Create A Virtual Machine Clone of Your Existing Hard Drive [Windows]

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As many of you know, with virtualization you can run an operating system within another. There are plenty of reasons why you would want to do that: if you are a developer you might want to see how your application behaves on different operating systems; you can test out software, products and suspicious files in an isolated environment without damaging your host operating system.

There are various software available for creating and running virtual machine image. Microsoft’s Virtual PC, VMware, and Sun Microsystems’ VirtualBox to mention a few. Usually, there are several steps you would need to follow in order to create a virtual machine. These include creating a virtual hard disk and then installing the required operating system on the virtual hard disk.

Recently, Microsoft-owned Sysinternals released a utility that would be useful for easily creating a virtual machine image from your existing hard drive contents. This can be very useful if you have one of your computers at home or work set up for a particular task and you want to access all the same tools and software temporarily from your laptop.

The tool is aptly called Disk2vhd. Its a small download and doesn’t require installation. Just fire up the application with administrator rights and you are good to go. It will show you various hard disks and partitions on your computer. Select the one you would like turned into virtual hard disks, hit create and the applications goes about doing its thing.

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In the ‘Space Required’ column, Disk2vhd shows you the amount of hard disk space you will need to have in order to create the virtual hard disk from your computer’s partitions. The process could take really long so you might as well go out grab something to eat/drink and come back — and if you are lucky, it would have created the virtual hard disk. The time it requires would depend on the size of the disk you are trying to turn into a virtual hard disk. Generally be prepared to wait for quite a while.

Once the VHD file is created, you can use one of the virtualization apps mentioned above to run a virtual machine off the hard disk image you’ve just created. All three support VHD files. Here are the details in case you want to look into them.

In addition, Vista (and now Windows 7) users can mount .vhd files as regular hard disks as well. Follow these steps:

  • Right click on My Computer icon and choose ‘Manage’.
  • Listed under Storage, choose ‘Disk Management’.

  • From the Action menu, choose Attach VHD, browse to the location of the VHD file, check read-only if you want to safeguard the contents against modification and click OK.

  • You will now be able to access it like a regular hard disk.

Disk2vhd is a great tool that lets you create a virtual machine image from your existing hard disk setup. The tool does all this from within the operating system without requiring you to boot from a CD. You can easily take your current computer and run it as a virtual machine on another computer. One thing you would require is free hard disk space.

What do you think of it? Do you know about similar tools? Share them with everyone in the comments.

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