Boot Windows 7 directly from Virtual Hard Disk image

An underrated feature from Windows 7 is its ability to boot directly from a VHD file without the need for additional virtualization software.

The advantage is evident: you can have different Windows 7 deployments on your machine without resort to virtualization software, thus using the full potential of your hardware.

Being a developer, a recurring challenge is to have a development environment setup that doesn’t permanently compromise the workstation’s performance. The compromise is consequence of sometimes having database and application servers, as well as different IDE all installed and running services at the same time.

Usual solution to avoid such compromise are:

  • having virtual machines, dedicated to each development scope, and using them individually without installing any development software on the host. However, virtualization can have a big cost on hardware performance.
  • Remote desktop to a hosted development environment instance. This limits the environment’s accessibility (usually to the workplace) and is not an option for small companies.

Given this options, the VHD boot architecture seems very attractive. the downside to this option is that its only available on the Ultimate and Enterprise versions of Windows.

To find a walk-through of common scenarios of native VHD boot, visit this technet’s page.

Judging by the way things progress, it’s will soon be possible to run Hyper-V on a Windows client OS system.

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