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  • Multibooting Windows

    OK, wasn't sure where to put this, so if one of you admin types wants to move it, feel free.

    I have been tasked with creating an image (or images) of a multi-booted PC with several different versions of Windows on it. I've read enough to know that I'd prefer using a third-party boot loader over Microsoft's version, which will help to isolate each OS. However, I am still new to this and the vast majority of things I find on Google have to do with dual-booting 7 and 8 or the information is fairly old. Can anyone point me to a how-to guide or two and maybe share some of their favorite boot loaders and partition makers?

    Actually, one of those older pieces I found has been quite helpful in understanding the boot process, so if anyone's interested in the subject, check out the following: http://www.goodells.net/multiboot/. It doesn't get into specifics, but it's a great jumping-off point.

  • #2
    Re: Multibooting Windows

    From a windows perspective its best to install oldest OS first then newest, the newer boot loaders are aware of the older os's but not the other way around.
    Please remember to award reputation points if you have received good advice.
    I do tend to think 'outside the box' so others may not always share the same views.

    MCITP -W7,
    MCSA+Messaging, CCENT, ICND2 slowly getting around to.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Multibooting Windows

      Yeah, I'm trying to do it the not-Windows way, as that seems to isolate the OS's better. The Windows way changes the boot partition of each install, while third-party boot loaders make an alteration only to the MBR. However, I've only ever used FDISK to partition drives and never used any boot loaders other than Windows, so was hoping someone would know of a good step-by-step to get me through. Your comment is greatly appreciated, though!

      I'm also wondering if multibooting is even necessary anymore. It seems the only real difference between a Windows session on a physical box and a virtual Windows session is the assignment of specific hardware. I do software testing and am wondering if there's really a point to running several OS's one-by-one on a physical box as opposed to having an ESX server host a few VMs. The lack of updated information available on the web makes me think multibooting might be irrelevant. Any thoughts on this?

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      • #4
        Re: Multibooting Windows

        you can use grub to do it. just partition the disk into say 3 partitions, then use grub to modify the mbr to chainload the various installs.

        now, windows will still 'see' the other partitions even like this. windows will assign the drive letters to whatever partitions are available.

        you stated that you do have virtual experience... have you considered making all the instances of windows as virtual installs and running them virtually? you can do this all windows... and then the vbox is only going to 'see' whatever virtual disk is assigned to it.

        also, consider reading this:
        Install more than one operating system (multiboot)
        its easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission.
        Give karma where karma is due...

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        • #5
          Re: Multibooting Windows

          I would just install vmware workstation and run the OS'S from there, you can choose what you want to start and if you have enough resources you can run them all at once. The computers hardware needs to support it, intel-vt amd-v, ideally ssd's and plenty of ram.
          If you are doing testing then with hyperv and vmware you can snapshot before making changes.
          Windows 8 pro/ent comes with hyper-v as a feature.
          If you have a spare server then vmware hypervisor is free but with no features
          and hyperv comes with windows server 2008r2 and 2012, so you could go down that route also.
          Please remember to award reputation points if you have received good advice.
          I do tend to think 'outside the box' so others may not always share the same views.

          MCITP -W7,
          MCSA+Messaging, CCENT, ICND2 slowly getting around to.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Multibooting Windows

            Have you considered simply loading the extra operating systems in Client Hyper-V on Windows 8 Professional or Enterprise? That way you get the performance of a Type 1 hypervisor without adding overhead to your primary operating system environment and you can still switch between the applications without having to reboot the system or you can even run them simultaneously. The primary argument against this would be if the applications require significant hardware resources, like visually demanding applications for engineering or design. In most cases though, Hyper-V represents the ultimate solution.

            I am not sure what you mean by “better isolation of the environments”. The Windows boot loader operates the same as any other boot loader in that it points to the operating systems to be booted and the operating system takes over from there. The Windows 8 boot loader even has a graphical interface and mouse support. If you do end up going multiboot, be sure to provision the drive first with a system partition and if applicable, UEFI partition. You can see partitioning requirements and examples here on TechNet.

            You might also want to watch the Client Hyper-V and Why It Matters video here.

            Brandon
            Windows Outreach Team- IT Pro
            The Springboard Series on TechNet

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            • #7
              Re: Multibooting Windows

              Well, by "better isolation", I mean that no matter which OS you boot into, you're always on the C: drive and you can't see the other installations. However, I have had to scrap this idea, as I couldn't find a reliable third-party boot manager that could handle both desktop and server editions of all Windows OS's since XP Home. I would much rather spend my time setting up an ESX server and loading all these in VMs, but bossman says we need to most closely recreate the conditions in which our software is being used, so he wants physical boxes.

              It's not easy finding up-to-date information on this. I was led to believe that you couldn't boot more than 4 Windows OS's on one drive using their MBR, but apparently it's counting all the logical partitions within the extended partition as primaries. I am loading my 7th pre-Vista OS on this box without using any outside tools. Once I load Vista, I'll throw EasyBCD on it and finish it that way. None of the partitions will be hidden, so only one will load as drive C:, and you can see all the other partitions while in Windows, but it accomplishes my goal.

              Thanks for all the advice, fellas, but it looks like I'll be doing it the "Windows Way" after all.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Multibooting Windows

                You could try TrueCrypt and create hidden partitions. I'm not sure if there's a limit but you can create at least two different volumes and the one you boot into is determined by the key you enter. It's not really designed for this application (it for hiding your true OS) but if you can do multiple then it would provide true isolation between OSes.
                Regards,
                Jeremy

                Network Consultant/Engineer
                Baltimore - Washington area and beyond
                www.gma-cpa.com

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Multibooting Windows

                  I use both, actually. I use both VMware and Citrix for testing purposes, but they wanted a physical box to most closely mirror what our customers have. When our customers have a problem, we want to recreate it using as close to their setup as possible. While I really don't think it matters to our software whether it's on a physical box or virtual, it's what the boss wants.

                  Once I figured out what I was doing, though, it was fairly easy. I got 22 different Windows installations on there, from XP Home to Server 2012 R2. You can see the other installations in Windows Explorer, but it doesn't hinder functionality, so no biggie.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Multibooting Windows

                    Originally posted by Bertmax View Post
                    I use both, actually. I use both VMware and Citrix for testing purposes, but they wanted a physical box to most closely mirror what our customers have. When our customers have a problem, we want to recreate it using as close to their setup as possible. While I really don't think it matters to our software whether it's on a physical box or virtual, it's what the boss wants.

                    Once I figured out what I was doing, though, it was fairly easy. I got 22 different Windows installations on there, from XP Home to Server 2012 R2. You can see the other installations in Windows Explorer, but it doesn't hinder functionality, so no biggie.
                    Would you care to post your solution so as to help other users if they have the requirement to do this.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Multibooting Windows

                      Originally posted by wullieb1 View Post
                      Would you care to post your solution so as to help other users if they have the requirement to do this.
                      Certainly.

                      First thing I did was read this: http://www.goodells.net/multiboot/. Very good information at that link, even if it is dated. After trying out a few different tools, I went with using a UBCD for its Parted Magic and Clonezilla; all free.

                      I created 3 10 GB primary partitions and one extended partition, where all my logical partitions would go; all NTFS. You can either go ahead and plan out how much space you'll need for every installation, or carve up the disk as you go; it's all a matter of preference. Since we'll be doing it the Windows way, you'll be able to see all the partitions from within whichever Windows OS you boot to, so I only worried about making the partitions big enough to hold the system files and created a partition to be used as shared storage.

                      Now, on to the Windows installs. For those of you who've never dual-booted before, it's very easy when you use separate partitions. When you're done with the first install, load up your install media for the next one, boot to it and run Windows Setup like you would normally, only when it asks you where you want it to be installed, select an open partition/drive letter. When you reboot after the second install, you'll see a boot menu that allows you to choose which to boot into, giving you thirty seconds to make up your mind. If you don't pick, it'll just boot to the first one, but your default OS can be changed.

                      For the 3 primary partitions, I loaded XP Home, XP Pro x86 and XP Pro x64. The 64-bit OS's take up more space than the 32-bits, so I may have given that third partition a little more space, not sure. I would recommend holding off on the Windows Update until all installations are complete. If you screw up and have to start over, it'll save you time.

                      On to the extended partition! Next up we have Server 2003 x86 and x64, and Server 2003 R2 x86 and x64. Now, initially I understood that you could only boot from 4 primary partitions per hard drive, but I'm guessing the system sees the extended partition as a primary (or I was wrong in the first place), because at this point, I now have 7 options in my boot menu. Now comes the point where everything changes.

                      When you start loading Vista, install it as you did the others: boot from media, run Windows Setup and select an empty drive for installation. However, this time the boot menu will have changed. You'll be presented with 2 options: Windows Vista and Previous versions of Windows (or something to that effect). This is where we use our third-party application. I used EasyBCD. It's very easy to figure out, configure and use. You can separate those previous versions of Windows, select their order and choose a default boot partition.

                      Something else to notice after loading Vista: Vista is now the C: drive in Windows. Don't be alarmed, as it won't hinder anything, just that some OS's commandeer the C: drive designation for their own and re-order everything else around it when loading into Windows. You'll notice this in EasyBCD when you use it in different installations. Drive letters will be different from one OS to the next, but Windows keeps up with everything.

                      After Vista, it's pretty much just repeating the process over and over. Now, I'm not sure if it matters which order you install the rest of the OS's, I just installed them in order of release, 32-bit versions before 64-bit (don't think that matters either, I just like order). When you get to Windows 8, the boot menu will look vastly different, as it provides a GUI to it; this doesn't affect your ability to use EasyBCD. When all is said and done, you'll see the older text-based menu. I guess Server 2012 R2 didn't go for the fancy stuff.

                      Tools: EasyBCD. It can be installed and run on every version of Windows after Vista. Basically all it does is provide a user-friendly GUI to the boot manager. It recognizes at least 22 different Windows installations; some boot managers don't provide support for that many partitions, nor for server editions, but this one worked nicely.

                      There is also another tool I used which I'll have to edit in later; it was a co-worker's and he's not here so I can ask him what it's name is. However, it's a flash drive that's been configured to act as an offline Windows Updater. You use a MS tool to keep the flash drive updated, and it's pretty much worry-free. You configure it to reboot when it needs to, and it will reboot, log in and continue, as many times as it needs to get Windows up-to-date. If you have your boot order with USB before your hard drive, don't worry. There is a pass-thru mechanism that tells the PC to skip USB booting. A word of warning, though: for the older OS's, it's going to take a while to work, same with Windows Update on the web. Edit: OK, I thought it was a MS tool, but it isn't. It's called WSUS Offline Update.

                      Please feel free to ask me any questions, but I think this should cover it.
                      Last edited by Bertmax; 17th January 2014, 16:16.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Multibooting Windows

                        One more thing to add: while you can skip the Windows Update until the end, do load drivers as you go, if for no other reason than to know that you can. Luckily the computer I was using was a Dell, so it was easy to use the serial tag to look up the drivers I needed for each OS. Some of the drivers, such as the chipset, you'll use the same file for every OS. What I did was just set up a Drivers folder on the first install and put them all in there. Since you can see the other partitions inside Windows, you can access the same folder no matter which OS you're in. Alternatively, you could put the drivers folder on a shared storage partition.

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