In an earlier story entitled Native boot VHD – Dual boot made easy, I explained how to deploy Windows 10 on a virtual hard disk, add it to the boot menu, and use the VHD in a dual or multi boot scenario instead of installing Windows onto a physical partition or virtual machine. Easy, fast and practical. When it’s no longer needed, just delete the VHD file and remove its boot entry. No partitioning or virtualization required.
When you boot to Windows on a VHD, it behaves like any physical installation. It uses real physical devices on the host, has access to all host peripherals and disks, and is generally speaking faster than when same VHD runs on a virtual machine. In addition, if the Windows 10 edition on a native boot VHD is the same edition as the one installed and activated on the main physical installation, it will be automatically activated because of the existing digital license for that hardware. On a virtual machine, the host’s digital license is irrelevant: each VM requires its own separate activation (and key).
However, there’s a small, somewhat illogical caveat. Whereas a virtual machine sees a VHD as a physical disk, when the same VHD is used as a physical, native boot device, the system sees it as virtual disk instead. The physical machine sees it as a virtual disk, and the virtual machine as physical disk. Thus, when the user tries to upgrade Windows on a native boot VHD, the warning shown in featured title image above appears: “You can’t upgrade Windows on a virtual drive“.
Windows Update, though, works without issues on native boot VHDs. Because the Insider Slow Ring has now moved from full feature upgrades to delivering build upgrades as cumulative updates, it means that Slow Ring Insider builds can be upgraded even on VHD. It’s only the full feature UUP upgrades that require a workaround.
OK, this does not matter if for instance you are only using a native boot VHD to test various Insider builds alongside your main OS. When a new build is released, delete the old VHD file and remove its boot entry, deploy the new build on new VHD and add it to the boot menu. However, if you want to keep the VHD, its installed software, user data and settings, and you’d rather upgrade it than start from scratch with a new build, you must work around the “You can’t upgrade Windows on virtual drive” limitation.
Fortunately, this workaround is relatively easy. In a recent discussion on Ten Forums, the native boot VHD was mentioned as a practical solution for testing Insider builds. I reminded fellow members that the only single caveat is that a native boot VHD cannot be upgraded, and ended up with writing a tutorial last weekend to show how this can be done “on the sly” as it were.
I do not like posting the same content on various sites. If you are interested in learning how to upgrade Windows on a virtual drive, on a VHD, see my tutorial on Ten Forums instead: Native boot Virtual Hard Disk – How to upgrade Windows
If you have not used a native boot virtual hard disk, I must wholeheartedly recommend that you test it. It is absolutely the most convenient way to dual / multi boot. Booting to Windows on a VHD, you will notice no difference in performance compared to a real, physical installation. OK, there’s this minor issue that it can’t be upgraded, but now you know the workaround.
Stay tuned, until the next thrilling story comes along!
Author: Kari Finn
A former Windows Insider MVP, Kari started in computing in the mid 80’s writing code for VAX / VMS systems. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of IT positions. He specializes in Windows image capture, customization, repair and deployment as well as Hyper-V virtualization. Kari is a proud Team Member at number #1 Windows site TenForums.com.