Use a Windows 7 Virtual Hard Disk as a backup device

You can create a VHD from the Disk Management Console

As you know, using external hard disks as backup devices has become very popular recently due to the fact that they are now relatively inexpensive to purchase or build. I use several of them for backups on my home and test systems.

The other day I was experimenting with Windows XP Mode on my Microsoft Windows 7 test system and was backing up my Windows XP Mode virtual machine and the accompanying virtual hard disk (VHD), when it occurred to me that I could use a VHD as a backup device.

Once I began experimenting with this technique, I knew that it would be perfect complement to my overall backup strategy. I don't trust a single backup device and like to have multiple backups just in case. Using VHDs, I can easily back up my data and then just copy the VHD file to another external device.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll show you how to create and use a VHD as a backup device.

Getting started
Because the technology is built right into the Windows 7 operating system, you don't have to install Windows Virtual PC to create a VHD - you can do it right from the Disk Management Console or even from the command line with the Diskpart command. Let's take a look at the procedure using the Disk Management Console. (I'll go over the Diskpart command procedure at a later time.)

To get started, click the Start button and type Diskmgmt.msc in the Start Search box and then press [Enter]. When the Disk Management Console appears, as shown, you're ready to create your VHD.

This gallery is also available as a TechRepublic blog post and download.

Image created by Greg Shultz for TechRepublic.


Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.


I too am a bit paranoid, and keep a few external hdd's in rotation. I wouldn't bother with a .vhd, as that would seem a waste of space to me (if that hdd crashes, you can't recover from that .vhd anyways). I make a total backup of all the folders I want to back up to the external, then use a synchronize program... Total Commander "Sychronize" function every few days and the process is fairly quick, and it copies any new files it finds, and also removes any I've deleted, etc. I do this same procedure to a rotation of 3 externals, and change to a new hdd every week (or two). Just another approach, but I can't see how managing another hdd in the middle of this would solve anything myself. /Fred