7 Things about Windows 7 Native Boot VHD


If you haven’t known, here is what a native-boot VHD is, according to FAQ: Virtual Hard Disks in Windows 7.

A VHD can be used as the running OS on designated hardware w/o a parent operation system, virtual machine, or hypervisor. Furthermore, if you use native boot, you have full access to all devices and file system volumes on the physical computer, including the volumes inside the VHD.

While it sounds awesome in many ways, here are the 7 things you should be aware of before diving deep into it.

1. Any previous versions of Windows is not Supported

That actually includes Vista and Windows server 2008. Only Windows 7 and 2008 R2 are supported to VHD native boot. The reason behind is that native boot VHD requires significant changes to the OS and these changes are new in Windows 7.

2. BitLock and Hibernation are not supported

Because of the same reason, these two features that require to access at hard disk level are not supported in VHD environment.

3. It supports 3 types of VHD, but neither compression nor encryption can be applied on VHD for native boot

3 types of VHD that are supported are fixed, dynamic, and differencing. However, VHDs that have been compressed by NTFS or encrypted using EFS on the host volume are not supported for native boot.

4. Make sure having enough space for VHD

That’s particularly important when you use dynamic type of VHD for native boot. The BSOD will come visit you if you are trying to native boot a 10G VHD that is dynamically only 5G on a computer that only has 7G spare space left on the system.

5. Remote or USB storage is not supported

It’s just purely not supported. If you follow our step-by-step how to set up a VHD native boot instruction, you will actually notice that it’s just technically not possible specify the correct path to a remote or USB storage in the bcdedit.

6. VHD used for native boot is not upgradable

That’s the lesson I learned pretty hard. It’s just you cannot upgrade the Windows version in the VHD to a newer version.

7. It’s possible VHD native boot from Vista

While Vista in VHD for native boot is not supported, a Windows 7 VHD that native boots from Vista is totally possible, and here is how.

So how can I do that? Follow one or two posts below:

Native VHD Boot to Windows 7

Native Boot to Windows 7 in VHD from Windows Vista

Windows 7 VHD native boot without any hosting operation system

[update #1]

Mark Wilson pointed out in the comments that it’s actually doable to native boot to a VHD that’s stored on an USB storage device. So if you have limited space on your hard drive and would like to try, make sure checking out his comment below. Thanks Mark.

[update #2]

Added a link above for those who want to VHD native boot on a clean hard drive that has nothing on it.



  1. Sorry to contradict but you said “it’s just technically not possible specify the correct path to a remote or USB storage in the bcdedit”. I’ve had this working with both the RC and RTM, using Windows 7 to create the bootable media and set up the VHD. It’s even a supported scenario for Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 (but not for Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2).

    More details are available at http://www.markwilson.co.uk/blog/2009/07/running-windows-from-a-usb-flash-drive.htm and http://www.markwilson.co.uk/blog/2009/07/hyper-v-is-now-supported-on-flash-drives.htm

    • Thanks Mark for sharing the tip.

      I would say, “lucky you”. I tried the same method but found out that there was just no way for my system to recognize my USB device during the boot. No luck for me at all. And the VHD FAQ page confirmed my unluckiness.

      So I guess you must have applied some magic touch to your USB devices so that your bootloader actually recognized it. 🙂


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