Categories Windows 7

Create bootable virtual hard drives on Windows 7


Windows 7 has a new feature to create and boot virtual hard drives from them. In other words, there is no need to manage multi-boot and physical partitions. You will be able to install different operating systems in a virtual way with ease and security. A very trendy technology that predicts the next few years in technology.

N.B. : this tutorial only works under Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise and Integral editions. Similarly, some BIOS do not support virtual disk support.

Creating a virtual disk

Start by opening the Control Panel then click on the module Administration tools. Then double-click on the module Computer management then, in the left side column, click on Disk management.

In the menu Actions, choose Create a virtual hard drive.

Capture décran - Gestion des disques, création dun disque dur virtuel
Screenshot of screen — Disk management, creating a virtual hard drive

Let’s now set the disk settings. Specify the location where your virtual disk will be saved by clicking on the button Browse... then do Save. In the end, you will get a VHD file, a format introduced with Microsoft Virtual PC. You will therefore have the option to boot from it but also to launch it via a virtual machine on Windows. Magic, isn't it?

Capture décran - Gestion des disques, paramètres de création du disque virtuel
Screenshot of screen — Disk management, virtual disk creation settings

Then enter a disk size depending on the final operating system. For Windows 7, allow a minimum of 20 GB. Leave the parameter on Fixed size to get started.

When the parameters are correct, do OK then wait a few minutes. A tooltip will warn you of the successful installation.

Capture décran - Création dun disque virtuel, infobulle de confirmation
Screenshot of screen — Creating a virtual disk, confirmation tooltip

In the end, you will get the same result as a physical partition but in a virtual way.

Disk initialisation

Once the virtual partition is created, right click Disk 1 and then click on Initialise Disc.

Check that the box Main start-up sector is well checked and click on OK. In this way, we can use this disk to install an operating system from which we can start the PC.

Capture décran - Initialisation du disque virtuel sous Windows 7
Screenshot of screen — Initialisation of virtual disk on Windows 7

Creating a virtual partition

The installation procedure is not complicated because it is similar to classical partitioning. So right click and then New simple volume.

Capture décran - Gestion des disques, création dun nouveau volume
Screenshot of screen — Disk management, creating a new volume

An assistant then starts. On the first screen, click on Next. Then specify the size of the virtual disk that we will use for the system. In our case, the whole will be dedicated to it — which is the default setting. Depending on your needs, click on Next.

Capture décran - Assistant de création dun nouveau volume simple
Screenshot of screen — Create a simple new volume wizard

Now choose how we will access this virtual partition. The most common is to specify a mounting letter in the same way as for a physical partition or removable device. Once again, click on Next to keep going.

Capture décran - Définition dune lettre de montage, S comme Seven
Screenshot of screen — Definition of a mounting letter, S like Seven

All we have to do is format the partition with the default settings, i.e.:

  • File system: NTFS;
  • Size of allocation unit: By default;
  • Volume name: “7 PRO” for example;
  • Perform fast formatting: Yes;
  • Enable compression of files and folders: No;

Make Next to validate everything then on Finish. Wait for a few moments, the time to format the virtual partition.

Installation of an operating system

Since you have a virtual hard drive, we will be able to install an operating system on it. To do this, insert the installation DVD of Windows or other and then choose the virtual partition when choosing the location of the future system.

If you are considering installing Windows XP, know that there is a mode specially designed to run on Windows 7 via Virtual PC. However, you will not be able to start the PC from it. To learn more, I invite you to read the article Use XP virtualisation mode on Windows 7.

As stated in the nota bene, it is likely that your BIOS will not support the installation of virtual systems — especially for the start-up phase. So everything stops there for you if you get a warning. For others, do the classic installation.

In the end, you will have a standard multi-boot with the difference that one will be physical and the other virtual.

Using virtual hard drive is a great way to safely manage multiple operating systems without risking to destroy the boot sector. Another advantage is the ability to run the system via a virtual machine with Virtual PC, allowing you to run two systems simultaneously. Virtualisation is undoubtedly the future of computing!

21 comments

Leave a Reply to Aurélien Denis Cancel reply

  • It’s cool! I'm gonna test this as soon as I get a while. Question: Can we install a Linux on this partition? It would take a spin off my foot because I never managed to install a Windows/Ubuntu multiboot on my Raid 0...

  • Mixed

    Virtual....? A physical disk space is granted which has nothing virtual.

    Moreover and as you point out the bios recognises physical discs and only physical discs.

    To the extent or now all bios offer a function to choose the disk on which to boot, apart from the configuration in the auto boot, it is much easier to install several hard drives on which you will install the OS you want to boot on and which one will launch by choosing the disk on which you want to boot and thus the OS under which you want to work.

    That’s how I can work on Windows or Snow Leopard.

  • @Mixed : while a disk space is needed, the system is still virtualised.

    I agree with you, except that it is necessary to have several hard drives — which is not very convenient with a laptop or a poorly partitioned hard drive.

    In addition, this way of doing it offers more flexibility if on a case-by-case basis it was necessary to run a second OS under the physical OS.

    Another advantage cited in the article is that there is no risk of breaking the start-up sector.

    For Windows and Snow Leopard, with Boot Camp we don't really have a choice...

  • Mixed

    OK for mobile phones

    Otherwise I'm not in boot camp, but on a PC all made “ordinary”

    remains the pb of organics who know only physics

  • Mike

    Nothing new, VirtualPC does this very well under XP or Vista and in a very stable way unlike se7en which we don't know too much what it does...

  • good morning,
    @Maigret : thanks for the explanation but I see nothing new too! VirtualPC and mieu VirtualBox does this very as it says Mike.
    stay one thing or do you find a bios that boot on a Veruel disc?

  • Roman

    For those who have not understood the interest of the thing: on virtual PC or other, you use a virtual device = graphics card, cpu, disk controller... All this uses drivers above the first layer of software of your machine.
    By booting on a virtual hdd you use the “real” components of your pc: we will be able to make the most of its latest chipset nvidia or Ati on games with a second OS (which will prevent the charming toddlers from coming to rot your OS work

  • Hello everyone,
    That’s my question, so I created a virtual disk to allow me to play, because with the 64-bit seven system there aren‘t many compatible games... so that’s where I’m stuck,after making this disc,I‘d like to put xp pro sp3.Who I specify is on a DVD drive as an image.iso and I don’t know if I‘m just doing,I’m booting
    On this cd via the bios and I'm afraid to continue....Is I able to continue? Will the installation ask me on which partition to install?
    I specify that currently I have the 64-bit seven-bit bone installed and I would like to install xp pro which is cracked and on a DVD in image.iso.
    Thank you for your advice...
    I'm an old 40-year-old schnock...

  • Thank you for answering benjamin,finally I will not put xp in dual boot
    Because if I've read it right, the 32-bit games should run on 64 bit.
    I think I just didn't have a chance with my last one and especially
    Second games (I specify that I get them on downp.....) I have downloaded two more and those there work..
    On the other hand, would there not be a software or script that would allow me to reboot my router at fixed time without going through my browser 192.168.0.xxx (to associate it with jdownloader and bypass the limits of Megaupload or other?)of this magnière I could launch
    (not too loud!) my downloads before leaving home.
    I know it’s apparently very hard to renew your ip through a router! (I get internet via a modem and then the router(drink 615)) thank you in advance.... Happy day to all!

  • On Windows 7 64 bits, all your programs not 64, will be installed in a folder called Programs (x86), so you shouldn't have to worry about that level.

    When it comes to renewing your IP address apart from rebooting manually, or finding “less restrictive” sites, I don't know.

    @+

  • Tomy

    Good in some time I‘ll have the opportunity to do it because I will format and I’m not at an installation nearby;=)

    I‘ll go back to the news, for those who’re interested.

    Otherwise for those who want to test linux lasts what is better than virtual, on a website of friends have to develop “fair”, which allows before installing linux to make a backup of the MBR, and allows via live-CD where other support to reinstall it and not lose the MBR.

    More info about Open-source magazine last month or on Cyber-nux.fr

  • gayed

    Hello, I can‘t initialise it, I see well disk 1 of 15 GB but right clis is just help that is not grayed! I’m on windows 7 86, thank you