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Sunday, 04 March 2012 10:11

Windows 8 Consumer Preview: How To Install and Boot off a Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) Featured

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So todays good news is the release of Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

If you have not already read Steven Sinofsky announcement please do so!! And you can also Free Download It.

The Windows 8 Bootloader

: I assume that you probably have some experience ion computers and you can also have the knowledge how to format your hard drive and you are familiar with this procedure. Even more you are not this type of guy who range on stranger's blog with totally unsupported guides on how to install Windows 8 Consumer Preview. So be careful on what you do on your machine. Always remember that as you edit your boot records and destroy your PhD thesis at once

 So let's start, you just have to think few things:

  • Are you interested to install Windows 8 Consumer Preview??
  • Can you install this on your local machine and get a dual booting chance??
  • Or maybe you wanna to this on a Virtual Machine but getting slower experience on this??

The great news is that if the system you currently use is Windows 7, then you can Boot Windows 8 on a VHD without taking the risk to lose valuable data from your hard drive. Are you sure you still don't like it? You can easily delete the VHD and simply update your boot record.

This practically means that you can run the new Windows 8 from your hard drive as a normal file. So you will be able to run this file virtually on your computer and the Windows 8 OS will run on a virtual drive and use your CPU, your Graphics card and all your system virtuallized. And all this of course with the safety of your hard drive and your Operating System you currently use.  

Updating from Developer Preview? Delete and start over! 

updating from developer preview

 If you have already a VHD on your computer and you want to use the Windows8 Consumer Preview you have to delete the existing VHD from your drive.

Then you need to run "msconfig.exe" as administrator and delete the existing boot entry as seen in this screenshot. 

Now you have to set up a new Virtual Disk so you can Previe tthis new version of Windows 8. And this is what we call safety,cause you can simply delete the VHD  or even have multiple versions, the only negative is that you ewill probably need enough space to store all these files. Just make sure your boot record is up to date. 


Let's now start setting up Boot to Virtual Hard Disk

You can check out the original instructions with every detail on how to setup your VHD and boot your Virtual OS. These instructions worked on my PC and they are still valid.

What's the Advantages on Booting to VHD?

Booting on a VHD is a great feature from latest Windows versions like Windows 7 and Windows 8. It is very nice idea from Microsoft developers which if very well supported.

 But still, why should i do this VHD, i can tell you few things about that i have noticed:

  • Boot on real hardware from a Virtual Hard Disk Try a virtualization solution, but it might not work, I may not have the drivers I need and it won't be as shiny as running "on the metal."
    • Windows 8 team says this:  "Our recommendation for the Consumer Preview is to run it natively on hardware if you intend to run Windows 8 on hardware when the product is final. Some of you will run virtualized environments for enterprise workloads or specialized purposes, but we strongly recommend that you experience Windows 8 on hardware, as it was designed to run for the majority of consumer experiences. "
  • Sacrifice a machine I have lying around. I'll probably do that at some point, but I'd like to try it out on my actual hardware that I use all day long.
  • Swap out my C: drive and use my main machine. I don't have a tool-less case..
  • Dual boot. Dual booting may feel ninja but it ALWAYS ends on tears..

    The good news is thatWindows 7 included the ability to boot windows from a Virtual Hard Disk File (.vhd). You can read more about the Windows 7 VHD boot capability and recommendations from the TechNet article here. The Windows 8 developer preview was downloaded millions of times and the word on the street is that there was a huge increase in installations in virtualized environments. I think booting to VHD is way better than installing in a truly Virtual Machine because it allows Windows 8 (and you) to really access the native hardware and shine.

    Requirements (read these!)

Here's the requirements if you want to try this.

  1. You will need to be an Administrator on your Windows 7 system
  2. You will likely need at least 40gb free disk space on the volume that the VHD is going to be stored. As you're likely creating your own VHD and installing Windows 8 Consumer Preview on it, then you will need free space at least equal to the virtual disk size of the VHD that was created
  3. Boot VHDs need to be on an internal drive. USB drives won’t work.
  4. If your system has Bitlocker enabled, you need to suspend Bitlocker while editing boot settings

Get Started

If you like doing things manually, you should directly the Windows 8 Consumer Preview ISO. I'd recommend burning Windows 8 Consumer Preview to a DVD or a USB Flash drive so you can easily install it on other machines easily. You can certainly do other ISO mounting tricks with other tools if you want to, but honestly it's just cleaner and easier to go download the Windows 8 Consumer Preview ISO and do it the regular way. There's less moving parts and all that.

From their site:

How to install Windows 8 Consumer Preview from an ISO image

The easiest way to convert an ISO file to a DVD in Windows 7 is to use Windows Disc Image Burner. On a PC running Windows XP or Windows Vista, a third-party program is required to convert an ISO file into installable media—and DVD burning software often includes this capability. One option is the USB/DVD download tool provided by the Microsoft Store. You can also download Windows 8 Consumer Preview Setup, which includes tools that allow you to create a DVD or USB flash drive from an ISO file (Windows Vista or Windows 7 required).

Take the Leap

Read the disclaimer at the top again. I don't know you and you're installing Beta software. .

Here's the general idea in broad strokes. The tiny details we'll be following are on my Guide to Installing and Booting Windows 8 off a VHD (Virtual Hard Disk).

  • First:  Go Get the Windows 8 Consumer Preview Download

  • Remember: Have a lot of disk space (40gigs or more)

  • Either burn your downloaded ISO to a DVD or make bootable USB Key manually.

  • Create a VHD that you will attach and install Windows 8 into

  • Boot your system of your newly created Windows 8 Consumer Preview DVD or USB Key

  • Attach your VHD during the setup process

  • Select your VHD as the hard drive to install to (make very sure you know where you're installing to)

  • Reboot and pick your operating system with the new lovely Windows 8 boot manager.

Alright. Sound good? You have some bootable media (DVD/USB) all setup with Windows 8 Consumer Preview? Now head over to my original post and start at Step 2. Fun!

Covering your Tush

If you want to be super careful you can backup your Boot Manager Database to a safe place by doing this from an Administrator Command Prompt:

BCDEDIT /export c:\bcdbackup.bak

and if you totally mess things up and you want to put things back the way they were, you can

BCDEDIT /import c:\bcdbackup.bak


But I use the LILO (LInux LOader) or GRUB (Grand Unified Bootloader).Boot loader

By running the BCDBOOT command, you’ll set the Windows Boot Manager writes the entry to the Master Boot Record (MBR) of system as the default. A system can only have one Boot manager at a time.

If you want to revert to your previous boot loader, just follow that software’s normal installation instructions.

I've heard some reports of GRUB supporting .VHD boot, but we have not tested it. You're on your own.

I'm A Mac user, is it possible for me to use this?

No. Apple Mac OS uses Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) which locks the Guid Partition Table (GPT). The GPT holds a similar position in the UEFI systems as MBR for the BIOS systems.

Why does the VHD need so much space?

VHDs are created as dynamically expanding by default, up to 40gb which get expanded to their full size when used as a boot disk. Some people like them to be even bigger.

Note: The reason why the boot VHD gets expanded to its maximum size run running is to avoid the case where the hosting volume runs out of space when it is being actively being used as a system disk. If the hosting volume does run out a space, it would result in an unexpected system reboot. The user would need to boot into an alternate OS or recovery partition to free up space on the hosting volume before he can boot into the VHD again.

Can I use some other tools to do this?

There are a number of tools that do things like bcdedit in a graphical environment. I like Bellavista which I have used on Windows 7. However, do note that I did not test or run the steps above using anything but the tools in Windows.

Hope this helps you have fun testing Windows 8 Consumer Preview in a safe way.

Source: Scott Hanselman

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Read 3933 times Last modified on Tuesday, 25 December 2012 11:00
Panagiotis K.

"Hi there , my name is Panagiotis K. and i like writing articles about computers and technology. Do not hesitate to share your ideas with me and add your comments."


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