VHD Set feature in Microsoft Windows Server 2016

Published: October 2016

VHD Set feature has been introduced in Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 2.

VHD Set is a further development and improvement of well-known Shared VHDX feature:

  • same logic and architecture as Shared VHDX
  • ability to:
    • perform a host-based backup or replication of VHD Set
    • resize the VHD Set on-fly
    • migrate VHD Set
    • create .vhdx snapshots (not confirmed)
  • consists of two files: .vhds and .avhdx
    • .vhds is a configuration file that contains metadata, and is used for maintaining simultaneous access to the disk from multiple cluster nodes.
    • .avhdx (“automatic .vhdx”) is an actual virtual disk where the data resides. It can be fixed or dynamic.
The main purpose of VHD Set feature is to share the virtual disk between multiple virtual machines. VHD Set becomes useful in deployment of guest clusters for SQL Server FCI, File Servers and other services where the shared storage is required.


Like most of the cluster-oriented solutions, the major requirement of the VHD Set feature is shared storage. Microsoft has released its already well-known software defined solution called Storage Spaces Direct that can be deployed to configure a highly-available storage pool shared between the multiple hosts.

Storage Spaces Direct is a great solution for achieving the desired goal. However, Storage Spaces Direct requires all servers to be deployed with Windows Server 2016 Datacenter Edition licenses, which may turn into concern for small-businesses or enthusiasts who are just starting their hyper-converged journey.


StarWind Virtual SAN is used to create a highly-available shared storage pool using 2 physical servers.

2x Windows Server 2016 hosts

The steps below assume that you have already deployed and configured Failover Cluster on top of StarWind Virtual SAN storage according to this guidance:

VHD Set deployment process

Step 1: Creating the VHD Set virtual disks
Step 2: Creating guest virtual machines
Step 3: Deploying the guest Failover Cluster
Step 4: Configuring storage for the guest Failover Cluster
Step 5: Testing VHD Set

Microsoft VHD Set feature with StarWind Virtual SAN as a shared storage provider is an alternative solution for those who do not want to pay extra for Windows Server Datacenter licenses and proprietary hardware.

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