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Does anyone know a Windows program that can mount disk images and emulate a physical USB hard drive, including properties like the serial number?

I already found software to emulate CDs and DVDs like Daemon Tools, but that's not for emulating hard drives. Other hard drive mounting tools (like Windows' own VHD system) don't emulate the original drives properties.

Explanation:

I have a USB hard drive with a database of texts on it, that can be viewed and searched through with a special Windows program. The program uses the serial number (or some other property) of the hard drive as license key.

To use the software on the road, it would be nice to make a copy of the drives contents on the notebooks internal hard drive and use that copy instead of the original physical hard drive. To make this work with the license check of the software, the physical hard drive should be emulated, including properties like the serial number.

  • 2
    it would be good to know what this special windows program is, maybe there are other ways to solve your problem. otherwise your question is likely be closed of being too localized. – Baarn Feb 19 '12 at 17:19
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IMDISK, a freeware tool from LTR Data, should do what you want it to. It can mount raw hard drive images, including VHD files, and images in many other formats. You can choose how to mount your image, whether as a standard hard drive, a floppy, an optical drive, or a removable storage device.

(I assume you're referring to the volume serial number, and that the software isn't doing something crazy like using a WMI query to obtain the firmware serial number of the USB device.)

  • Thanks! I'll try and see whether it works. The question is from a few months ago so I don't fully remember what the original problem was; it might be that I did mean the firmware serial number. I'll post an update after I've tried! – Jonathan Jul 20 '12 at 8:28
  • @Jonathan, did you ever get the tool to work for you? I'm dealing with an application that can only export results to removable storage devices, and I don't have any such devices on hand. I do however have a large disk I'd like to emulate one of its folders as being a USB device or something of the sort. – jxramos Sep 26 '16 at 22:20
  • @jxramos Undortunately I did not. Good luck, I hope you are able to solve your problem! – Jonathan Sep 27 '16 at 5:16
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Claudio, you forgot to mention:

  1. Create the VHD/VHDX files
  2. Use VirtualBOX
  3. Use such disks
  4. Run a Windows Guest
  5. RAID them with disk managment
  6. Use them perfectly on the Guest

But do not try to mount them on the HOST... Windows will not let you, as soonas it see it is a Dynamic (not Basic) it refuses to let you use it... windows disk managment sees the VHD/VHDX mounted, also DiskPart, but no me can you do with them except detach them.

Of course, if you use VHD / VHDX files on VirtualBOX, they can be stripped or mirrored inside the guest, car reside on compressed NTFS folder or inside compressed and/or encrypted containers like Pismo File Mount, etc... but if you want Disk Mangment to let you access them, they must be on a non compressed, non encrypted media with direct low level linear access (like Linux loop needs)... i could not try to force them to be fragmented and see what happens.

I am with you, but i also think that M$ really sucks when applying such limitations for aparent no reason!

Worst... i put a demostration: VHD / VHDX can be Dynamic using only Windows software (and VirtualBOX)... VirtualBOX is acting as a layer to lie to windows and make windows (the guest) think they are normal internal SATA disks and not VHD / VHDX files... Why windows do not lie to itself (on host) and do the same?

Hope one day no one will use Windows anymore... then we will see such things not be done anymore!

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It does not emulate anything, it only mounts files with a mount point.

I am looking for something similar but opposite... simulate an internal hard drive (please do not confuse with hard disk), not an USB one.

Who asked the question (and I) want a full hard disk emulation, so it is called a hard drive emulator... not hard disk... the difference is very important.

While hard disk emulators can emulate the MBR/GPT structure (not all I must admit, some only emulate a partition), they do not emulate the hard drive part, and so Windows Disk Management does not see it as a hard drive, worst it is not even shown as any kind, not shown at all.

On the other part hard drive emulators do a full disk emulation, so Windows can not difference it from a physical one, it is shown on Windows Disk Management (normally as if it were internal).

I must admit most tools (paid ones) I tested that really emulate a hard drive, emulate an internal iSCSI, not a SATA/IDE, etc... but I could not find any that emulate a USB one.

I neither found any internal hard disk emulator (freeware) that works well, nor paid ones works perfectly well... most detectable when you try to emulate a SSD disk with some USB sticks...

Sample idea:

  • Put a file on each USB stick (2x, 3x, 4x, ... identical ones)
  • Such file must emulate an Internal Hard Drive (partitionable, seen as internal fixed hard disk by Windows disk Management, etc.)
  • Now where most fail... convert such virtual hard disks to Dynamic
  • Now where all I tested failed miserably... do Windows RAID equivalent
  • Not yet got to this point... use it for ReadyBoost

Why:

  • ReadyBoost does not use concurrently all USB sticks (not like a RAID0), it uses them in sequence, like a BIG RAID (concatenation)... till one is not full it does not use the rest... losing a lot of speed and I/O operation(s).

Solution I can give to the one that asks:

  • Use any old HDD inside a really cheap USB enclosure for 2.5" or 3.5" HDDs (depending on the disk)

If you have one old HDD somewhere in a closet, etc... use it... USB 2.0 enclosures are really cheap (<10$ and without shipping and taxes).

But for what I want it is really harder... yes, I know about Removable Bit on USB sticks... the ones I want can not be flipped... hard-coded in read-only firmware (not flashable)... and Windows is 64-bit, so replacing driver is really ugly, not signed drivers cannot be used... among each reboot must do things and reboot again (activate the accept non-signed drivers on the next reboot), really horrible (it is only for next reboot, after that the system goes to normal and does not accept them anymore till reactivation of sush and reboot) for having ReadyBoost 3x speeded up... not to mention I also do not know if it is even possible to use dynamic disk for ReadyBoost... or I would need both... emulate internal and then emulate USB stick over RAIDed internal emulated ones, etc... too complex.

As I said, your solution could be:

  • Buy a cheap (<10$) USB enclosure and use an old drive

Mine? Really hard! And the final objective is maybe impossible!

P.S.: VHD /VHDX can not be Dynamic... I also tested that! And Windows Storage Spaces refuses to use any <4GiB drive! Why M$ is knocking our asses so much with such stupid limitations... on Linux and other OS there are no one of them, VHD can be dynamic, you can RAID whatever size you want (I'm not sure if under 512 bytes is possible, but I tested to RAID0 1024 files of 512 bytes and it worked... without any filesystem on it of course... it was only 512KiB and only a proof of concept).

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