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I'm comfortable installing OS's, but I've never done much with multiboot. I want to test some software that I'm writing against multiple OS's, but VM isn't a great option, as my software uses USB devices which has caused some problems in the VM.

I have been using Windows Home Server (WHS) to back up my machines, and so I have been testing by reinstalling a clean OS install using WHS's recovery process - mostly Win7 32/64 RC and XP.

How hard would it be to configure for multiboot, with Fedora 11, XP and Win7 (ideally 32 and 64), with the intention of using WHS to store different configurations (clean, clean + visual studio, etc)? I understand WHS does not support backup/recovery of Fedora - I don't care about that. I also know that WHS can install on particular partitions.

My understanding is that there are multiboot issues, in terms of which partition the MBR is stored on, as well as conflicts having different versions of Windows on the same machine. I'm hoping someone can help me understand if what I want to do is reasonably do-able and if so, pointers on multiboot setup. If there are better solutions that WHS (understanding this is personal use and I don't have funds for professional solutions), I would like to hear about that as well.

Thanks! Brett

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migrated from serverfault.com Oct 10 '09 at 5:57

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If I understand your question right, you have a WHS machine online and working, and you want to test its recovery functions by configuring a workstation machine as multiboot into varying OS's. If I'm not understanding that right, sorry, the rest of this won't make sense.

What you want should be doable. You will run into MBR issues on the test machine, so plan your bare-OS installations in an order that takes care of these issues. I think one potential troublespot would be installing both 32- and 64-bit versions of Win7 to the same system, but I haven't played with it so another user will need to jump in with advice. Fedora should play nice with any of these.

As far as "better solutions" go, you really don't give enough detail on what you're trying to accomplish. If it's just a network storage & backup solution you're after, a Linux/SAMBA server can provide the network storage, and you can find backup software (eg BackupPC) to provide the backup backend. You might want to open another question to ask that specifically.


Now to the multiboot setup.

If this test machine is used for other purposes I recommend installing your test OS images onto a separate harddrive -- that way you can disconnect your existing OS drive and not worry about destroying its MBR or existing data.

Start by creating your partitions on the multiboot drive (via linux LiveCD or existing OS). Don't worry about formatting; all of these OS's will do that for you during installation.

Here's your install order:

  1. WinXP, since it will install and then cheerfully overwrite the MBR
  2. Win7-32, since its bootloader will handle XP
  3. Win7-64, make sure it gets a separate partition
  4. Fedora, since it will detect the others

In terms of conflicts between XP/Win7-32/Win7-64, I haven't tried it, so another user will have to give you tips there. I expect they won't be a problem if you're installing to separate partitions.

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~quack, Thanks for the reply. Sorry I didn't get back sooner, my question was moved from ServerFault and I didn't notice until now. "You will run into MBR issues on the test machine, so plan your bare-OS installations in an order that takes care of these issues." This is the part I'm unclear on. I'm testing software, so I want to be able to quickly install a clean OS to test on - basically a throw away OS install. If I install correctly the first time, can I restore over (e.g.) the XP install without destroying the other OS's (or the MBR)? I'm confused by the OS "coupling", basically. –  Brett Stottlemyer Oct 10 '09 at 17:53
    
if you install each OS to it's own partition, there's no mixing except at the bootloader. i guess you're wondering if restoring XP will blow away the MBR? yes, no, maybe. ... i think that'll depend on exactly how the restore happens. if it's taking a partition-image, no. if it's running MS recovery tools from WinXP era, maybe. i don't know for sure; you might just have to try it and see. –  quack quixote Oct 10 '09 at 18:31
    
In the steps above, does one of the steps put the MBR in a separate partition (I thought that was desirable)? Also, what's the relation between MBR and bootloader, does every OS have a bootloader? Thanks –  Brett Stottlemyer Oct 11 '09 at 12:36
    
MBR is the Master Boot Record, at the veerrry beginning of the drive. you can't move it. each partition can have its own Boot Record as well, it's just not the Master. the bootloader is the OS code that starts the OS boot process. the first part of the bootloader is what gets written to the MBR; the rest goes onto the partition you're installing to. –  quack quixote Oct 11 '09 at 12:52

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