With the advent of Windows 7, Microsoft made it possible for Virtual Hard Disks to be used with a machine even though they weren’t connected to a parent operating system, virtual machine technology or hypervisor. This is, of course, valid for both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, since the two platforms share the same core, and made possible scenarios such as Boot from VHD. A guide available as a free download from Microsoft offers a comprehensive insight into virtual hard disks (VHDs) in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, simplifying procedures such as deployment and configuration for IT professionals.

“The virtual hard disk file format (.vhd) specifies the format of a file that represents a virtual hard disk. To use VHDs on Windows Server 2008 and previous versions of Windows, you must install the Hyper-V role, Microsoft Virtual Server, or Windows Virtual PC. However, with Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, you can create, configure, and boot physical computers from VHDs without a virtual machine or hypervisor,” Microsoft informed.

Windows 7 Enterprise and Ultimate are the only editions of the client that come with support for Boot from VHD. In contrast, only the Foundation Edition SKU of Windows Server 2008 R2 doesn’t play nice with Boot from VHD. By integrating VHD capabilities into Windows 7, Microsoft has in fact worked to simplify image management. The new feature enables IT professionals to leverage standardization for the image format and toolsets, cut back the number of virtualized items needing support, and boost server utilization with efficient energy consumption.

“In Windows 7, a VHD can be used as the running operating system on designated hardware without any other parent operating system, virtual machine, or hypervisor. You can use the Windows 7 disk management tools (the DiskPart command-line tool and the Disk Management MMC snap-in) to create a VHD file. You can deploy a Windows 7 image (in .wim format) to the VHD, and you can copy the VHD file to multiple systems. You can configure the Windows 7 boot manager for a native or physical boot of the Windows image that is contained in the VHD,” Microsoft added.

Download the Virtual Hard Disk Getting Started Guide from here.

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