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This may not be the correct place to post this; if that's the case, just let me know and point me in the right direction please!

I'm thinking of building a box that needs to be lightweight and portable, and would need to be able to boot multiple installations of windows.

I am needing to have multiple installations so that I can, for example, plug the box in to the network at one location, boot in to that location's partition, and have full access to everything I would normally need to do on a computer that has already been set up on that network. Then, when I go to the next client, I would be able to do the same thing, with the new location's partition, and have all of those network settings, drive mappings, etc., available there.

Obviously I'd need to go through and set them all up on the different locations/networks, I'm not expecting it to magically know where I am and what I'm doing. It would be like I'm carrying around a computer that is configured for each place I need to go in one little box, instead of having to have multiple computers or having to reconfigure all the settings and such every time I go to another client.

Or is there an easier way to do this that I haven't learned of?

  • If you limited yourself to Windows 7 only, then you should be able to keep an insanely huge number of installs since you can boot from Virtual Hard Disks. technet.microsoft.com/en-us/video/windows-7-boot-from-vhd.aspx – Zoredache Jun 29 '12 at 21:08
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    Scripts... configuration scripts... Write your scripts if you only need to configure NICs/drive mappings/proxies, make one template and copy+modify that for different locations. Faster and SAVES disk space as you wont need separate installations/VMs, space requirements for scripts is counted using Kb's rather than Gb's. – Sampo Sarrala - codidact.org Jun 29 '12 at 21:42
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The "easier way to do this" that you haven't heard of is commonly called virtualization.

Have one OS, install your favorite VM environment on it (as you're a beginner and running Windows, one of VMWare's free offerings seems like the obvious choice) and boot up an appropriate VM as needed.

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    I darned multi-boot to heck years ago. It belongs with Phil, manager of insufficient light. You get the benefit of working full time with your primary OS (of choice) and at will with your VMs. – Fiasco Labs Jun 29 '12 at 21:29
  • One proviso: some VM environments present the host and guests to the network as if they were behind a switch, and corporate networks often get upset when they see an unauthorized switch and lock the access port. VMWare doesn't seem to have this issue, so it may be a good choice. – Harry Johnston Jun 30 '12 at 4:16
  • @Harry Virtualbox has an Ethernet bridge mode that probably circumvents that issue. If you use the Ethernet NAT function, you'll be annoying network security functions as you mention. – Fiasco Labs Jun 30 '12 at 17:36
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Windows allows you to separate the partition the BIOS boots from (confusingly called the "system partition") from the partition containing the operating system (confusingly called the "boot partition").

This means (at least in principle) that you can have as many different instances of Windows as you can have partitions. If you convert the disk to dynamic, you can have lots of partitions; I don't think there's a hard limit.

It gets tricky if you want some of the instances to be Windows 7 and some Windows XP. I'm not sure whether you can do that or not. Another potential problem is licensing, you might need a separate Windows license for each instance. (We can't advise you about that, check the license yourself or consult a lawyer.)

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4 - It's only possible to have 4 primary partitions at a time if using MBR. If you format the disk GPT, you allow 128 https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/whats-difference-between-gpt-mbr-when-partitioning-drive-tiwari/ . Mostly in older machines or in Windows environment, people will use MBR because GPT requires a UEFI bios. GPT adds some space overheads, but that overhead gives some partition management data recovery. Moreover only one of these can be active (the one that will boot) at a time. An alternative is to use virtual disks (VHD files) to go beyond the 4 limit on MBR. At that point, you start to want to use a script to manage switching between systems. (Currently I am more comfortable with using the old MBR and using VHD files, which might suit the use case of customer demos better, because resetting a VHD to a known state is simple if you keep a backup of the "good" or "golden" demo VHD, and simply overwrite the working copy. The original question was asked a long time ago, but this hit came up on top in google for me, hope my input helps others.)

  • Unless you're using GPT and EFI, of course. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Apr 30 '18 at 8:19
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    Yes, well spotted, I'll amended the answer. Would be good to get a authoritative reference or even more some real experience based answers. – Conrad B Apr 30 '18 at 8:29

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