60209: Acronis True Image 2018: configuring Windows native boot from VHD/VHDX files created by "Convert to VHD" feature

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Introduction

"Convert to VHD" feature allows creating VHD(X) images that can be used later for various purposes. One of them is creating a multiboot system without creating any extra partitions, similar to what Acronis OS Selector did in Acronis Disk Director 11 and older versions. Another can be testing system bootability in the backup. Finally, Windows allows deploying an operating system as VHD(X) without having to run through the entire "normal" installation procedure.

All the above is achieved, in essense, by adding the created VHD(X) to Windows Boot Manager menu as a boot option:

This article explains how to do that. The first method described below, requries a running Windows and will work on all versions and editions of Windows, starting with Windows XP. The second method will work for Windows 7 and newer and includes bare-metal Windows VHD(X) deployment scenarios.

It is assumed that you have already created a VHD or VHDX disk image from an Acronis backup by using "Convert to VHD" option in the backup context menu.

Important! The local disk, where the VHD(X) file is stored, must have free space equal or larger than the total size of the physical disk in the VHD(X) image.

For instance, if the backup was taken from one or more partitions of a 500 GB SSD, then the disk, where the VHD(X) file is stored, must have 500 GB or more of free space.

That free space is reserved for storing temporary changes when booting from VHD(X). It is released as soon as you shut down the VHD(X)-booted system. All the changes are saved into the VHD(X) file.

If you do not have enough free space, mount the VHD(X), shrink the partitions, unmount the VHD(X), then shrink the virtual hard disk itself. The procedure is described in this video tutorial (not an Acronis video).

Description

The first method below is for those who will use the VHD(X) for personal, non-commercial purposes. It is much easier compared to the second method, as everything is done through the graphical user interface.

The second method is universal, but involves using command line a lot and is more for advanced users and system administrators.

Method 1. Using EasyBCD to update Windows Boot Manager.

EasyBCD is a boot manager software, free for personal, non-commercial use. It allows easily adding a VHD(X) image to the Windows Boot Manager. Download and install it from http://neosmart.net/EasyBCD/ , then follow the steps below to add the VHD(X) as a boot menu option:

  1. Launch EasyBCD. If you are on a UEFI-booted computer, there may be a warning that some of the features are not available in EFI mode. Just ignore it and click OK. The feature that we will be using exists in both EFI and BIOS versions.
  2. Before making any modifications to the boot menu, create a backup of it. Click BCD Backup/Repair:
  3. Click Backup Settings button to create a backup of the BCD boot settings:

    You can revert any changes made later by pointing to the backup file and clicking "Restore Backup":
  4. After a BCD backup is created, click Add new entry:
  5. Click the small browse icon in the right bottom part of the window:
  6. Browse to the VHD or VHDX file created by Acronis True Image and click Open:
  7. Give a new entry a meaningful name, for example, "Windows 10 VHDX":
  8. Click Add Entry:
  9. Do not close the program window yet. Wait for the confirmation message to appear in the left bottom corner, it is only displayed for a few seconds.
  10. If you wish to customize the timeout period, define a default boot option or do other customizations, click Edit Boot Menu on the left panel:
  11. Reboot the computer and choose new option ("Windows 10 VHDX" in our example) to boot directly into that image:

Method 2. Using Microsoft-provided tools to manage BCD and VHD(X)

Following steps 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12 from these inctrustions will give the same results as using the Method 1, purely by Microsoft-provided means, without any third-party software. This method requires working with Windows command prompt. Namely, commands bcdboot and bcdedit are used.

To learn about deploying Windows on a VHD(X), visit Microsoft technical library at https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-hardware/manufacture/desktop/deploy-windows-on-a-vhd--native-boot If you already have a VHD(X) file, created by Acronis True Image, skip the parts about creating, formatting the VHD, and applying WIM image, as all that has been done already by Acronis True Image.

While these instructions are not as easy to follow as using EasyBCD, they give the greatest level of flexibility and could be useful in some cases.

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