What would you boot if you had 2 laptop drives and 350GB?

a.k.a.

New Member
#1
Ahem.

O great Guru and co.! :grinning:

No I really mean that. Everyone here has lucked out and spotted EasyBCD amidst all of the stories of people pulling their hair out over Vista's bad boot sector manners. You might even have spotted that great post on an anonymous blog telling us that you'd been involved with VistaBootPro, but decided to outdo them. AND some favorable reviews saying that VistaBootPro couldn't hack a few simple multiboot scenarios, whereas EasyBCD was the real 'pro.' Wow. Thanks for making life so much simpler!

The reason for this post is to elicit suggestions about multiboot configurations to attempt. Actually, the point is to narrow down the options. You can get visions of n+1 partitions dancing in your head :??, when the real concern should be what OSes and partition scenarios will EasyBCD keep the most stable? It would be great to hear anyone weigh in.

The platform I'm working with is a Core2Duo laptop, with one 250GB SATA drive and a swappable 100GB SATA drive. (Yeah, a ThinkPad.) A TechNet membership will come in handy here. Most MS and Linux OSes could be part of the configuration on this laptop, but OS X Leopard can be purchased somewhere down the line. Below are the considerations and options. Across the two drives, where would place the different OSes and apps/files/swap partitions, how would you size them, and how would you install them so that EasyBCD really works its magic? It may be worth restating the obvious: if the whole approach begins to sound iffy, you can create some empty partitions now, without actually doing the OS installations until much later, so go crazy with your vision of how to configure these drives!

So, regarding the storage capacity of these drives...

1. Backup drive image space can be outsourced to external 3.5" drives.

2. Obviously, a fair amount of room has to be reserved for Windows apps, files (15GB+) and virtualizations, and a mutually-intelligible file-swap partition (FAT32).

Regarding the OSes for these drives...

3. Maybe you'd want to consider both a 0.5GB Windows RE partition and a 1.5GB BitLocker partition upfront. How well does EasyBCD do with an F8 environment like Windows RE, and an MBR sentry like BitLocker? Also, it's preferable to have Windows RE outside of BitLocker, so that you can launch Complete PC from Windows RE in a pinch, but what's still fuzzy about this is (a) whether WinRE comes before BitLocker or after, (b) whether either or both need to be active partitions, and (c) whether BitLocker needs to be installed on both drives, if you do put OSes on both drives. With Vista SP1 BitLocker will be able to encrypt "any volume," but it's not clear to me whether BitLocker still may need to go on both drives if you're goofing around with the boot priority of the drives from time to time.

4. It would be nice to have a small, fast-booting and fast-shutdown Linux distro -- either FaunOS, ArchLinux, or Elive -- for purposes of impromptu notetaking. The urgency of that installation has been wearing off for me, now that it appears that the LightScribe pen is coming out, which will be about as instant-on as you can get if you want notetaking.

5. Ideally, the intent is to make Windows Server 2008 x64 and Vista x64 SP1 the mainstays, and possibly use Vista x86 as backup. (Hunch here is that Vista x86 would play better with the current generation x64 OSes than XP would.) Room enough for restore points is important.

6. There should be two 'scratch' partitions of indeterminate size available for up to two rotating, experimental OSes -- to include at least one full Linux distro, and possibly an OS X installation.

7. Even with RAM capped at 4GB, it would be nice to have room enough for virtualization platforms too. It's not clear to me whether there's more flexibility gained by putting the platforms on their own partition, on which virtual machines can be built, or whether the apps should reside on the host OS partitions, with virtual machines built on the above 'scratch' partitions.

All of this is a lot to cram into 350GB, so your opinions are all welcome. Just don't front on anybody's distro, yo. :wink:

Also, if you have advice about what other forums would likely have some good advice in response to this sort of thread, it would be great to hear those pointers too.

Cheers!
a.k.a.
 

Mak 2.0

Mod...WAFFLES!?!?
Staff member
#2
1. Backup drive image space can be outsourced to external 3.5" drives.

2. Obviously, a fair amount of room has to be reserved for Windows apps, files (15GB+) and virtualizations, and a mutually-intelligible file-swap partition (FAT32).

Regarding the OSes for these drives...

3. Maybe you'd want to consider both a 0.5GB Windows RE partition and a 1.5GB BitLocker partition upfront. How well does EasyBCD do with an F8 environment like Windows RE, and an MBR sentry like BitLocker? Also, it's preferable to have Windows RE outside of BitLocker, so that you can launch Complete PC from Windows RE in a pinch, but what's still fuzzy about this is (a) whether WinRE comes before BitLocker or after, (b) whether either or both need to be active partitions, and (c) whether BitLocker needs to be installed on both drives, if you do put OSes on both drives. With Vista SP1 BitLocker will be able to encrypt "any volume," but it's not clear to me whether BitLocker still may need to go on both drives if you're goofing around with the boot priority of the drives from time to time.

4. It would be nice to have a small, fast-booting and fast-shutdown Linux distro -- either FaunOS, ArchLinux, or Elive -- for purposes of impromptu notetaking. The urgency of that installation has been wearing off for me, now that it appears that the LightScribe pen is coming out, which will be about as instant-on as you can get if you want notetaking.

5. Ideally, the intent is to make Windows Server 2008 x64 and Vista x64 SP1 the mainstays, and possibly use Vista x86 as backup. (Hunch here is that Vista x86 would play better with the current generation x64 OSes than XP would.) Room enough for restore points is important.

6. There should be two 'scratch' partitions of indeterminate size available for up to two rotating, experimental OSes -- to include at least one full Linux distro, and possibly an OS X installation.

7. Even with RAM capped at 4GB, it would be nice to have room enough for virtualization platforms too. It's not clear to me whether there's more flexibility gained by putting the platforms on their own partition, on which virtual machines can be built, or whether the apps should reside on the host OS partitions, with virtual machines built on the above 'scratch' partitions.

All of this is a lot to cram into 350GB, so your opinions are all welcome. Just don't front on anybody's distro, yo. :wink:

Also, if you have advice about what other forums would likely have some good advice in response to this sort of thread, it would be great to hear those pointers too.

Cheers!
a.k.a.
Okay lets get started here.

1.) that is good. Cause you will need some extra space.

2.) If you plan on using Vista at all 30GB is the bare minimum. That is only for the install. Now with apps you are talking about 30+GB a partition. Considering Windows must be put on a primary partition which can only be 3 of them on any HDD. Your Windows Installs will be limited by this.

3.) I woudl advise against BitLocker. The main reason is this. If you forget your password. This info is LOST forever. there is no recovery software out there nor is there a way to recover the BitLocker password. there are plenty of encryption applications out there that will be much better than this.

4.) The LightScribe Pen doesnt make sense to me. If it saves everything you write, then transfers it to the PC. Why not just put it on the PC in the first place? That would save you a whole lot of writing wouldnt it? As for Linux distros there are a few. DSL (Damn Small Linux) would probably be your best bet there.

5.) This should work. But if i am not mistaken Dual Booting with Vista erases all restore points. I know dual booting it with XP does. Just remember only 3 Primary partitions on a HDD. Which means only 3 Windows installs on a drive. Dont put all you chickens in 1 basket.

6.) Really your options here are only limited by your space.

7.) I would leave each OS on its own partition. VM (Virtual Machines) can be slow since they are a machine in a machine.

My first comment would obviously be why so many OS's? I mean i had a Quad boot and say that after a month it was pointless. I didnt use 2 of the 4 at all. Updating was a hassle. So really you have to ask youself is it worth it at all? I mean pick a OS that works and go with it.
 

mqudsi

Mostly Harmless
Staff member
#3
Hey a.k.a, welcome to NeoSmart Technologies!

First, a huge thanks for all those kind words - much appreciated :smile:

I have to say, I do understand you're liking to take advantage of all that space with a multi-boot; at one time I had a 9-OS setup myself.

I guess it all depends on what you want with the operating systems. At that time, I just wanted to try everything and dabble with every OS I could lay my hands on. This was during the Windows Vista beta, and I was formatting once or twice a week.

But after some time passed, I just needed fast, stable, and reliable operating systems that worked.... So my 9-boot became just 3: Vista, XP, and Linux. (Now XP, Server 2008, and Gutsy Gibbon).

So it all depends on what you're looking to do. Anything is possible, and EasyBCD will work equally well with most operating systems - the sky (and your hard drive) is the limit.

BTW - here's a tip: set aside a partition (say D:\) for programs. If you install the same program in multiple operating systems, save it over the existing files.

So like in Windows XP, install office to D:\Program Files\Office\
And again in Vista, install office to D:\Program Files\Office\

You'll save tons of space this way, since the files will not be created twice but they'll both run just fine since the correct registry settings have been created.
 

a.k.a.

New Member
#4
Hey, thanks very much for your generous feedback. :smile: There's obviously some stuff to follow up on in what you advised, so feel free to set this thread aside until you have a little time to reply. Also feel free to be brief.

Let me follow up on Machiavelli ... errr ... Makaveli213's advice first.

3) Ok, thanks. I needed someone to dissuade me from a BitLocker partition. Funny how security can create more risks than it controls sometimes. :wtf: I really don't need it, it's just the novelty of it -- want to understand how it's done, stay ahead of the curve, etc. Originally, given all the ballyhoo over BCD, I also had this idea that EFI was just around the corner, and that I should find a way to format my drives in GPT, but that looks like a non-starter....

4) This LightScribe fixation is just personal preference on my part. It actually makes some sense to me, because 1) I don't want to wrestle with my laptop when I'm just writing down a sticky's worth of info on the spur of the moment, and 2) I don't understand the appeal of the cramped keyboards of PDAs. It's just personal preference. Could be the LS will have its problems, but it looks pretty promising. And you could wear a pocket protector....

As to fast-booting distros, I was just about convinced DSL would be the obvious choice, too, but then realized there's a difference between portable and fast. Apparently DSL is actually fairly slow to boot -- it's based on Knoppix's hardware detection, which is stable, but not that efficient. Arch holds the record for boot time (12-20 secs), and its spawn, Faun, should be fast when installed on an HDD, and more user friendly. I've read that Elive is actually a speed king too.

5) You mean that Vista nukes its own restore points when it's multibooted? Or are you saying it wipes out restore points for the other OSes (like Longhorn)? EVEN though these are other NT6 generation OSes? Guess I missed that. I need to know more. Can you link me to info on that?

If true, guess it's part of MS' strategy of pushing people toward their virtualization software. It'll probably be another of those gaping "known issues" left totally unfixed.... :angry:

6) How much space would you leave for these 'scratch' partitions for experiments with other OSes? And is having an 'extended' partition or two with rotating OSes going to destabilize the way Server and Vista react to the EasyBCD settings?

7) Given just 4GB of RAM, what do you all consider good policy for allocating space to VMs? Just one partition, containing all the platforms (Virtual PC, VMWare, Qemu, etc.), with headroom for the virtualized OS being run? Or one partition for each platform (Virtual PC, VMWare, etc.) plus headroom? How much space total?

Guru, these are extremely helpful comments too...

9) About Longhorn -- For purposes of stability, would you put Longhorn as the primary OS, or should Vista be the primary? Do you find the Server release candidate to be stable? (I mean, are you running x64, and is its boot process identical to Vista's, for multibooting purposes?) The GUI is less slick, but do you find it has all the workstation functionality of Vista? If there's ever time to run games, Vista -- or XP -- would be a better performer, I gather. Or could x64 Server hold its own?

10) Besides virtualization, another reason to think of assigning Server to the primary postition is that Server could run a Gig Ethernet NAS box for the backups; the laptop could run the NAS backup, rather than run it from the lighter OS inside the NAS box. :brows: But I should probably ask: Can you get Gig speed from Direct Attached Storage, without an OS on the receiving end?

11) About your recommendation of an apps-only partition for the two Windows OSes: That sounds cool! Obviously this is the first time I've considered it worth installing two Windows OSes on the same machine, so I'd wondered about doing that. You're saying you install twice, while in one OS and then while in the other. You're effectively overwriting the files on the storage partition, but it allows the app to be integrated into the registry of both OSes. Right?

12) What would you put on the swappable drive? Is Windows going to freak if I install apps there that may not always be available? (Like the virtualization software.) Should it be just the 'alt' OSes that go on the swap drive -- the full Linux distros, OS X, etc?

I gotta admit, I'm having fun already!
a.k.a.

Addendum:

Guru, incidentally...

11) How do you go about un-installing shared apps? Do you uninstall in one OS, and then use a reg cleaner in the other? (Sounds kinda risky over the long haul, so name the reg cleaner you personally trust.) Or do you uninstall in the first OS, then boot into the second OS and INSTALL, so you have something there to fully uninstall....

a.k.a.
 
Last edited:

mqudsi

Mostly Harmless
Staff member
#5
5) No, only when you boot into a copy of Windows XP will your Vista and LH restore points be trashed. Booting into anything else is safe.

6) Recommended SWAP/Paging space is around 1.5 times your installed physical memory.

7) Depends on what you're running in a VM and what kind of tasks you're doing in there. The beauty of VMs is that they're extremely flexible - you can easily adjust these values until you find the combination of values that works for you.

9) Windows Server 2008 has an option called the "Desktop Experience Pack" which, when enabled, installs Aero, Photo Gallery, WMP, and most everything else that ships with Vista Ultimate. You can't even tell that isn't Vista by looking at it - except it runs faster, it's half the size (ISO and fully installed). It plays games too.

10) No idea - try it and see :smile:

11a) Yes
11b) Cleanest way is to uninstall in one OS, repair install then uninstall in the second.

12) Which swappable drive is this that we're talking about?
 

Mak 2.0

Mod...WAFFLES!?!?
Staff member
#6
9) Windows Server 2008 has an option called the "Desktop Experience Pack" which, when enabled, installs Aero, Photo Gallery, WMP, and most everything else that ships with Vista Ultimate. You can't even tell that isn't Vista by looking at it - except it runs faster, it's half the size (ISO and fully installed). It plays games too.
Really? I wonder if i should get this and try it out now. I mean if it runs faster than Vista that cant be a bad thing. Plus getting all the stuff from Ultimate. Just have to figure out if it plays games like Halo 2 which are supposed to be Vista only.
 

mqudsi

Mostly Harmless
Staff member
#7
Well, I played Bioshock on it - and that's supposed to be Vista only.
 

Mak 2.0

Mod...WAFFLES!?!?
Staff member
#8
Well i have the RC1 version downloading now. Will shrink my XP partition on install it see how it goes.
 

a.k.a.

New Member
#9
9) I'm right there too, Makaveli! :??

Well, CG, that was an easy sell. That's like Fred Thompson asking Alexander Butterfield, "Do you know happen to know if the President had any listening devices installed in the White House?" Some secrets are meant to leak. Later, Vista!

So where does Vista's bloat come from? :wtf:

12) What's the swappable drive? So, there are two drives available, 250GB and 100GB. The 100GB is in a ThinkPad swappable bay (which can be replaced by the DVD burner.) So the first question is, how much of a restriction does that place on what can be installed in that space? Say Windows is running on the 250GB, and you install some apps on that OS, but house them on the 100GB. Bad idea? Will Windows panic about what apps are actually installed or something? (It would be nice, for instance, to put the virtualization partitions on the swappable drive.) Should you not put any apps that you're installing for the primary OS on that swappable drive? Should it just be self-contained as far as OSes go, putting just 'alt' OSes there -- the full Linux distros, OS X, etc? I assume so, but am not up on Windows' behavior in that scenario. (Would Longhorn handle it well, perhaps?)

The final concern I have is that the EasyBCD wiki's entry on NeoGrub and on drive letters is a bit vague when discussing scenarios of more than one drive. If you have OS C & D on the internal drive, and OS E & F on the swappable drive, do you need to specify & align the boot order across all 4 OSes, or just the ones on the same drive? Any trick to changing the boot order, so that you can boot off the swappable from time to time?

...

Once those answers are clearer, it looks like this'll be pretty straightforward. :tongueout: All of this advice is very much appreciated. This has been a good discussion. Down the line, this thread might clear up some questions that other prospective multibooters are encountering.

Thanks a googleplex,
a.k.a.
 

Mak 2.0

Mod...WAFFLES!?!?
Staff member
#10
Vista's bloat come from the new coding. It isnt XP's coding it is new. the Kernel is updated and that is bloated as well. It is jsut a combination of things that add to the added bloat of Vista. That is why Window 7 is using the new Mini Me Kernel or whatever they are calling it. :lol:

Basically yes the 100GB is a swappable drive. It can be removed easily and replaced. I dont think Windows has to much of a issue where things are installed. There is more of a thing when it comes to the Registry than Location.

OS X itself has to be a primary and Active partition as well. So putting that on the Swappable drive might not be a good idea. But by the time you are ready for OS X you could be ready to remove a Windows version and put it where one of those are.

It seems you have some good ideas but again implementing these ideas will be harder than the concept of them. Because who knows how Windows will react to this situation once it is installed. :wink:
 
#11
Thanks, Makaveli.

For both of you, this was the only remaining issue from those raised above where some further clarification would really be very useful...

The final concern I have is that the EasyBCD wiki's entry on NeoGrub and on drive letters is a bit vague when discussing scenarios of more than one drive. If you have OS C & D on the internal drive, and OS E & F on the swappable drive, do you need to specify & align the boot order across all 4 OSes, or just the ones on the same drive? Any trick to changing the boot order, so that you can boot off the swappable from time to time?
Thanks for all of your help these past couple of days. :smile:

a.k.a.
 

Mak 2.0

Mod...WAFFLES!?!?
Staff member
#12
That one will have to be answered by Guru. He knows about the NeoGRUB more than me. But i would figure they would have to be align in some kind of order. I mean it would only make sense. But at the same tiem i had PCLinuxOS isntalled on a partition before Ubuntu and after install Ubuntu that GRUB took primary over the PCLOS one. Even though in order of them would say otherwise.
 

mqudsi

Mostly Harmless
Staff member
#13
The "trick" is to create a blank file with a unique name on each.
Then use NeoGrub's `find --set-root` command to tell it to use that drive:

Code:
find --set-root /unique-file-on-swappable-partition-a
do something
That way, it doesn't matter what the actual order is, you'll always be referencing the right drive.
 
#14
Excellent. I'll give this a shot in the next day or two and will let you know how it goes. All youe help is MUCH appreciated.

a.k.a.
 

Mak 2.0

Mod...WAFFLES!?!?
Staff member
#15
That is what we are here for! :grinning: