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How to Attach and Copy files from a VHD in Windows 10

Recently, one of my external hard disks was stolen, and it could not have come at a worse time. I needed some important files that I had backed up to the drive. The only other way I could retrieve them was on my other external disk, but they were buried in system images that I had created. You might think my only option is to restore those system images.

Note: This will work on Windows 10 Pro only and not the Home version. For more on how to create a VHD, read our article: How to Turn Your Physical Computer into a Virtual Machine.

Most of those images are for PCs that are running new versions of Windows or have died many years ago. When Microsoft released Windows Vista, it added a feature to select editions called Complete PC Backup that would later become known as a system image in Windows 7. Thankfully, when you create one, it stores your entire backup of a PC as a VHD file (Virtual Hard Disk). Since the release of Windows 7, Microsoft added native VHD support in File Explorer. Here’s a look at how to copy and manage files on a VHD in Windows 10.

Mount a VHD File in Windows 10

Make sure you have your VHD file accessible. Then bring up the hidden quick access menu and select Disk Management.

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Then click the Action > Attach VHD.

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Navigate to the location of the VHD file. As I noted, I’m using a VHD file stored as a Windows System Image.

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The VHD file is then mounted in Disk Management, just as though it was a regular physical drive.

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Proceed to browse the VHD, copy and open files as you would any external drive connected to your PC.

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When you’re done using the VHD, simply eject it like you would any attached storage.

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What to Do if the VHD Isn’t Assigned a Drive Letter?

Sometimes your VHD might not have a drive letter assigned when you attach it, especially if it’s the first time you are attaching the file. You can work around this issue by assigning it one.

Right-click the VHD file then click Change Drive Letter and Paths.

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Click Add then select the Assign the following drive letter: radio box then click in the drive letter list box then select an available drive letter. Click OK then OK again.

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Since virtual disks are treated like physical ones, you can assign them permanent drive letters, too.

Creating and mounting VHDs is a useful feature built into Windows. If you’re interested in other ways, you can use VHD files, check out our article on setting up a dual-boot configuration using a VHD drive.

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3 Responses to How to Attach and Copy files from a VHD in Windows 10

  1. Farok Amiri December 19, 2015 at 11:54 pm #

    A ver useful subscription. Your news are fantastic and up to date. Without your guidance I could not have learned so much that I did with you. Hope to contribute for a just cause. Thanks again,

  2. Lewis June 26, 2016 at 3:36 pm #

    After 9 hours straight of trying to restore my system image and failing. I tried any background work around it could think of and came up with nothing. This saved my life. I never knew you could actually access the image file directly… thank you

  3. Doret September 23, 2016 at 11:48 pm #

    Please help… I attached the vhd but now I can’t locate it . If I try to attach it again it says that it is already attached

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