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Easily Install Windows 7 Dual Booting Using VHD Drive

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I’ve been running Windows 7 Release Candidate 1 for several weeks now and I think I’m finally able to start talking about the things I like.

Before I do that however I figure it’s only fair to first talk about how all you groovyReaders out there can easily install Windows 7 risk free so you can not only read about Windows 7 but actually ENJOY it as well!

So, to keep things simple, what I’m going to do is show you the EASIEST way to install Windows 7 Release Candidate to test and play with while at the same time not messing with your current Windows Install – even if you have only 1 hard drive in your computer.  This is called a DUAL BOOT config.  But essentially I’m going to show you how to use the native VHD support in Windows 7 to boot a physical machine. I’ll explain more below.


Windows Boot Manager - Windows 7 and Windows Vista Dual Boot



Let’s get started!

Note – In order to create a Dual-Boot Install of Windows 7, you will need at least 20 GB of free space on one of your Hard Drives in your system.


1. Download Windows 7 RC.  FYI – For most computers and applications, you should probably just download the 32-Bit Version for now.  If your computer is ~6-12 months old, this would be a good time to try out a 64-bit version.

Download Link for Windows 7 32-Bit and 64-Bit Version


During the download process you will be prompted for your Windows Live ID.  If you have a hotmail account just use that.  Otherwise just create a Live ID and you will be provided a product key for Windows 7 RC 1.

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2. Once the download completes, burn the .ISO file to a DVD and reboot with the DVD in the drive so that you will boot from the DVD drive.


3. Press Shift + F10 when the Install Windows screen appears (as shown below.)

Windows 7 Install - Launch CMD Prompt using Shift + F10


Now we’re going to build a virtual hard drive (.VHD) on your physical hard drive.


4. Type diskpart in the Command Window

Windows 7 Native VHD Install Dual Boot Launch Diskpart 6.1.7048 from CMD Prompt to build VHD file


5. Type create vdisk file=c:win7boot.vhd maximum=20480 type=expandable and Press Enter

Windows 7 Native VHD Install Dual Boot Create VHD from CMD Prompt


The only thing you might want to customize in Step 5 is the setting “maximum=20480”.  This setting controls the size of the Virtual Hard drive Windows 7 will be using.  20480 = 20 Gigs which should be plenty for testing and installing a few applications.  If you have the drive space, you might want to increase this to 40960.  One thing to note, once Windows 7 is running, you will have access to the other drives on the system so you can reserve the Virtual disk for the OS only and all apps can be installed on the Physical disk or USB drive etc.


6. Type Select vdisk file=c:win7boot.vhd and Press Enter

Windows 7 Native VHD Install Dual Boot Select VHD from CMD Prompt


7. Type Attach vdisk and Press Enter

Windows 7 Native VHD Install Dual Boot Attach VHD from CMD Prompt


8. Type Exit and Press Enter

Windows 7 Native VHD Install Dual Boot Exit CMD Prompt


At this point what you’ve done is Create a Virtual Disk on the C: drive of your hard drive and attached it so that the Windows 7 Installer will see it when you install it.  If you want to take a look at your handy work,


Type Dir c: and Press Enter

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Windows 7 Native VHD Install Dual Boot


Ok so now were READY to start the Windows 7  install using the .VHD virtual drive!


9. In the Command (cmd.exe) Window, Type Exit to close the Command Window then Click Next in the Windows 7 Install Window

Windows 7 Install Dual-Boot using .VHD file


10. Click Install Now Button

Windows 7 Install Menu


11. CheckI accept the license terms” Radio Box and Click Next

Windows 7 License Terms Signature


12. Click Custom (Advanced)

Windows 7 Install Options


13. Click the Disk with Unallocated Space which matches the drive size you created in Step 5.  In my example I created a 20 GB (GigaByte) hard drive which is shown below as Disk 1.  This is my .VHD Virtual Drive I will be Dual Booting onto.  Once selected, Click Next

Note: You can ignore the Windows Error “ Windows cannot be installed to this disk”

Windows 7 Hard Disk selector during install

Windows 7 Install Status



ALL DONE! Windows should now begin the install using the .VHD file you created on your System C Drive to build the Windows 7 Install as shown in the screen shot to the right.


Once the install completes and you reboot your computer, the Windows Boot manager will give you the option to Boot from your original Operating System OR, boot Windows 7 natively from the .VHD file you created and installed Windows 7 in.  VERY GROOVY!!

Windows Boot Manager - Windows 7 and Windows Vista Dual Boot


Now take a look at this screen shot.  This is REALLY cool.  After you boot into your Windows 7 machine, you will notice you can see ALL your Physical drives.  In fact, if you look on the Physical disk where you stored the .VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) you will see the .VHD file that Windows 7 is installed in!  In my example below the C: is my System Drive where Windows 7 is installed on, and the D Drive is my Physical Disk.  See the Win7Boot.VHD file?  That’s my C: Drive.  Groovy ehh!!  (and a bit mind blowing)…

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Windows 7 Computer showing VHD Install on D: Physical Disk


Make sense?  Questions?  Let me know here or in the Forum!


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18 Responses to Easily Install Windows 7 Dual Booting Using VHD Drive

  1. shockersh May 22, 2009 at 11:31 am #

    sweet write-up. been waiting for this. thnx

  2. joseph May 29, 2009 at 4:55 pm #

    very very groovy howto. thank you mrgroove!

    just one question, how do I make windows 7 my default OS when dual-booting? each time I reboot I have to arrow up and select windows 7 instead of vista…?

  3. Hack0r May 30, 2009 at 2:53 pm #

    To delete the Windows 7 boot entry and the .VHD file:

    1. Boot from the Windows 7 disk.
    2. Press Shift + F10 when the Install Windows screen appears.
    3. Type “bcdedit /v” (without quotes) (eg: x:\sources bcdedit /v).
    4. Look for the for the “device” entry that has “c:\win7boot.vhd” (to make sure you have the right entry, you can look under the “Description” entry and it should say “Windows 7”).
    5. Above the “device” entry will be an “identifier” entry.
    6. Copy this identifier ({xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx} by right clicking on the blue portion of the window (at the top) and select “Edit->” and select “Mark”. Left mouse click on the beginning of the identifier and drag to the right (it will become highlighted).
    7. Press “Enter” on your keyboard to copy.
    8. Type “bcdedit /delete {identifier}” (WITHOUT quotes, so it will look like: x:\sources bcdedit /delete {xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx}. To paste the identifier go to the blue portion of the window, right click, “Edit->” and click “Paste”).
    9. Press enter and you should get a success message.
    10. To make sure it deleted the entry, type “bcdedit /v” and the entire Windows 7 boot entry should be gone ( the only *****OS***** entry that will show up will be your secondary (or primary) OS.)
    11. Type exit to get out of cmd prompt.
    12. Press the esc button and select “Yes” when the dialog box shows up.
    13. You should now automatically boot into an OS.
    14. When loaded, go to your C:\ drive and delete the “Win7boot.vhd” file.

    And that’s it, you’re back to where you started.

    • Joseph May 31, 2009 at 9:38 pm #

      @Hack0r – Thanks for the play-by-play on that one! I did the install on my Vista box at work and started running short on drive space. Just blew it away and will rebuild the Windows 7 on a USB drives I just picked up.

      Thanks again HackOr and Mrgroovy!

      • MrGroove June 2, 2009 at 9:06 am #

        @Joseph – Your welcome. You can also delete the Boot Reference using msconfig.exe click boot tab and delete the OS you don’t want installed. Then goto step 14 above and delete the .vhd file.

  4. IT'r June 1, 2009 at 1:15 pm #

    Thanks, nice writeup…

    Microsoft put out a video and in it they don’t use “select” but “sel” i tried it your way in the RC (7100) but it didn’t work until i used microsoft’s way…. just thought some might want to know…

  5. mrdancemaxchine June 4, 2009 at 9:59 am #

    Hello HackOr and Mrgroovy!

    OK my question is will this step work if I have XP PRO, Vista 32, Vista x64 as dual boot? I have a 1.5TB drive and creating partitions all on this drive no other drive attached. I have installed the Windows 7 RC non *.VHD and boy it messed up my boot order and I had to wipe and reinstall and painful process. Can you let me know if this will work when I get to last step installing Vista x64 again. Thanks for your technical writing on this topic and I would like this to work for me. BTW I have tried vistabootpro tool to fix it the first time around and i was only able to boot into WIN7 not Vista or XP. I am sure others have experienced this as well.


    • MrGroove June 6, 2009 at 11:06 pm #

      @mrdancemaxchine – Hello and welcome to the groovyCommunity!

      Personally I’ve never installed more than 2 OS’s on a single box. Dual boot is my max, not Tri or Quad Boot (but that sounds cool)! I honestly cannot help ya with this one. You will just need to play around and test it. Personally what you might think about doing is installing Windows Vistax64 and then install Windows 7 x64 in a .VHD file. Install Windows Virtual PC (Inside windows 7) then use this to install XP Pro and Vista x32 inside virtual machines. This way they will be VM’s, portable and launchable inside the Windows 7 box.

      This might not be an option based on your requirements so do keep me updated and what you decide and what happens when you install this. Plz not, you can also use MSCONFIG to adjust your boot config and order of the OS which boot and settings etc…. Details on that can be found inside my new post here:

      Keep us updated here or post your adventure with quad-boot in the forum with screenshots! That would rule!

  6. Obie June 6, 2009 at 4:49 am #

    My questions are will this preform at the same speeds as creating a new partion (gamer so its all about speed 🙂 )? Also was wondering if you defrag your c: if it contained the vhd d: would it mess up the drive in anyway? Lastly i am assuming that you can still access all programs and files installed previously on you normal drive from windows 7?

    • MrGroove June 6, 2009 at 11:00 pm #

      @Obie Hello! Welcome to the site! All very good questions. Here’s my thoughts.

      1 – In regards to performance, that’s a REALLY good question and I actually DONT have an answer for you…. My guess is there will probably be a small performance hit (10-15%) however that “guess” is not based on any benchmark testing. I’ve been running my laptop w/Windows 7 inside a VHD (Dual boot with Server 2008) and I honestly cannot notice any lag or performance loss vs. my desktop which is running Windows 7 on only the physical drive. My reccomendation is just test it out since it’s easy to install, test and remove if you don’t like it.

      2 – No issues if you defrag your drives. If anything it will just improve things because it will be placing your .VHD drive in a contiguous space on your physical disk thus improving disk reads and writes.

      3 – Yes, once you boot with your .VHD file, your original drive will show up as your D drive and you will have access to ALL your previous files and folders etc… Personally I still use my D:\ to store all my original .PST files. No benefit copying them all to my C: (vhd drive) plus I like to keep my C: drive (VHD drive) as small and portable as possible so if I ever need to move it to a new machine or move the .vhd file to a Hyper-V server it will be really simple and small.

      Hope this answers your questions!

  7. gerr July 30, 2009 at 8:39 am #

    Very nice writeup and way cool. Also cool support of vhd files in win7. I’m not sure why you would want to install your apps not on the vhd. Anyway, when done with it just delete and edit out in the boot ini. Nice.

  8. Bob July 31, 2009 at 10:28 am #

    How does Windows 7 RC act when installed on a thumbdrive? Is it slow? Would you guys recommend this to give Win7 a shot? Great instructions provided! Thanks to all!

    • MrGroove July 31, 2009 at 5:19 pm #

      Hi Bob and Welcome to the site. I’ve not installed Windows 7 on a Thumbdrive / Memory Stick however, it’s safe to say it’s performance will be based on the quality and speed of the Thumbdrive.


      With standard Hard Drives, you can normally pull 90 MB/s with 7200 RPM drives which is the most common drive in PC’s today. Most notebooks use 5400 RPM drives and they pull anywhere from ~30-40 MB/s where modern Flash drives depending on the memory can perform anywhere from 1MB/s to 30MG/s. What really kills you however on Flash drives is WRITE IO operations. Personally, if it’s just for a portable OS, I think a flash drive is a good option. It’s small, portable and you dont need to worry about dropping it. If it’s a home box however being used regularly… It might be a bit slow.


      Here’s some good reading on the very topics from one of my favorite sites:


      Please keep us updated on what you do and your experience!

      • aaron November 19, 2011 at 7:05 am #

        i currently have an hp i upgraded the windows to 7 ultimate 32 bit, but am wanting to test some copies of ultimate 64 bit, my system can runb the 64, but wanting to test it before a clean install. i used the disk manager to creat a 30gb vhd primary and have already attacthed it, i’m need to know if and how to install my 64 bit 7 ultimate to it, so i can dual boot, and check it out before doing a clean install. Any answers?

  9. MicHaeL H. August 28, 2009 at 5:04 am #


    I’m interested in trying Windows 7 on my own system.
    But I currently have Windows XP, so is it possible to install Windows 7 to (one of) my drive(s) in the same way, without risks too?

    Note, however, I do NOT want to have to format my whole system just for trying to use a different OS.
    I backup as much as possible, but just restoring all programs alone would be a huge hassle.
    So should I forget about it or can I simply do it no problem?

    Cause I also heard someone mention that you probably get driver-issues.
    But I thought, wouldn’t one OS simply use one set of drivers and the other its own?
    And also, would you get issues with DirectX, being 9 in XP and 10 or 11 even in Windows 7?
    I also don’t know if the main hardware like the motherboard and CPU and such are supported though.
    This system is an older Pentium 4, so there you go…
    But I’d really like to try Windows 7, if not for this system, just to get used to it for the next one I’ll finally buy.


  10. Scott December 1, 2009 at 9:19 am #

    Hi if i already have windows 7 installed can i attach a XP vhd. I'm thinking not because i have tried this several times already.

  11. rushab veer October 9, 2010 at 7:45 am #

    HoLy cOw !!! thank a lot !! it worked~!!

  12. Maximo March 16, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

    ¿Con Windows7 ya instalado, puedo usar el mismo procedimiento para instalar WinXP?
    ¿Con Windows7 ya instalado, puedo usar otro disco esclavo sin utilizar VHD Drive y tener Dual Boot al mismo tiempo?
    Excelente tu post “Mr.Groove”, se aprenden muchas cosas interesantes, prácticas,, útiles, etc. y sos muy didáctico. ¡Sos un “desasnador de primera”! 😉 Saludos

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