Windows XP/7/8 virtualisation from a .VHD file, Linux VM Host

I devised the below method/script to create a cloned VM from a running Windows machine.  A VHD snapshot is created  automatically each evening, which can be converted into a VM via the below process.

Target machine drives & partitions, output from diskpart command:

DISKPART> list volume

  Volume ###  Ltr  Label        Fs     Type        Size     Status     Info
  ----------  ---  -----------  -----  ----------  -------  ---------  --------
  Volume 0     D                       DVD-ROM         0 B  No Media
  Volume 1         System Rese  NTFS   Partition    100 MB  Healthy    System
  Volume 2     C                NTFS   Partition    931 GB  Healthy    Boot
  Volume 3     E   Backup       NTFS   Partition    298 GB  Healthy

The E:\ drive is not backed up in the below procedure (space restrictions), this does make the process slightly more complex as we can’t use the “*” option to include all volumes with the disk2vhd.exe utility.  We need to attach the above ‘Volume 1’ partition via the diskpart command prior to running the disk2vhd.exe command.  This is done via the diskpart command taking the below diskpart_start.txt file as its input when mapping the M:\ drive.

$ cat diskpart_start.txt
sel disk 0
sel part 1
assign letter=m noerr

The script produces a .VHD file at the below location, the ‘WindowsImageBackup’ folder will have the latest copy:


Old ‘WindowsImageBackup’ folders are date stamped and rotated weekly.

Script details:

cd E:\SystemBackupsPleaseLeave
REM Delete backups older than 7 days, E:\ drive too small to accommodate more.
forfiles -p E:\SystemBackupsPleaseLeave\ -m WindowsImageBackup* -d -7 -c "cmd /c rmdir /s /q @path"
REM Rename old E:\SystemBackupsPleaseLeave\WindowsImageBackup folder if it exists
rename WindowsImageBackup "WindowsImageBackup%date:/=%-%time::=%RENAMED"
REM Create E:\SystemBackupsPleaseLeave\WindowsImageBackup for each days backup
mkdir E:\SystemBackupsPleaseLeave\WindowsImageBackup
REM Map partition that doesn't have a drive letter (M)
diskpart /s C:\cygwin\usr\local\bin\diskpart_start.txt
REM Pause for 10 seconds
ping -n 10 -w 1000 > nul
REM start....
C:\cygwin\usr\local\bin\disk2vhd.exe -accepteula M: C: E:\SystemBackupsPleaseLeave\WindowsImageBackup\snapshot.vhd
REM Pause for 30 seconds
ping -n 10 -w 3000 > nul
REM Unmap the partition that doesn't have a drive letter (M)
diskpart /s C:\cygwin\usr\local\bin\diskpart_end.txt

Converting .VHD to VM

I reverted to the below method to work around a dated version of qemu-img on my Debian host, which wouldn’t allow me to convert the .VHD file to a RAW file.  I did explore using VBoxManage on my workstation but it too didn’t manage to complete the conversion.

Install cygwin sshd onto another Windows 7 machine, start sshd. This machine will be used to mount the .VHD file and to make it available for copying:

Mount the .VHD file as a read only drive via the disk management utility.

The drive will now be accessible under the cygwin /dev directory. For example /dev/sdb.

From your linux VM host run the below command to copy the above drive (all partitions) as a sparse file.  In the below command the Windows 7 machine with the mounted VHD has an IP of

ssh username@ 'dd if=/dev/sdb | gzip ' | gunzip | cp --sparse=always /proc/self/fd/0 /data/vm/clone/windows_machine_sparse_file


Attach the /data/vm/clone/windows_machine_sparse file to a VM on your Linux host, remember to also attach the Windows DVD.

The sequence/procedure from here down will vary slightly, I guess, if the original Windows workstation is not Windows 7.

Launching this VM (view using VNC) will result in the below error:


After selecting the DVD the boot process will commence:




Select repair your computer.



Choose ‘Command prompt’ on the below screen



Now use the DISKPART utility to select the machine’s C:\ drive, using the below commands:

source: , see gregrocker post:

SELECT DISK 0 (confirm from list this is Windows 7 HD #)
SELECT PARTITION # (replace # with Windows 7 part #)


I’m not 100% sure if the below steps are necessary, nothing lost doing them, enter the below commands into the same DOS prompt.


bootrec.exe /fixmbr
bootrec.exe /fixboot
bootrec.exe /RebuildBcd


With the drive mounted, it should be accessible via the same DOS prompt:


Changing the Registry

The below steps will alter the registry of the machine to allow it to boot as a VM.

Run the below commands in the same DOS prompt to load the registry from the D:\ drive, this might differ for you.

reg load HKLM\VHDSYS D:\windows\system32\config\system


I’m not 100% sure if both CurrentControlSet0001 & CurrentControlSet0002 need to be changed, won’t hurt.

Navigate to:




Change the value of the “Start” parameter under the below keys.  Only values with stars need changing on a KVM Linux virtual machine, check others.

Aliide = 3
Amdide = 3
Atapi = 0
Cmdide = 3
iaStorV = 3
*intelide = 0
*msahci = 3
*pciide = 3
viaide = 3

Close regedit once you have finished the above edits.

Run the below command to unload the mounted registry from memory.

reg unload HKLM\VHDSYS

Reboot the machine after these changes, using the ‘Restart’ button:


Choose the DVD as the boot device again:



Choose the ‘Repair and restart’ option.


Choose the DVD as the boot device again:





Now attempt to boot from the hard drive:





Hopefully voila!


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