Native VHD Booting From Server 2003 (& Windows XP)

Forums Operating Systems Other Windows Operating Systems Tips & Tweaks Native VHD Booting From Server 2003 (& Windows XP)

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    • #44110

        Server 2003 remains my favorite Microsoft OS and there are a slew of tips & tricks I’ve discovered/uncovered over the years using it. One newer disovery is an undocumented feature that allows you to boot-chain and natively boot Windows 7 (Ultimate ONLY), and Server 2008 R2 from VHD images on Sever 2003 (or even Windows XP); this lets you install and boot Windows 7 Ultimate and Server 2008 R2 with bare metal performance from VHD images and leave your Server 2003 (or Windows XP) installation unmolested. It’s also great for testing and experimenting with Windows 7 Ultimate and Server 2008 R2, as you can copy/backup or wipe your VHD and start over without molesting your default Server 2003 (or Windows XP) setup; here’s how it works…

        Boot your Windows 7 or Server 2008 R2 install CD and at the first prompt screen hit “Shift+F10” to get a command prompt. Just a heads-up; some of these commands are sluggish to execute in the preinstall environment so don’t get antsy:

        Now you are going to install the NT 6.1 Bootloader (you can undo this later if you want your old NT 5.2 Bootloader back, as a backup is automatically created) type:


        Now start Diskpart by typing “DISKPART” and at the Diskpart prompt type:

        create vdisk file=c:win7ux64.vhd maximum=102400 type=fixed

        Note: you can name your VHD file anything, put it in any directory, give it any size you like based on available disk space (the example here is for a 100Mb fixed VHD), and you can make the “type=expandable” where the disk will auto-size up to your maximum, but fixed VHDs are faster as there’s no disk sizing management going on; infact fixed NTFS VHD’s on NTFS can actually deliver faster i/o then the native NTFS disk performance.

        Depending on the size of the VHD you’re creating it can take quite a while for it to be created in the preinstall environment; when it’s done, type:

        SELECT VDISK FILE=C:win7ux64.vhd

        And then:


        Now close the command prompt and continue your Windows 7 Ultimate or Server 2008 R2 installation until you come to the prompt for “Which type of installation do you want?”, choose “Custom (Advanced)” and select the the disk with unallocated space that matches the VHD size you created as your installation target. There will be a yellow warning message that “Windows cannot be installed to this disk.” at the bottom of the window that can safely be ignored.

        Continue the installation as you normally would, when it’s finished, you’ll have a Windows NT 6.1 Boot Manager that gives you the option of booting your Windows XP/Server 2003 installation as “Earlier Version of Windows” (which can be renamed from your VHD boot system using BCDEdit).

        There are several other blog/guides to doing this, that involve manually boot-chaining, but letting the Windows 7 or Server 2008 R2 installer do it all for you is much faster, safer and easier.

        If you want to undo the whole affair and get things back to the native NT 5.2 Bootloader, just type:


        From a command prompt inside your native OS, and you can delte your VHD files…


      • #51158

        Nice info.

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