Idea: Image only setup (with shared data)

#1
Hello everyone. I just came to this forum but I have been doing multiboots since forever. I have been experimenting with Windows 8 in a VHD and am loving that. Now I am actually wondering if a setup like this would be possible:

Tiny partition at the beginning of the disk with the Windows Boot partition
The rest of the disk with a data partition that would contain just images that I can boot/install/backup/restore from would look something like this:
\DiskImages\Install\Win7.iso
\DiskImages\Install\Win8.iso
\DiskImages\Boot\Win7.vhd
\DiskImages\Boot\Win8.vhd
\DiskImages\Backup\Win7.wim
\DiskImages\Backup\Win8.wim
\DiskImages\Tools\EasyBCD
\DiskImages\Tools\GImageX
\AllMyOtherStuff

The tiny boot partition would normally not get any driveletter at all, and if it could be part of the big data partition that would be amazing
The big data partition with all the diskimages, tools and other shared data would become a C-drive normally
And 1 of the vhd's that is currently active would become the C-drive normally

Would it be possible to create this kind of setup where there is no "real" operating system at all? EasyBCD allows me to boot from VHD, ISO or even IMG very easily, but I always see references like this that seem to indicate that there should be at least 1 regular Windows partition with some EasyBCD Tools and winload. Would it be possible to do this without a regular Windows Partition, for example by moving these required parts to the tiny boot partition?

ISO:
Drive: C:\
Bootloader Path: \NST\AutoNeoGrub0.mbr

VHD:
Device: [D:]\DiskImages\Boot\Win8.vhd
Bootloader Path: \Windows\system32\winload.exe

WIM:
Device: [C:]\Recovery\4f6f425e-171c-11e1-bc29-9c4720705462\Winre.wim
Bootloader Path: \Windows\System32\Boot\winload.exe
 

mqudsi

Mostly Harmless
Staff member
#2
That's very much possible and a lot of people (myself included) have done *exactly* this, except on a removable hard disk (or USB stick).
You can do this by connecting a drive with a single partition as a removable disk to another PC, and using EasyBCD to create the boot files and boot menu on this drive. Then add the entries, disconnect, the drive, plug it back in to your main PC, and boot away.
 
#3
I am sorry, but I am not sure I fully understand how to do what you just wrote. I want to do this on my laptop harddrive. Are you telling me that I should
- put that laptop harddrive in a USB-enclosure
- connect it to a pc with Windows and EasyBCD on it
- do something similar to this with diskpart on that harddrive: clean, create 1 primary active partition, format, assign a drive-letter
- then use EasyBCD's "BCD Deployment-> Create Bootable External Media" feature to "Install BCD" to that drive
- then create my folderstructure on that drive, copy some Windows ISO's, create Boot Menu entries for those ISO's
- then put that drive back into my laptop, start an installation from one of the Windows ISO's, do the whole "Shift+F10, create VHD, mount VHD, install to VHD" routine

I was thinking more along the lines of:
- Keep the drive inside my laptop
- Start an installation from a CD until the Shift+F10 moment
- clean the drive, create 1 primary active partition, format, assign a drive-letter (D)
- then create my folderstructure on that drive, copy some Windows ISO's and my portable version of EasyBCD, create Boot Menu entries for those ISO's (not sure if it is possible to run EasyBCD at this stage)
- then put that drive back into my laptop, start an installation from one of the Windows ISO's, do the whole "Shift+F10, create VHD, mount VHD, install to VHD" routine

Anyway, my primary question is: Is it possible to have no real Windows folder (so no winload) but boot from VHD/ISO/WIM anyway?
My secondary question is: Is it possible to run EasyBCD at the Shift+F10 moment?
and my third question would be: Is it possible to install Windows from an ISO that you booted from (it complained to me in the past that there was "no CD-ROM driver" or something to that extend)

I would like to try this setup tomorrow night when I have a spare machine at my disposal. I hope somebody can answer my questions and/or can confirm the approach I wrote above.
 

Terry60

Knows where his towel is.
Staff member
#4
EasyBCD is a Windows .NET app, so it will need a functioning Windows with a .NET 2.0 SP1 environment (or compatible) to run.
 

mqudsi

Mostly Harmless
Staff member
#5
OK, install Windows, use EasyBCD to do all that, then delete your Windows.