Virtual hard drives: The IT pro trick that lets you back up your data for free

Once you finally start backing up your data (like you’ve been told to over, and over again), consider using a virtual hard drive (VHD). VHDs have been used by IT professionals for years in virtual machines and server applications, but you can also use them as a free, easy-to-use backup format—especially since the tools required to use it come with Windows

A VHD is a large container file that simulates the file structure of a hard drive. Think of it as a fancy ZIP file, but without the compression. Because VHDs are single files, they make handling and replicating your backups a cinch. They also allow for easy restores (more on that in a bit), and cross-application/platform compatibility. A VHD file sits on the hard drive like any other file, however, so be sure you have enough space to accommodate it.

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