How to Retrieve Data Files From a Microsoft Disk Image
This post is specific to Windows 7. I can’t guarantee it will work in later versions.
A couple weeks ago my laptop hard drive decided to take a vacation. I can’t guarantee the hard drive was actually bad, or if it was something else in the operating system. All I know is I couldn’t couldn’t get past the blue screens on startup. The blue screen error code indicated a disk problem, but who knows?
Fortunately, I knew the laptop was acting kinda funny (not ha-ha funny) a couple days before it finally failed. So, I performed a “check disk” and then saved a complete disk image to an external hard drive. Whew!
Right now I am on a loaner laptop until my laptop is either fixed or replaced. It is the biggest pain in the ass because none – and I mean NONE – of my stuff is readily available to me. Sure, I can use the browsers and other tools, but it’s just not the same.
I needed a way to extract specific files and documents from my backup. I connected the external drive, went into the save/restore options in Windows, and discovered – Microsoft wants to replace the entire current disk image with whatever is in the backup. I was warned, but I didn’t read the fine print.
Oops. And… crap.
At first I thought I was out of luck, and I’d have to wait until my laptop came back. After all, this is a loaner laptop, and replacing the current contents with my stuff would be… well, rather rude.
After checking around a bit, I found the following answer. It’s actually really easy, and solved the problem quite well.
First, attach you external hard drive. Go to the start menu, and in the search box type in ‘disk management’. As you type, different results will appear. What you want is the “Create and format hard disk algorithms”, as in the following image.
I know it sounds kinda scary (with that word format in there, but it’s safe. I promise.
Once launched, you’ll see something like the following screen.
In the Disk Management toolbar, click on Action. In the drop down menu, click on Attach VHD.
A window will pop up to select the external hard disk location. Click Browse and then select the hard drive location in the window. In my case, I clicked on drive (E:)
Browse the external hard drive until you get to the backup folder and the disk image file. I selected the middle file because that was the original operating system image. The largest file is documents and such, and the smallest file is the original recovery partition. Click Open and then click OK in the Attach Virtual Hard Disk window.
An Autoplay window will pop up asking you what to do next. Click on “Open folder to view files”. This will open a Windows Explorer and allow you to do anything you would with a normal drive – browse, copy, paste, etc.
When the disk is attached, I see a new drive called Windows7_OS assigned to drive (G:). You will be able to use the virtual hard drive as a normal drive as long as it’s attached.
Pretty easy, huh?
Until next time.