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What are the benefits of using the Boot to VHD feature?

Boot to VHD may be seen as a novelty feature, but it also has practical uses in the workplace. Brien Posey explains in this expert answer.

Both server and desktop versions of the Windows operating system have long had the ability to boot from a virtual hard disk or a Hyper-V virtual hard disk file without the aid of a hypervisor.

Of course, this raises the question of whether there is any practical, real-world use for such a capability. On the surface, it would appear the ability to boot from a virtual hard disk (VHD) to a physical computer is little more than a novelty feature. However, there are at least a couple of benefits to using it.

One potential benefit is that the Boot to VHD feature makes it easy to create dual-boot environments. Dual-boot capabilities are certainly nothing new to Windows, but some of the earlier Windows versions required both OSes to exist on a single volume. Boot to VHD allows each OS its own volume and space for applications, data and so on.

I have personally used Boot to VHD as a way of trying out new OSes on physical hardware. For instance, I recently set up a Boot to VHD environment on one of my lab servers so I could experiment with Windows Server 10, but also have a Windows Server 2012 environment to play with.

On a more practical note, some people use Boot to VHD on desktop or laptop computers as a way of establishing boundaries between work and home life.

You can also use Boot to VHD to deploy a Windows OS to a USB flash drive. Doing so enables users to boot their personal computers to a fully sanctioned corporate desktop environment without making any modifications to their hard disks.

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