Windows 7 / Getting Started

How to Create and Use a Virtual Hard Disk

Virtual hard disks (VHDs) are a file type that acts like a hard disk. In previous versions of Windows, VHDs were used by virtual machines, such as those created by Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 or Microsoft Virtual PC. Additionally, Complete PC Backup in Windows Vista created a copy of the computer's hard disk as a VHD disk image.

Beginning with Windows 7, you can now mount VHDs exactly like a physical disk. By mounting a VHD, you can easily copy files to and from the virtual disk. Additionally, Windows 7 can be configured to boot from a VHD.

You can create a VHD from either the Disk Management snap-in or the command line. After you create the VHD, you must attach it and then format it before you can use it, just like a physical partition.

From the Disk Management console, following these steps:

  1. Right-click Disk Management and then click Create VHD. Follow the prompts that appear.
  2. Right-click the new disk and then click Initialize Disk. Click OK.
  3. Right-click the new disk and then click New Simple Volume (or select a different volume type, if available). Follow the prompts that appear.

The new virtual disk is ready to be used, just like any other disk.

From the DiskPart command-line tool at an elevated command prompt, run the create vdisk command and specify the file (to name the file) and maximum (to set the maximum size in megabytes) parameters. The following code demonstrates how to create a VHD file at C:\vdisks\disk1.vdh with a maximum file size of 16 GB (or 16,000 MB).


  Microsoft DiskPart version 6.1.7100
  Copyright (C) 1999-2008 Microsoft Corporation.
  On computer: WIN7

DISKPART> create vdisk file="C:\vdisks\disk1.vhd" maximum=16000
Volume ###LtrLabelFsTypeSizeStatusInfo
Volume 0FNew VolumeNTFSSimple20 GBHealthy
Volume 1ENew VolumeNTFSSimple40 GBHealthy
Volume 2RDVD-ROM0 GBNo Media
Volume 3CNTFSPartition75 GBHealthySystem
Volume 4DNew VolumeNTFSPartition52 GBHealthy
DISKPART> select volume 0

  Volume 0 is the selected volume.

DISKPART> delete volume

  DiskPart successfully deleted the volume.

For additional options, run the command help create vdisk at the DiskPart command prompt.

After you create a VHD, you must attach it, create a partition, assign it a drive letter, and format it before it can be used. The following script (which must be run within a DiskPart session) demonstrates how to do this.

create vdisk file="C:\vdisks\disk1.vhd" maximum=16000
attach vdisk
create partition primary
assign letter=g
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In this tutorial:

  1. Managing Disks and File Systems
  2. Overview of Partitioning Disks
  3. How to Choose Between MBR or GPT
  4. Converting from MBR to GPT Disks
  5. GPT Partitions
  6. Choosing Basic or Dynamic Disks
  7. Working with Volumes
  8. How to Create a Simple Volume
  9. How to Create a Spanned Volume
  10. How to Create a Striped Volume
  11. How to Resize a Volume
  12. How to Delete a Volume
  13. How to Create and Use a Virtual Hard Disk
  14. File System Fragmentation
  15. Backup And Restore
  16. How File Backups Work
  17. File and Folder Backup Structure
  18. How System Image Backups Work
  19. How to Start a System Image Backup from the Command Line
  20. How to Restore a System Image Backup
  21. System Image Backup Structure
  22. Best Practices for Computer Backups
  23. How to Manage Backup Using Group Policy Settings
  24. Previous Versions and Shadow Copies
  25. How to Manage Shadow Copies
  26. How to Restore a File with Previous Versions
  27. How to Configure Previous Versions with Group Policy Settings
  28. Windows ReadyBoost
  29. BitLocker Drive Encryption
  30. How BitLocker Encrypts Data
  31. How BitLocker Protects Data
  32. TPM with External Key (Require Startup USB Key At Every Startup)
  33. TPM with PIN (Require PIN At Every Startup)
  34. TPM with PIN and External Key
  35. BitLocker To Go
  36. BitLocker Phases
  37. Requirements for Protecting the System Volume with BitLocker
  38. How to Enable the Use of BitLocker on the System Volume on Computers Without TPM
  39. How to Enable BitLocker Encryption on System Volumes
  40. How to Enable BitLocker Encryption on Data Volumes
  41. How to Manage BitLocker Keys on a Local Computer
  42. How to Manage BitLocker from the Command Line
  43. How to Recover Data Protected by BitLocker
  44. How to Disable or Remove BitLocker Drive Encryption
  45. How to Decommission a BitLocker Drive Permanently
  46. How to Prepare AD DS for BitLocker
  47. How to Configure a Data Recovery Agent
  48. How to Manage BitLocker with Group Policy
  49. The Costs of BitLocker
  50. Windows 7 Encrypting File System
  51. How to Export Personal Certificates
  52. How to Import Personal Certificates
  53. How to Grant Users Access to an Encrypted File
  54. Symbolic Links
  55. How to Create Symbolic Links
  56. How to Create Relative or Absolute Symbolic Links
  57. How to Create Symbolic Links to Shared Folders
  58. How to Use Hard Links
  59. Disk Quotas
  60. How to Configure Disk Quotas on a Single Computer
  61. How to Configure Disk Quotas from a Command Prompt
  62. How to Configure Disk Quotas by Using Group Policy Settings
  63. Disk Tools
  64. EFSDump
  65. SDelete
  66. Streams
  67. Sync
  68. MoveFile and PendMoves