How to Backup Your Data to a Virtual Hard Drive in Windows 7

Having a solid backup plan is a must if you have important data on your PC that you don’t want to lose. Today we take a look at a unique way of using a virtual hard drive in Windows 7 to back up some files.

Create a Virtual Hard Drive (VHD)

The first thing we need to do is create a VHD. In this article we are concentrating on how to backup your data to a VHD, we’ll briefly cover how to create one, but make sure and check out our full tutorial on how to create a VHD in Windows 7.

In this example we’re creating a 2GB VHD, but you can make it whatever size you think you’ll need for your data.

Right-click on Computer and select Manage and when the Computer Management screen opens under Storage highlight Disk Management then click on Action \ Create VHD.

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Select a location on your machine where you want the VHD to live and its size. You can created it on your local drive, or in this example we placed it on an attached external drive. Decide if you want it to be Dynamically expanding or a Fixed size. Then You will see the virtual drive listed as Unknown unallocated space. Right-click the left box and Initialize Disk.

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Right-click the Unallocated area and select New Simple Volume.

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The New Simple Volume Wizard opens up and you can select to format the volume and give it a label and follow through the wizard.

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When you’re done, you will see the new VHD listed under Hard Disk Drives in Computer. Now you can use it as you would any drive, and we are going to backup to it.

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You can simply drag files to it, or set it for backup with Windows Backup and Restore or the backup app of your preference. Here we’ll use Windows 7 Backup and Restore. Type backup and restore into the Search box in the Start Menu and hit Enter.

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Click on Set up backup

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Select the VHD we just created…it might say there isn’t enough space, but we will be picking specific files to be backed up that will fit in the 2GB VHD.

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Here is where you’ll want to select Let me choose…

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Now you can go through and select the files and folders you want to backup. In this example we’re only backing up a few documents, well under the 2GB size of the VHD. Uncheck Include a system image of drives before continuing on, as you should’ve already created one.

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You can schedule the backup to run on a regular schedule if you want.

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After you have everything selected, review your backup settings and click Save settings and run backup.

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The backup kicks off and you’ll get a progress bar while it takes place.

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After the backup is finished you can go into your VHD and check out the files you’ve backed up.

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Then you can just drag the files out of the VHD or double-click on the Windows Backup and Restore icon to restore them.

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The ability to use VHDs is just another tool in for your backup strategy. The other cool thing is you can copy the VHD file to other locations. For instance a network share, external HD, thumb drive, use in a VM…etc. You definitely shouldn’t use this as your only  backup strategy by any means, there are a lot of better backup methods out there, but it’s geeky, cool, and sometimes can be handy.

Speaking of VHDs, if you want to turn a physical drive into a VM, check out our article on Disk2vhd.

Brian Burgess worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. He's been a tech blogger and journalist for the past seven years, and can be found on his about me page or Google+