One of the neat features introduced in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 (Read it Windows 7 Server!) is the support for native VHD boot right out of the box. This feature allows you to setup multi-boot scenarios on your machine a lot easier and safer than the traditional way of provisioning multiple OS partitions on your hard drive – something that we all have been doing for a long long time! All you need to do is to make a VHD as a bootable drive that contains its own OS (Win 7 or Win 2008) and then make your computer to boot from it. Snazzy!
Ever since the beta bits of Win7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 came out, some folks have written great blog posts, tweets and articles that walk you through the steps to prepare a VHD image for native booting and everyone is approaching this from a different angle – see References section later in this blog post.
The problem is that if you are not an administrator or you have no familiarity with the tools included in Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 or WAIK , it’s quite challenging to follow most of those articles that are filled with technical or administrative jargons and involves lots of commands, utilities( For example WIM2VHD or PowerShell script) and various tools. Too much complexity for a dev guy, IMO!
My requirement for the use of native boot from vhd thing is so simple:
Scenario: SharePoint Dev,Demo and Validation Machine
- To build a common , reusable SharePoint image that can be immediately used for dev, demo & testing purposes.
- To build this image using available user interfaces (i.e. Hyper-V Manager) with minimal use of command line and funky scripts or utilities.
Background: People who have worked with me know me as a person who loves virtualization! I run Windows Server 2008 on all my computers and don’t do anything except in virtual machines. However, in order to test my applications (for performance,stability and etc), I’d rather be on a real hardware.Although, there are techniques to even virtualize test resources, the safety net of having everything up and running and fully tested on a real box always gives me an extra level of comfort before any attempts to deploy my stuff to a customer’s environment.
Additionally, I do a lot of presentations, so that would be nice if I could demo on real hardware too with no emulation layer that may degrade the performance of my presentations. By leveraging native boot from VHD, now I can have either Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 as my main OS and spin up extra bootable VHDs and multiboot them in a blink of an eye.
I think the ability to boot from VHD (natively) is like having a heap of computers sitting around at your disposal! Use them when you need them; otherwise leave them in your garage or throw them in the garbage bin if you will.
All right, enough talking. Let’s just go ahead and get busy.