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XP/Vista dual-boot or Virtual PC?

Posted on 2008-11-01
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Hi!

I've just put together a computer with lots of diskpace, and have an unused Vista Business upgrade kit I received at a discount last time I bought a laptop.

I think about a year ago I aksed if I used this upgrade, would I be able to hang on to XP, and I think the answer was yes.

Anyway, with all the diskspace I have now I thought why not install Vista as a secondary OS, and my question is - should I install a dual-boot system or should I use Microsoft Virtual PC 2007?

What are the advantage/disadvantages of both? I've also heard of VMWare but know nothing about it ...
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Question by:Julian Matz
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andrew_aj1 earned 150 total points
ID: 22859036
If you dual boot you will have the full processing power the the comptuer to power the os. With the virtual pc you with have some hardware limitations (such as no 3d acceleration).
If you are just courious about vista i would start with virtual pc until you are sure you want to do it. If you know you want it i would partition the disk and start the install (just make sure you select the empty partition/disk so you dont destroy your old install)
Also make sure if you decide to dual boot that you backup all your important data before you start just in case.
Good luck.
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by:LeeTutor
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One disadvantage of dual booting XP and Vista is that there is a bug in Windows XP which causes the Vista System Restore Points to be wiped out each time you enter XP. I think the speed with which the virtual pc boots up is a big advantage of using Virtual Pc 2007. You can easily keep your main OS and the guest OS running at the same time, and then just a click or two on the taskbar will transfer you between them. You can even set up a network between host OS and guest OS. With the Virtual Pc Additions installed, you can drag and drop files between host and guest OS.

One problem with Virtual Pc 2007 is that currently it will not recognize any USB devices like external hard drives, flash drives, printers. (It does, however, work perfectly well with a USB mouse.) VMware Server does not have this limitation. I like the ease of use and graphical user interface of VPC 2007 much better, and it has a Very Complete built-in help documentation, which VMware doesn't.
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by:andrew_aj1
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You may also want to try using VirtualBox by Sun Microsystems. It is a free alternative to Virtual PC.
http://www.virtualbox.org/
Good luck.
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by:LeeTutor
ID: 22859317
And if you find the guest OS stealing too many CPU cycles from the operation of your host OS, you can pause the Guest OS when you need to, and then resume it later.
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by:JerrytheGreat
ID: 22859336
I'm going to weigh in on this--
Assuming stability is important to you, I strongly recommend you set up the XP as a guest OS, and install Vista natively. Any time you have a dual-boot setup, your days are numbered. Operating systems were never designed to coexist, and it is simply a matter of time before one damages the other.

If the limitations of virtualization are unacceptable, then I recommend you either get a second computer, or just leave that other OS in the box.

If this is a hobby computer, and you won't be terribly upset by stability issues, then have some fun and set up a dual-boot.
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by:LeeTutor
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It's true that the XP bootloader and the Vista bootloader are quite different, and if you need to reinstall one of the dual OSes because of viruses, or a file problem, or whatever, then you will most likely have to go through some extra steps to be able to access the other OS.  For example, when you have Vista on one partition and you dual boot XP on another partition, if you need to reinstall (or do a repair install) of XP, you will likely lose the ability to boot into Vista until you insert your Vista DVD and perform what is called Startup Repair.
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by:Julian Matz
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Thanks for all the comments! Well, stability is a big issue to me, and I built this computer (with fairly decent hardware) to relieve me of some of the problems I've been having with my laptop (mainly speed issues).

To be honest I don't even really need Vista as XP seems to have everything I need. I'm fairly familiar with Vista but wouldn't mind getting to know it a bit better, especially since I do a bit of troubleshooting for my clients or fix minor issues for them through LogMeIn remote sessions.

So, I take it from your comments that virtualization is the better option.

Do you have any more comments about VPC2007 vs VirtualBox?

And getting back to multiple OSes co-existing - there must be a way of getting a stable, reliable system running with multiple OSes installed - maybe a separate physical hard drive for each which holds the corresponding boot files, maybe a bootloader or special BIOS software which disables all the drives except for the one which holds the OS you wish to run, or maybe use e-SATA drives, which you could simply exchange?
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by:andrew_aj1
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The best way would be to have two different drives which you can connect the drive/os you want. This will keep the two OS safe from eachother while giving your the full use of your hardware to the OS.
 
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by:garycase
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I'll add a couple comments -- and can expand on anything you have questions about.

First, the stability issue is a non-player if you use a good 3rd party boot manager to completely isolate the OS's from each other ... they won't even "know" about each other -- so they can't "damage" each other ... and they won't step on each other's restore points.   Note also that it doesn't matter if the OS's are on the same drive or different drives --> the important thing is that they can't "see" each other ... even if they're on different drives they can "step" on the other OS if they're visible to each other.    As an example,  I have 5 copies of XP and 3 versions of Vista on the system I'm typing this on and they're totally independent.   They're all installed on "C:" (although each is actually on a different primary partition on the same hard drive).   I'll attach a picture of my boot menu below.   So if you want "full power" of the CPU for each OS you boot, you can easily have as many OS's as you have hard drive space to install.

Second, notwithstanding the ability to do that, I agree that virtualization is an excellent approach for simply "... getting to know it a bit better."   For what you've described as your goal, that's what I'd do.   I agree with LeeTutor that Virtual PC 2007 is a more user-friendly and simpler interface, so that's what I'd use.   I have a LOT of OS's installed in both Virtual PC and in VMWare, and a few in Virtual Box.   The most capable of these virtualization environments is VMWare; but I definitely like Virtual PC better in terms of its "polish" and easy of use.   Virtual Box is nice, but nowhere near the level of either of the others (although this may change as it matures).     There are two major features in VMWare that Virtual PC does not have:  (a)  support for USB devices; and (b) support for 64-bit clients (i.e. you can install Vista x64 or XP x64 in a virtual machine with VMWare).   If you don't need either of these, I'd definitely recommend Virtual PC 2007 as your virtual machine host.   As an example of what you can easily do with Virtual PC, I'll also attach a picture of my current choices within Virtual PC (as you can see, it works with just about any OS you'ld likely want).   I have essentially the same choices in VMWare as well [I have a 750GB drive dedicated to virtual machines].



Boot-Menu.jpg
Virtual-PC-Installed-OS-Choices.jpg
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by:garycase
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... One other note:   Regardless of whichever approach you choose to take, you can do a "clean" install of your Vista Business upgrade without any need to install the prior (qualifying) OS first.   Simply follow the process described here:  http://www.winsupersite.com/showcase/winvista_upgrade_clean.asp

This process works perfectly in either a "virtual" or a "real" PC :-)
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by:Julian Matz
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Thanks for the quick comparison! I'm going to give VPC a try. Any recommendation about how much RAM I should allocate to Vista? I have 3.25 GB in total. I presume whatever I choose it will go back to XP when I pause or stop the virtual machine?
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by:andrew_aj1
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I would look at the amount of ram you are currently using with no other applications launched and then add 10% to that. Whatever you have left you could safely allocate without having performance issues.
good luck.
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by:garycase
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I'd allocate 768MB => I've found that Vista runs well in Virtual PC with that allocation; and only marginally better with more (e.g. 1GB).
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by:LeeTutor
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julianmatz, any feedback?
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by:Julian Matz
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I've installed Virtual PC 2007 and loaded Vista on to it. I haven't had a chance to test much yet but installation seems to have been successful.

Thanks for all the help!
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by:LeeTutor
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So is your question answered?  If so, please close it.
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by:andrew_aj1
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Glad to help.
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by:Julian Matz
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Yes, it is answered, and am just in the middle of assigning points.
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by:Julian Matz
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Hope the points assignment was fair. Again, many thanks for the detailed explanantions.
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by:LeeTutor
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Thanks, glad to help.
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