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.

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.

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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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Comments (6)
  • Jim

    Will this allow the VM to utilize the host network connection?

  • naveen

    The windows OS image that is imported this way into Virtuablbox or any other virtualization tool , will only work for few days (3 days in generral) as Windows operating systems have a built-in feature for re-activation of license when there are significant changes to the hardware….so, if you really intend to make this as a parallel standalone OS in addition to existing OS, you should buy an additional license for the VM version!

  • raj

    gR8!!!I have been having this problem for so long, wondering how i could use my home comp in office w/o having to actually carry it. Its a great article and thanks a bunch.

  • mchlbk

    This is the coolest thing ever!

  • Ernesto

    Something strange is that Disk2vhd have a 64 bits version, which I use to test it. But…. Microsoft Virtual Pc don’t support 64 bits systems. So it turns useless if you have a 64 bits system.

    Instead I used VMware Converter Free edition to backup, in case a future upgrade, my system.

    • afsdga

      had the same problem:
      my current (host) windows xp x64 was imaged in a .vhd but i can’t start it because virtual pc only supports 32bit guest operating systems :(

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.