How to open a VHD file

How to open a VHD file

If all you're compressing and sending are a few files or folders, then ZIP, RAR, TGZ, etc. files are probably great alternatives to smooth and fast transfers. But what happens when you want to transfer entire HDDs or SDDs? Are ZIP files going to cut it?

Fortunately, there's an excellent alternative to those massive files as well. They're called VHD files.

Follow along for everything you need to know about using the VHD file extension for simple HDD and SSD transferring.

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What is a VHD file extension?

VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) files are disk image formats that store a computer's entire hard drive. VHD files have several similarities with physical hard drives.

Almost anything a physical hard disk can do (create new disk sectors, run operating systems, etc.), a VHD file can do as well.

The critical difference is that the VHD file was made for VMs (Virtual Machines). This is because they thrive in virtual machine infrastructure, like Microsoft's Hyper-V.

When you place a VHD file in a virtual machine, you can access it from multiple devices, place it inside a USB flash drive, or allow others, such as your colleagues or bosses, to access it. Users can also access it using their chosen operating systems without interference from other users.

Imagine the hassle of always copying and pasting files using USB flash drives. Not only will it take time to copy individual files, but you'd also have to physically go to the other user's system to access the files or download them if they are being sent by email.

This hassle can be avoided using VHD files. VHD files allow swift replication. Large volumes of files can be replicated to another system in short periods.

Since multiple systems can access the same VHD file, collaborations or projects where two different teams work together become easier.

What are the types of VHD file formats?

There are three main formats for VHD files—the fixed virtual hard disk, the dynamic virtual hard disk, and the differencing virtual hard disk. Each has its advantages.

  • Much like its name suggests, the fixed virtual disk format allows an allotted amount of storage on a host machine. Although it does not offer as much storage as the other formats, this format supports faster processing speed and constant fragmentation.
  • The dynamic virtual disk format offers the most storage. While there are still limits to this format, the storage space starts small and grows as more files are added to the VHD. Its two main advantages are this format's massive storage and fast space allocation.
  • The differencing virtual hard disk format creates a copy of the existing VHD. Using this format, you get two VHD files, commonly called parent and child VHDs. When you have two VHDs, it is possible to create changes to one while preserving the other for an original copy.

How do I open a VHD file?

Several applications can open VHD files. However, if you want a safe and easy way, we stick with WinZip.

WinZip is a file compression and decompression software that can open several types of files like ZIP, RAR, etc. Of course, WinZip can also open your VHD files. Here's how:

  1. Save the VHD file to your Desktop for easier access. (It is usually saved in the Downloads folder.)
  2. Open WinZip. (If your system already has a file extension with WinZip, double-click the VHD file.)
  3. Click File and then Open to access the VHD file. How do I open a VHD file - step - 3
  4. Select all the files and folders in the compressed file.
  5. Choose which folder to place all the extracted files in.
  6. Click Unzip.

And just like that, WinZip extracts a massive amount of data ready to be accessed.

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How do I create a VHD file?

Depending on which software your laptop uses, creating a VHD file can be simple. Here's a step-by-step tutorial on how to create a VHD file on Windows.

  1. Open the Computer Management app. (If you have trouble finding it, type it in the search bar.)
  2. Click Disk Management. How do I create a VHD file - step - 2
  3. On the Actions tab, select Create VHD How do I create a VHD file - step - 3
  4. After the dialogue box appears, click Browse to indicate where you want to create your VHD file.
  5. Select the required fields and click OK. How do I create a VHD file - step - 5

With that, you have a VHD file that contains a copy of your complete storage drive.

How do I open a VHD file on Windows?

Although third-party apps like WinZip make opening VHD files easy, Windows' Computer Management app can also open a VHD file. So if you're hoping to create and access VHD files without the help of third-party apps, here's how.

  1. Open the Computer Management app. (If you have trouble finding it, type it in the search bar.)
  2. Click Disk Management. How do I open a VHD file on Windows - step - 2
  3. On the Actions tab, select Attach VHD. How do I open a VHD file on Windows - step - 3
  4. A dialog box should appear. Select Browse to choose where you want to place your VHD file. How do I open a VHD file on Windows - step - 4
  5. Select OK.

When you use WinZip and its file extensions, opening a VHD file doesn't require steps. All you have to do is double-click it.

Furthermore, WinZip can open several other file extensions to help make your life easier.

How do I open VHD files on Mac?

Mac users also recognize and make use of VHD files. Here's how you can open a VHD file on the Mac OS:

  1. Open Mac OS Finder.
  2. Find the VHD file and change its extension to .IMG.
  3. Double-click it to open it and mount it to your Mac.
  4. Once you're done, click the eject button next to your mounted image in the sidebar on Finder.
  5. Revert the file's extension to .VHD.

Alternatively, you can find apps on the Apple App Store that can open the VHD file without changing extensions. But if you want a reliable app to let you do that, why not try WinZip Mac for free?

Understanding the VHD file format

The VHD file format contains every aspect of a physical hard disk but virtually. These include disk partitions, files, folders, and a file system. They are so similar that a laptop or computer would read them the same way.

VHDs were primarily made for virtual machines (VMs)—a virtual computer inside an actual computer. Much like a real PC, a VM needs a hard drive. But since a VM doesn't have physical components, its storage is also virtual, hence the term virtual hard drive.

There are three primary types of VHDs: fixed, dynamic, and differencing. As mentioned, fixed VHDs occupy a fixed size on your physical storage drive. So, whether your VHD is empty or filled, it will consume the same space on your HDD or SSD.

On the other hand, dynamic VHDs adjust their size on your physical drive based on its contents. While differencing VHDs are like backups that allow you to change the original (or parent) VHD without affecting the differencing (or child) VHD.

Benefits of using VHD files

The most significant advantage to using VHD files over traditional disk partitions is how you can send VHD files online or bring them with you when they're inside a USB flash drive. This mobility makes the VHD file ideal when working with others or a group.

Other advantages include a smoother backup and restoration. You can easily access your data from another device if your laptop gets stolen or damaged.

Replication of files also becomes much faster. Rather than transferring files one by one or converting several to ZIP files and sending a bunch of ZIP files, sending a VHD file is the quicker alternative.

Finally, using VHD files saves you money because buying physical flash drives can be costly. When you buy one with storage ample enough to hold a whole SDD, it's bound to hurt your wallet.

VHD files, however, are virtually free and much easier to transport.

VHD files - frequently asked questions

VHD files - frequently asked questions

What is a VHD file format?

A VHD file format is the virtual version of a physical hard disk. It is mainly used to share, restore, and compress a computer's data into a virtual machine where you and others can access it with different devices and operating systems.

Can I convert a VHD file format to another format?

Yes. After extracting files from a VHD, you can use apps like WinZip to convert them into other file formats. However, it is advisable to use the differencing virtual hard disk format to preserve original copies of the VHD file.

Alternatively, you can convert a VHD file using WinZip. That way, users who aren't as tech-savvy as you can also open the files you share.

Are VHD files safe?

Like all file formats, VHD files can present risks. If you are unfamiliar with VHD files and need precautions, you can accidentally crash your Windows or worse. In addition, VHD ransomware is also a dangerous threat.

Take extra caution and ensure your VHD files are safe before presenting them to your system.

VHDs let you copy and share the contents of your computer

VHD files can save you time, effort, and money. With the ease of accessing data, it can make your work smoother and more productive.

However, like all things, there are advantages and disadvantages. Proper and safe use of VHD files is the key to enjoying their multiple benefits to your filing system.

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WinZip opens and extracts VHD Compressed Archive Files—and many more formats

We designed WinZip to open and extract from the widest range of file formats, including all of the following: