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I would like to install Windows XP, perform all updates and patches, install all my software and make an image of this setup. I would further like to be able to make copies of this image and create different configurations in each of the images. Finally I would like to be able to switch between these images fluidly.

The reason for this sort of setup is a software development environment where I need to test under different system setups. I had originally thought to use VirtualBox to achieve this, but it isn't compatible with all the hardware I'm using.

I was looking at something like sysprep, but I don't know if it's going to do what I want it to do.

Alternately, how can I dual boot multiple copies of Windows XP with itself (on separate partitions)?

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Can you explain the hardware limitations for VirtualBox? Other virtualizeation platforms may address – Dave M Aug 30 '11 at 20:02
The machine uses non-standard communication cards that don't have drivers, but are controlled directly by kernel mode software running on XP embedded. VirtualBox and the kernel mode software don't work well together. – Stephen Aug 30 '11 at 20:27
up vote 1 down vote accepted

We've got a test platform like this at work. It's got a grub loader and a script file that copies a user selected configuration into a working partition at every bootup.

This is probably the best configuration for hardware driver developers, since the introduction of a virtualization layer is actually a hinderance to testing.

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You could certainly dual-boot your machine, however I would try out VMware Workstation if you are on Windows, or VMware Fusion if you're on a Mac. You can get 30 day trial to see if it works out for you. (Not a sales pitch, this is just what I have used. Please feel free to explore whatever vendor you like).

What is nice about using virtualization is the ability to clone "Virtual Machines" rather than mess with re-configuring hard drives.

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+1 Check out latest VMware Player as well Free to use last I checked. – Dave M Aug 30 '11 at 20:03

Without using a Virtual Machine you'll need to dual (multi?) boot. This won't be "fluid" as you'll need to restart the PC and start a different OS at boot.

Using sysprep will put your OS into a state where it will be able to be captured by WDS so that you can deploy that image to multiple machines. You could in theory go to the effort of deploying that image to multiple partitions on your PC and customize it as you need, but it would be way to much work in my opinion, you'd be better to just do multiple XP installs off of your install media.

You can dual boot multiple copies of the same OS (it's just like any other dual boot situation), like I said above though you will need to restart your PC when you want to boot into a different one.

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