A listing of the contents of Hyper-V's default VHD directory

My first steps on managing Hyper-V through PowerShell

I’ve dodged Linux for way too long, but let’s face it: Linux’s kernel and it’s derivatives have won the war over Windows everywhere but the desktop (and laptop).

And while I have been dabbling with Ubuntu over WSL for over a year now, the reality is the current version of WSL has some serious limitations. Good thing is WSL 2 is on it’s way with support for a “real” Linux kernel in it.

Unfortunately, WSL 2 is still in preview so a couple of months ago when I’ve decided to up my game on Linux and it’s different distros, I choose to do so running VMs on top of Windows 10 1809’s Hyper-V.

So I’m back to fiddling with virtual machines after several years of basically ignoring them. Back then, I had a quite elaborate setup that allowed me to spin up multiple VMs at once on a laptop. I remember using differential disks heavily to conserve disk space on the host’s hard drive. For some reason I really don’t recall now, the VM’s configuration files and VHDs where stored at non-default locations. Maybe they were being copied to different hosts, which had different defaults.

Well, my current usage of virtual machines doesn’t justify the use of differential disks and I’m not moving those VMs around so, as a long time K.I.S.S. proponent, I’m sticking to the defaults for the time being.

During the first couple of days playing around, I had setup a handful of VMs using Hyper-V Manager, but that is kind of tedious and error-prone, so again, in the spirit of “Always Be Automating”, I started using PowerShell where possible so I could learn the commands and eventually codify the tasks involved in a script.

So here are the guest virtual machines I had setup:

PS C:\WINDOWS\system32> Get-VM | Select-Object Name
 Windows 10 dev environment

Unfortunately, all those virtual machines came at the cost of helping to exhaust the free space on the host’s local hard drive.

PS C:\Users> Get-PSDrive -PSProvider FileSystem
 Name           Used (GB)     Free (GB) Provider      Root
 ----           ---------     --------- --------      ----
 C                 879.83         36.93 FileSystem    C:\
 D                                      FileSystem    D:\
 E                                      FileSystem    E:\

To get a sense of how much space those VMs are taking, let’s take a look at the disks being used by them.

Just so I can save some typing, I’m going to be using some variables here and there.

First, I get the path to the directory where the virtual hard drives are located.

$vhdPath = (Get-VMHost).VirtualHardDiskPath

Then I get a collection of objects representing the files contained in there. Since I’m only interested in the files names and their sizes, I’ll be leaving out the other properties.

$files = Get-ChildItem $vhdPath | Select-Object Name, Length | Sort-Object Length -Descending
Contents of the files variable
Get-ChildItem $vhdPath | Select-Object Name, Length | Sort-Object Length -Descending

There are a handful of relatively smaller files containing GUIDs in their names. Those files are Hyper-V checkpoints and enable us to go back to the point in time when those snapshots were made.

Here’s how we list the checkpoints available on the current host.

Get-VM | Get-VMSnapshot | Select-Object VMName, Name
List of checkpoints for the virtual machines contained on current Hyper-V host
Get-VM | Get-VMSnapshot | Select-Object VMName, Name

Since I really don’t need those checkpoints right now, and they are making it hard to see what’s going on, I’ll be removing and merging them into their main VHDs.

But before that, let’s take note of the total number of files and how much disk space they consume.

PS C:\WINDOWS\system32> $baseline = $files | Measure-Object -Sum Length | Select-Object Count, Sum
 PS C:\WINDOWS\system32> $baseline
 Count         Sum
 -----         ---
    13 86536880128

To remove and merge the checkpoints of each VM:

Get-VM | Remove-VMSnapshot

An important note: Remove-VMSnapshot seems to be executed asynchronously and will return before removing the file so you want to be careful if you’re immediately subsequently issuing commands that depend on those files being deleted.

To check out the result of removing those checkpoints, we basically repeat the commands issued previously.

PS C:\WINDOWS\system32> $files = Get-ChildItem $vhdPath | Select-Object Name, Length | Sort-Object Length -Descending
 PS C:\WINDOWS\system32> $files
 Name                                 Length
 ----                                 ------
 Windows 10 dev environment.vhdx 39195770880
 Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS (1).vhdx     10661920768
 New Virtual Machine (2).vhdx     8728346624
 New Virtual Machine.vhdx         5943328768
 CentoOS20190725.vhdx             5540675584
 Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS.vhdx          4756340736
 Ubuntu Server 18.04.vhdx         3762290688
 New Virtual Machine (1).vhdx        4194304
 PS C:\WINDOWS\system32> $current = $files | Measure-Object -Sum Length | Select-Object Count, Sum
 PS C:\WINDOWS\system32> $current
 Count         Sum
 -----         ---
     8 78592868352
PS C:\WINDOWS\system32> $baseline.Count - $current.Count
PS C:\WINDOWS\system32> $baseline.Sum - $current.Sum

As can be seen, five checkpoints were removed resulting in saving a little over 7GB. It isn’t that much, but at least looking at the remaining files, it’s easier to see that there are two more virtual disks than virtual machines. Given those virtual machines are configured with only one virtual hard disk each, there are two orphaned virtual hard drives that should probably be deleted.

As I’m sticking to Hyper-V’s defaults and checkpoints already have been removed, deleting those orphaned virtual disks is quite easy: First you get a list containing each virtual disk attached to a virtual machine. Then you enumerate the files in the host’s default virtual hard disk directory and remove those that aren’t on the list.

 PS C:\WINDOWS\system32> $rootedVHDs = (Get-VM).HardDrives.Path

 PS C:\WINDOWS\system32> (Get-VMHost).VirtualHardDiskPath | Where-Object { $_.FullName -notin $rootedVHDs } | Remove-Item

Published by

Alfred Myers

I have been interested in computers since I got my hands on a magazine about digital electronics back in 1983 and programming them has been paying the bills since 1991. Having focused on Microsoft-centric technology stacks for the best part of two decades, in recent years I’ve been educating myself on open source technologies such as Linux, networking and the open web platform.

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