How to install Windows 7 or Server 2008R2 from a Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) Part 1

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How to install Windows 7 or Server 2008R2 from a Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) Part 1

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Added by April 27, 2012

If you need to facilitate testing of Windows Server 2008 R2 in your current environment but desire minimal impact to the existing configuration, there is a new feature in Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 called Native Boot from VHD that will allow this scenario to be accomplished with minimal impact. A VHD is a file representing a virtual disk that will be used to boot the new operating system. The below instructions will work for both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Operating Systems.

There are 2 methods to create and mount a VHD file. The first method is to use the Disk Manager MMC to create and mount the VHD. The Second method is to create and mount the VHD during the installation of the operating system. In the demonstration below I will use the second method.

In the below example Windows 7 will be installed and I will install Windows Server 2008 R2 onto a VHD.

Restart your computer from the Windows Server 2008 R2 DVD.

Instead of clicking next and proceeding with the installation, press Shift + F10.

Install Windows 7 or Server 2008R2 from VHD

Pressing Shift + F10 will cause the setup program will launch a command prompt.

Shift + F10 command prompt Install Windows 7 or Server 2008R2 from VHD

I will use the Diskpart.exe utility to create a virtual disk (*.vhd) to install the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system into.

Note: When booting from a *.VHD file ensure there is enough space to expand the file onto the existing partition.

Command prompt Install Windows 7 or Server 2008R2 from VHD

Listing of commands used.

List Disk – Used to list the physical disks currently in the computer.
List Volume – Used to list the current volume on the selected disk.
Create Vdisk – Creates a virtual disk

File= – Used to identify the path to the file used for the virtual disk. Path must be enclosed with “ “
The above example the virtual disk was created in the “D:” volume in a folder called “VHD” with a file name of “Sin2008.vhd”.att
Maximum= – Used to set the size of the virtual disk (configured in MB).

Attach vdisk – Attaches the newly created virtual disk

Type “exit” twice to exit the Diskpart and command prompt screens to enter back into the setup program.

Select “Next” to continue the installation of Windows Server 2008 R2

4 Install Windows 7 or Server 2008R2 from VHD

Install Now Windows 7 or Server 2008R2 from VHD

Select “Install Now”, choose your desired operating system select “Next”

Enterprise Full Installation Windows 7 or Server 2008R2 from VHD

Accept the License agreement, select “Next”.

Select “Custom (Advanced)"

Custom Advanced Installation Windows 7 or Server 2008R2 from VHD

In this demo Disk 1 Unallocated Space is the virtual disk that has been mounted. Select Disk 1, to partition and format the disk, then select “Drive options (advanced)”. In this demo I will be using the entire disk for the installation.

Select Disk 1, click “New”, select “Apply”, select “Next

The operating system will be installed and will be listed in the Operating System Menu screen.

Next time we will walk through adding a preconfigure VHD to the Operating System Menu screen.

Until next time, ride safe!

Rick Trader
Windows Server Instructor – Interface Technical Training
Phoenix, AZ

For more information, see the following posts in this series of posts on manipulating the Windows 7 Boot Configuration Database (BCD).

Part 1: How to install Windows 7 or Server 2008R2 from a Virtual Hard Disk
Part 2: How to install Windows 7 or Server 2008R2 from a Virtual Hard Disk (VHD)
Part 3: What happened to my BOOT.INI file?
Part 4: How to use BCDEDIT to add menu items to the selection screen in Win Server & Win7
Part 5: How to dual boot Windows 7 and Windows XP using BCD

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