

      As far as I know, any edition of Windows 7 can be installed in VHD, hence can be native booted.

  • http://www.markwilson.co.uk/blog/ Mark Wilson

    Hi Kent – thanks for the mention

  • Terry

    If you ACTIVATE a VHD then put it on another system… won’t it crap out?

    Bios won’t match, activation / registration should fail and if you reactivated then the original Host that built the VHD would probably fail to update or worse.

    Seems you’ll never have more than 30 day trial period to run a VHD on another system. I don’t see how Microsoft would allow the world to run VHD’s for free.

    Not to be nipcky… because this is really good… but the part about copying the 20+gb vhd file to the drive is glossed over. You’ll need the vhd on
    a usb disk, cd or pre loaded onto the hard drive.. then DO NOT format it after you boot from the USB/DVD.

  • Elier

    Thanks a lot Kent. I just tried this out and it worked great (with one exception). I can confirm that ONLY the Enterprise and Ultimate versions of Windows 7 support BOOTING from a VHD.

    The exception i mentioned earlier was that on step 5, the line that reads: DISKPART>SEL VDISK C:VHDWin7.vhd is missing “file=” between “VDISK” and the path to the VHD file.

    It should read like this:
    DISKPART>SEL VDISK FILE=C:VHDWin7.vhd

  • http://www.portlock.com/support/knowledge_base/download_windows_7_vhd.aspx Daren

    Portlock Leap Frog will also enable VHD boot. It will allow you to keep Windows XP or Vista, and upgrade their respective boot managers to support VHD boot. Once the Dual boot environment is setup and you are booting into Windows 7 or a preconfigured VHD, its very easy to do what you need to do without having to worry about the AIK or Diskpart command lines.

    • windows7hacker

      @Daren,

      Thanks for the info. It looks like a pretty good product that fills in this gap pretty well. Please email me info at windows7hacker.com if you have relationship with or work at Portlock.

      Cheers.

  • daren253

    Portlock Leap Frog will also enable VHD boot. It will allow you to keep Windows XP or Vista, and upgrade their respective boot managers to support VHD boot. Once the Dual boot environment is setup and you are booting into Windows 7 or a preconfigured VHD, its very easy to do what you need to do without having to worry about the AIK or Diskpart command lines.

  • http://in-query.blogspot.com/ AS

    Hi, I'm stumped…

    I followed the instructions on the Technet site (skipping steps 2 and 3) to make a WinPE bootable UFD. I am able to boot into WinPE, however:

    DISKPART does not allow me to select, attach, etc VDISKs. It's just not even an option: VDISKs are not recognized. It's almost as if I'm using XPs DISKPART (i DO have XP as the host OS on the hard drive, but per your post, it shouldn't matter what the OS is as long as bootmgr is changed).

    any insights? I am doing something wrong. I've redone the WinPE UFD a couple of times to make sure that everything is correct, but DISKPART still doesn't work correctly.

    Thanks in advance,
    AS

  • adfad

    this is krap. it won’t activate on different hardware, so you’re phuked. your site is why it’s called the Intercrap!

    • http://about.me/kentchen Kent Chen

      Delete.

  • matt

    how do you do that specifically. what files do i need?