Deploy Windows on a VHD (Native Boot)

Applies To: Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2

This topic provides general information about how to create and deploy virtual hard disks (VHDs) with native-boot capabilities.

Creating VHDs

You can create virtual hard disks (.vhd or .vhdx files) using the DiskPart tool or the Disk Management Microsoft® Management Console (MMC). The Hyper-V Manager Role is available in Windows Server® 2012and Windows Server 2008 R2, but is not required to create or deploy VHDs. The disk-management tools can attach the VHD, so that it appears on the host as a drive and not as a static file. VHD files can then be partitioned and formatted before you install an operating system.

Deploying VHDs

You can deploy a supported Windows image to an attached VHD using disk-imaging software such as the Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) tool. The VHD file can then be copied to one or more systems either to run in a virtual machine or for native boot.

A Windows® 7 or Windows 8 boot environment is required to natively boot a .vhd. .vhdx files are only supported on a Windows 8 environment. For more information, see Download and install Windows PE (WinPE) so you can boot from a USB flash drive or an external USB hard drive.


Windows Upgrades on native boot VHDs are not supported. You must perform a clean installation on a new VHD.

On first native boot, the specialize configuration pass runs and computer-specific information is applied to the Windows operating system on the VHD. The instance of the .vhd or .vhdx file cannot be copied onto another system or run in a virtual machine after the specialize configuration pass is completed. The original .vhd or .vhdx file that has a Windows image can continue to be copied and deployed to multiple computers, if the image has already been prepared for installation using the Sysprep tool with the /generalize option. You can also use an answer file to prepare the image for installation by using the Microsoft-Windows-Deployment | Generalize setting. For more information about the specialize and generalize configuration passes, see Windows Setup Configuration Passes. For more information about how to use the Generalize setting in an answer file, see the Windows® Unattended Setup Reference.

The Windows Deployment Server role supports deployment of VHD image files in addition to .wim files. Windows Deployment Server automates the network deployment of VHD images for native-boot usage. Windows Deployment Server can be used to copy the VHD image to a local partition, and to configure the local Boot Configuration Data (BCD) for native boot from the VHD.

In This Section

Understanding Virtual Hard Disks with Native Boot

Includes common scenarios, requirements, and recommendations for installing Windows to a VHD with native boot.

Boot to VHD (Native Boot): Add a Virtual Hard Disk to the Boot Menu

Create and deploy a VHD on a destination computer.

Download and install Windows PE (WinPE) so you can boot from a USB flash drive or an external USB hard drive

Update a computer that has a Windows 7 or Windows 8 boot environment and add a VHD to the BCD configuration.

See Also


BCDboot Command-Line Options