Working with some troublesome systems can frequently be a cumbersome process. These systems can pose particularly challenging situations when the underlying hardware is much slower than what you use. Other times you may have a cloud provider you would like to move away from, but they can make this artificially tricky. And then there are those times you would like to back up a system without keeping the physical hardware around.

All of these situations are perfect for the methods I will describe here. Convert a physical hard drive to a virtual hard drive!

Disk2vhd by Mark Russinovich from the Sysinternals library at Microsoft is the easiest way to convert any Windows-based system to virtual from a physical hard drive. The tool is straightforward, without any extra useless options. Select the drive you want to convert, the location, and your choices to use Vhdx and shadow copy. Then Disk2vhd will copy the physical drive as a vhdx file ready to load on a virtual machine or mount in other environments.

If you are unaware of Sysinternals, I have an article coming out soon. I’m working on a tutorial on migrating Windows virtual machines from any cloud provider using this method, and I will have others for migrating Linux-based machines.

The last thing to mention is I have a method to migrate a Virtual Hard Drive to a physical one, but this process is error-prone and will require a lengthy explanation to cover the edge cases.

Steps To Convert Your Hard Drive

  1. Download Sysinternals Disk2vhd found here: Disk2vhd – Sysinternals | Microsoft Learn
  2. Extract the program into a location that is easy to find on your computer.
  3. Double-click to run Disk2vhd.exe.
  4. Select the drives that you want to convert to a VHD. You can select individual drives or use the “*” symbol to select all drives.
  5. Select a location to save the VHD file.
  6. Choose whether you want to use VHDX format and enable shadow copy.
  7. Click the “Create” button to start the conversion process.
  8. Wait for the conversion to complete. Depending on the size of the drives being converted, this may take a while.
  9. Once the conversion is complete, you can use the VHD file to create a new virtual machine or mount it in another environment.

Note: Disk2vhd does not support the conversion of volumes with Bitlocker enabled. If you wish to create a VHD for such a volume, turn off Bitlocker and wait for the volume to be fully decrypted first. Additionally, a Virtual PC supports a maximum virtual disk size of 127GB. If you create a VHD from a larger disk, it will not be accessible from a Virtual PC virtual machine.

Disk2vhd is a valuable tool for converting physical hard drives to virtual ones. It is easy to use and can save you a lot of time and hassle when working with problematic systems or migrating to a new virtual environment. Whether you are a system administrator or someone who needs to back up their system, Disk2vhd is an excellent tool in your toolkit.