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Walkthrough: Deploy a Virtual Hard Disk for Native Boot

Published: October 22, 2009

Updated: July 8, 2010

Applies To: Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2

noteNote
This content applies to Windows 7. For Windows 8 content, see Windows Deployment with the Windows ADK.

This walkthrough describes how to create and configure a virtual hard disk (VHD) running Windows® 7 for native boot. A native-boot VHD is a virtual hard disk that can be used as the running operating system on designated hardware without any other parent operating system. This is in contrast to a scenario where a VHD is connected to a virtual machine on a computer with a parent operating system.

In this release, VHDs can be applied to computers that have no other installations of Windows, for usage as a native-boot VHD, without a virtual machine or hypervisor. (A hypervisor is a layer of software below the operating system that runs virtual computers.) This allows for greater flexibility in workload distribution in that a single set of tools can be used to manage images for virtual machines and designated hardware.

noteNote
This walkthrough describes how to deploy the VHD to a computer with no other installations of Windows. For more information about deploying multiple VHDs with native-boot on a single computer, or deploying VHDs on computers with a parent operating system, see Add a Native-Boot Virtual Hard Disk to the Boot Menu.

Prerequisites

To complete this walkthrough, you need the following:

  • A technician computer running Windows 7. A technician computer is any computer with the Windows OEM Preinstallation Kit (Windows OPK) or Windows Automated Installation Kit (Windows AIK) tools installed on it.

  • A Windows 7 image (.wim) file. For more information, see Capture and Apply Windows Images.

    noteNote
    Use a generalized Windows 7 image. A specialized image is customized to a specific computer, while a generalized image can be deployed across many computers. For more information about the specialize and generalize configuration passes, see Windows Setup Configuration Passes.

  • A Windows 7 Windows PE disk. For more information, see Walkthrough: Boot Windows PE from CD-ROM.

  • A destination computer on which to install the VHD. This computer requires 30 gigabytes (GB) or more of free disk space. You can install the VHD to a computer already running other operating system installations, or as the only operating system on a computer.

For more information about using VHDs in an enterprise environment, see Understanding Virtual Hard Disks with Native Boot.

Step 1: Create a VHD

  1. On the technician computer, use the Diskpart tool to create, attach, partition, and format a new virtual hard disk. You can attach a VHD by using the Attach vdisk command which adds the .vhd file as a disk to the storage controller on the host. This virtual disk will appear as the V: drive at the end of this procedure. The Detach command will stop this virtual disk from appearing on the host.

    In this example, you create a 25 GB fixed-type VHD. For more information about VHD image types, see Understanding Virtual Hard Disks with Native Boot. For more information about the DiskPart tool, see this Microsoft Web site.

    At a command prompt, type:

    diskpart
    create vdisk file=c:\windows7.vhd maximum=25600 type=fixed
    select vdisk file=c:\windows7.vhd
    attach vdisk
    create partition primary
    assign letter=v
    format quick label=vhd
    exit
    
    

Step 2: Apply a Windows 7 image

  1. Use ImageX to apply the .wim file to the primary partition of the VHD. At a command prompt, type:

    cd /d "c:\program files\<version>\tools\<architecture>\"
    imagex /apply <pathtowim> 1 v:\
    
    
    Where <version> is Windows OPK or Windows AIK and <architecture> is x86, amd64 or ia64.

  2. Use the DiskPart tool to detach the virtual disk after applying the image. At a command prompt, type:

    diskpart
    select vdisk file=c:\windows7.vhd
    detach vdisk
    exit
    
    
  3. Copy the VHD file to a network share or USB hard drive. For example,

    net use n: \\server\share\
    md N:\VHDs
    copy c:\windows7.vhd n:\VHDs\
    

Step 3: Clean and partition the destination computer

  1. Boot the destination computer with your bootable Windows PE media.

  2. Clean the hard disk using the DiskPart tool.

    CautionCaution
    Running this command will erase all information on the computer. If you are deploying a VHD and want to maintain an existing native-boot VHD deployment or running operating system on the destination computer, do not run this command. See Add a Native-Boot Virtual Hard Disk to the Boot Menu for more information.

    At a command prompt, type:

    diskpart
    select disk 0
    clean
    
    
  3. Create a system partition. This example uses a 300 megabyte (MB) system partition. At a command prompt, type:

    create partition primary size=300
    format quick fs=ntfs
    assign letter=s
    active
    
    
  4. Create a primary partition. In this example the primary partition is given the remaining disk space. At a command prompt, type:

    create partition primary
    format quick fs=ntfs
    assign letter=c
    exit
    

Step 4: Deploy the VHD with native-boot capabilities

  1. Copy the VHD file to the destination computer. At a command prompt, type:

    copy N:\VHDs\Windows7.vhd c:
    
  2. Use the DiskPart tool to attach the VHD on the destination computer. At a command prompt, type:

    diskpart
    select vdisk file=c:\windows7.vhd
    attach vdisk
    
    
  3. The VHD is assigned a volume letter when it is attached. Find the letter associated with the VHD in the volume list and then exit the DiskPart tool. At a command prompt, type:

    list volume
    select volume <volume_number_of_attached_VHD>
    assign letter=v
    exit
    
  4. Use the BCDboot tool, located in the \System32 directory of the Windows 7 VHD or in a Windows® 7 Windows PE media, to copy the boot-environment files from the \Windows directory in the VHD to the system partition. The BCDboot tool will create the BCD configuration to boot from the VHD. For more information about the BCDboot tool, see BCDboot Command-Line Options.

    For example, at a command prompt, type:

    cd v:\windows\system32
    bcdboot v:\windows /s s:
    
  5. Use the DiskPart tool to detach the virtual disk. At a command prompt, type:

    diskpart
    select vdisk file=c:\windows7.vhd
    detach vdisk
    exit
    
  6. Restart the destination computer.

    The Windows 7 Boot Manager will boot the Windows 7 operating system image contained in the .vhd file.

Next Steps

To deploy a second VHD with native-boot capabilities to the same computer, you can copy the file and add it to the existing BCDboot menu using the BCDedit tool. For more information, see Add a Native-Boot Virtual Hard Disk to the Boot Menu.

See Also

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