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Assistance with (possible) Dual OS and Virtualization recommendation?

I am trying to accomplish having sandbox to play in - test some Virtualization software, a few Server softwares, all on top of a Vista Install - which would also be new to me.

Here is what I have as my main candidate to play with:
Nobilis Workstation - Intel E6600 2.4Ghz DualCore (Supports VT and 64 Bit)
Only 2GB RAM right now (because running XP) but I have more waiting.
Has 1 320GB Seagate 7200rpm in it now.
I have a 2nd identical drive empty and waiting to be installed.

Can I leave the XP install alone, install Vista on the other drive, and keep them separate and boot into one or the other?  And if I "can" - should I or am i asking for more trouble than its worth?
     If so, is it possible to install 64-bit Vista on that clean drive?
     Is it possible to have 2 OS on 2 separate drives and boot into 1 or the other?  
Can 1 of those OS be 32-bit and the other 64? (really I am sorry if this is really dumb to ask)
I know I may not get the full experience testing out servers on a workstation - but it would be better than nothing, and if I have the RAM it shouldnt be too bad.  I would certainly like to test out Win2k8 and Exchange2007 - and so I suppose I don't need 64-bit there since they make the 32-bit Exch for testing (any limitations on that that I would be missing from a testing standpoint?)

If no 64-bit option other than getting rid of XP and going full Vista, then I am stuck with 2GB, and that won't really cut it to do the Virtual Stuff I want.  I could use the XP drive elsewhere, and then it would be like having a brand new machine with a fresh install of Vista on the clean drive, and go from there - but I would still like to keep this as an XP workstation if i could - so i am asking...

FYI Vista isnt my main concern here - having a Virtualization and Virtual Server playground is most important.  I just figured why not also get some hands on Vista time too?  But that I could do with just a virtual pc or wmware install on this machine as it is now.

What would you do in my shoes?  I have read posts where people have said things like "just find yourself an old server and play around" - and if that is a better answer than all this - I would love some suggestions on where to start looking and what you would spend or what is reasonable to expect to spend on something that isn't meant to break any barriers - just allow me to do a little learning?

Thanks in advance!
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3 Solutions
The easiest thing would be to virtualize everything on top of your current XP installation. If there is no reason to run Vista as the host then I ask why not run it as a guest especially if you intend to muck around in it. The issue of course is the memory limitation of a 32bit system.

Installing Vista x64 on a separate disk is possible however I have heard occasional sob stories. My paranoid solution would be to install Vista on the second drive with your XP drive disconnected that way it does not do ugly things to your boot sector on there. You can swap boot drives as necessary.

The paranoid solution is only required if your risk tolerance on the system is low. If you dont mind reinstalling XP if things go wrong then go with the dual boot system.
1) Can you install XP and vista on seperate physical drives?
Yes, XP must be installed first, when you install vista, it will overwrite the XP bootloader with vista's bootloader and you'll get a selection screen at boot time.

2) Can you install Vista x64 and XP x86 in a dual boot configuration.
I can't think any problem that would come up other than driver issues for vista.

3) As for virtualization software, Virtual PC 2007 won't be able to leverage features like dual cores support, but it will more seemlessly integrate into your windows environment by default, and uses less reasources as an application overall...and it's free.  As far as compatability goes, i've never had any problem testing any windows OS in virtual PC even betas.  If you have VMware Workstation and that's what you know and like that's fine too.

As for resources, you'll get a better feel of an OS in a VM if you run the VM off a seperate drive (two OS's competing for the same IOPS isn't ideal.  So if you have XP on C and Vista on D...and running VM's in vista....you'll want to put the VHD's on C so that the two OS's don't compete for HDD IOPS, it might help with evaluating Exchange specifically in this case.

So, if it was me, i'd do this.

I'd dump XP, i've used Vista x64 since it was released, and i know all my hardware is supported.  So i'd upgrade to Vista x64 as my main OS (but that's me, i don't have software with compatability issues and i love it as an OS)...that and a fresh window's install is kind of nice.  I'd use Virtual PC 2007 x64 (on vista x86 on XP) to setup and run my VM's, and have them execute off the second hard drive.  If you still think you need XP, you could after all run it in a VM if you like.  I'd end up only running one virtual OS at a time and giving it at least 2GB of memory if possible.

The downside of migrating to Vista x64 from XP is that instead of 700MB RAM usage, you'll jump to about 1.4GB, which may strain your resources if you can't get more RAM.  But hey, XP should see 3.5 at least, so why not go 4GB anyway?

Hope that helps.
mmoroccoAuthor Commented:
Thank You both - this is great stuff.

A few follow-ups:  
Yes, I can tend to get paranoid in these situations also, so i will keep your advice handy wizard.
And yes, I could just play with Vista for now in the Virtual World and really rattle it's cage before jumping in fully - hadnt thought of that, so thanks!

maninblac - lots to chew on here - but really got me thinking about taking the plunge, and yeah, keeping XP for what I need it for in the Virtual Realm.  I do have a couple softwares that are "compatible" but their makers dont have it totally together, so it just makes for a smoother day to stay in XP sometimes.

I already have more RAM on the way, so that hopefully shouldnt be an issue.  I guess my machine has a limit on what it will take - but with Vista Ultimate or Business x64, and wanting to run XP, and Win2k8 and Exchange2007 virtually - or even SBS lets say - how much RAM would you want?

I do like the idea of the dual boot - but again, if XP were virtual, then no need to choose where to boot to.

Question, I am using a good amount of space on this hard-drive now.  And I have profiles on this machine I would like to keep.  What do you recommend for going physical to virtual to take this XP install and drop it into my (possible) new configuration?

Now, as to the Virt software - I havent really used any other than messing with VMWare (XP on a MacPro).
But what should I be using?  a PC/Workstation Virtualization software - or something like VirtualServer2005 R2 (which I already have at my fingertips).
Will VirtualPC allow me to install and run and test Exchange and Win2k8?  Or do i need a server virtualization?  And if I install a server virtualization, will that keep me from installing XP as a virtual machine?

Follow me?  Which way do I go with the virtualization software choice?  Sounds like you are saying VPC is fine, and that I dont need server virtualization software (which like I said I have...)

The point about the different drives is excellent.  I would probably have forgotten - but its what made me think of this question in the first place.  When I have a nice machine like this and 2 hard drives, there has to be some potential here...
And so, you think that this is every bit as good a solution for a beginner's sandbox, rather than going out and finding an old server to mess with?
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You only require RAM for running VMs so I would say that with 3-4GB you could easily reserve 1.5GB for virtual machines, that should run any OS you want reasonably. If you want to run multiple VM's simultaneously then you will need more RAM, but for testing you should always be able to suspend and resume machines as needed. If you have Virtual Server then use that because that will probably be more suited to your eventual deployment and has more features. I never liked Virtual PC anyway.

Link to article listing the differences http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserversystem/virtualserver/techinfo/vsvsvpc.mspx

For the conversion of physical to virtual Microsofts Virtual Server Migration Tool only works with NT,2000 and server 2003 which is annoying. A couple of methods at this blogpost (see comments in part 1 as well)

VMware has much better support for converting physical machines to virtual. You can set up a VM to directly access a disk partition and other cool things. I cannot seem to find similar features in Virtual server 2005 r2.
mmoroccoAuthor Commented:
Hi all - havent left this high and dry yet.  have a few more questions - but am buried in laptops needing repair of various stages.
And am waiting on my additional RAM to arrive...
Havent decided yet which way I will go FWIW - what to image or put virtual or physical or host or client  or or or...

hopefully be back to this soon!

thnx for your patience.
mmoroccoAuthor Commented:
OK - so, let's say for now I just want to pull the trigger and get started actually doing something.
The current drive I am running my XP on has 260GB avail. from a 320GB drive.
The other 320 is still empty - untouched - It isn't even plugged into the board yet, just sitting there waiting...

Where do I start?  Where do i install Virtual Server?  Do I install it on the current drive being used?  And then start to install my Vmachines on th other drive?

maninblac you said this - so tell me if i understand correctly -- "As for resources, you'll get a better feel of an OS in a VM if you run the VM off a seperate drive (two OS's competing for the same IOPS isn't ideal.  So if you have XP on C and Vista on D...and running VM's in vista....you'll want to put the VHD's on C so that the two OS's don't compete for HDD IOPS, it might help with evaluating Exchange specifically in this case."

So, install VirtualServer on my C, where XP is now, and then install and run my VMs on D, the empty drive?  Vista am not sure what I am doing with - I think its gonna go on my laptop, and try to keep the home area a little less crowded.

Should I create a partition on C first and install VirtServer there?
Should I be creating partitions on the empty drive where the VMs will be hosted and tested and separate each ons into its own partition?

And I gotta ask (i know its off-topic from my original post) but how seriously are any of you taking Windows7?  The other day someone who knows I and my office are still XP and are planning to stay that way asked me if I was going to skip learning and studying and buying and deploying Vista and go right to Windows 7?  Do you think businesses will do that?  If they are putting this 7 out so soon, arent they spelling the end for Vista themselves?  Sorry, am sure this discussion is going on in a lot of places...

And then, before I waste your time and my awful hands                                                                                      
First, get the extra drive installed and running/usable.

So if you're going to take care of vista another way, then install virtual server on your XP machine.  It should let you set up and create your VM's.  The final vhd and vmk files that are produced will go into your my virtual machines folder, in your documents and settings\your profile folder automatically.  Simply move the the folder when you're done, to your new extra drive D/E/F whatever it's called.  You can run your VM's from that hard drive, so, it shouldn't hinder performance of either operating system much.  It's really pretty straightforward from there.

To answer your final question....not being directly involved in the IT decision loop.  It's a mixed bag...all the things wrong with vista are still wrong with windows 7.  The biggest problem with vista is cost, not of the OS, but of the hardware, if you're putting in new machines.  This is less of an issue, but current infrastructure needs to be upgraded to handle vista let alone windows 7.  This problem still remains...as for compatability, microsoft is trying to lure us into believing that "XP Mode" will be the saving grace for compatability.  Will it work yes, is it an acceptable solution, not to many.

The reviews are pretty spot on, Windows 7 is what Vista was supposed to be when it was released.  And if you look at microsoft's history....we see a pattern of this.  Windows 98 was a "Vista".....Windows 98SE was a Win 7.  Windows ME was a in a class of it's own and we'll never speak of it again.  Windows 2000 was a "Vista", Windows XP was a Win 7.  If you look back 10 years, ago, microsoft released 5 full OS products in 4 years.  Win 98 in 98, 98SE in 99, ME in 2000, Win 2000 in 2000, and XP in 2001.

It isn't too soon for me, microsoft isn't doing anything revolutionary with Windows 7.  Vista got a bad roll out, and it's ok if it get's swept under the rug for MS.  Windows ME is the key example again, i remember the hype of how great it was going to be, the computer would know all the things you needed to set up hardware wise and would keep you from screwing it up....well, we learned microsoft didn't know best.  Windows ME got swept under the rug, and practically forgotten, by history, and even microsoft's critics, smothered by XP, which became microsoft championed NT based, "OS for everyone".  Would you be happy if you were stuck with Windows ME, or Windows 2000 till Vista?  I don't think Vista would have gotten such a bad rap.

It's been said before that Vista was a necessary evil.  Developers needed to stop writing for admin level authentication.  Driver developers needed to stop writing crappy kernel mode drivers and instead recoverable user mode drivers.  And Vista was a legitimate product that microsoft could push out to people that developers would need to support.  It's a rather forceful way of getting your ISV's to do what you want them to.

I don't subscribe to the philosophy that Vista is a bad and buggy OS.  I have more day to day problems with my XP machine than any of my vista machines.  I look forward to windows 7 as much i did vista...even if i may be in the minority.
I think that if you are using XP at this time, it does not make sense for you to switch to Vista. All the testing that you have to do to ensure compatibility with your business' setup will have to be repeated for Win7. Compatibility between vista and win7 should not be a problem but there will always be the one critical program that does not work.
mmoroccoAuthor Commented:
Hi all.
Sorry - do not want this question listed as abandoned.  Am moving forward on this and will be in touch after the holiday weekend with updates and probably a few follow-up questions.
Another thing to consider for "building sandboxes"...

I already have licenses for both Vista Ultimate and XP Pro so what I did was start by creating a clean OS install on a new Virtual PC.  Once that was done and the updates were applied, I shut it down, exited and made a copy of the data file.  (XPSP2_CLEAN_INSTALL.VHD or some other good name)  I then went back into the VPC and installed the next major application, updated it and then exited and backed up to a new copy.  So now I have close to a dozen different VHDs of "clean" systems with most of the standard configurations I tend to run into.  So, if I am starting at client X and his Dev environment is XP PRO SP2 with MS Visual Studio .NET 2005 and MS Office 2003, I already have a VHD for that, so I make a copy of the VHD and I'm good to go.

So the point here is to *MAKE A COPY* at each step after you spend the time to install and configure the software and you will find it a lot quicker to have a "base" system to start from.

Another major point...  MS is pretty specific about licensing.  Just because you are running on a virtual PC doesn't mean you are able to circumvent the licensing requirements.  I'd definately look into that.

mmoroccoAuthor Commented:
Hi all - hit a small snag in my road.  Sorry this has not been answered and responded to and closed yet, but I have not yet had the chance to fly any of these ideas - or to figure which way is best for my needs.
So, I ain't over yet, just havent gotten round to it.

thanks - be in touch soon
mmoroccoAuthor Commented:
Hi all - finally coming back up for air.
So, I went ahead and got the other drive installed and formatted, etc.
I decided to be a little paranoid and disconnected my main drive, and first had to install XP, as I only have upgrade Vista license (MAPS).  I then installed Vista Ultimate x64 - however, I have run into some problems.
It keeps "dying" on me.  It happened on and off while I was running updates and configuring, and then it seemed fine for a day or so, but now its happening again.
FYI - yes, I ran the Vista Upgrade advisor and my system was more than ready for Vista it appeared to me.

But, randomly, it just stops responding, and then after a few seconds, everything goes black, and my monitor loses signal.  I can still hear the computer working, the drive(s) are being accessed, and it does not power down, it just kind of locks up, and no mouse click or keystroke or anything will bring it back.  Its like it puts itself into standby or hibernate...and so I went and looked at power mgmt settings but nothin there seems to be causing this...

Not sure what other info would be relevant, other than saying "hey, if the best solution is just to reinstall from scratch" then i got no problem with that.

Any ideas???
mmoroccoAuthor Commented:
FWIW - if this issue merits a new question let me know and I will post it new...

It seems to also happen sometimes as though it is going to sleep.  As i was typing this question, i rebooted, which is the only thing to do when this happens.
Sometimes it gives me the safe mode boot screen, sometimes it just boots right into windows.
So this time it booted up no problem, i log in, and then i walked away from the machine for about a 1/2 hour.
i come back, and it has happened again.

My assumption is the video card, which I believe is a ATI GE7300 i wanna say - it is an add-on card.  Not sure, will get into the machine and check DevMgr etc.  I remember there being some updates for it from within some vista window when i first got things going...but this was happening prior to that.

Anyway, thought that extra info might help - and wanted to volunteer to move this question elsewhere to the Vista zone and seek help there...
mmoroccoAuthor Commented:
Hi all.  again.
OK - so the black screen thing is fixed.  I found another post here on EE where someone with the same Nvidia Card - GE Force 7300 GS - had the same issue.  I did the same steps, including unplugging the card and using the integrated graphics on the motherboard and the problem did not occur.
So i called my warranty people, they sent me a new card, no charge, and it turns out is even better than the one I had - so beware of the GE Force7300 GS with Vista 64bit at least.

In the meantime - yes, I am writing from my Vista Ultimate 64 bit install.   I put this on the clean/empty drive, and have been playing with it.  What I may do now is segregate off the files I want to keep on the other old drive that has my XP install still on it, and do as suggested above, install Virt Server, and then move my vhd/vmk files to the other drive.
RAM is on the way also.  I am planning on having 6GB for now.

For what its worth, so far I am digging Vista, maybe just because its new to me, but so far so good. I havent had any "issues" other than that damn user control crap!
So, i am gonna roll with this for a while, and i am heading off to install my Virtual Server 2005R2 now and get down to business!

thanks all of you very mich as each of you was helpful.  Sorry to have let this question linger for so long...
mmoroccoAuthor Commented:
Sorry - one last follow-up - How do I get a boot menu to show up so I can choose whether to boot to XP or Vista when I start up.  In my Bios I it sees bth drive but it doesnt appear as thought I can split them or rearrange them?
To answer you question about boot menu.  So, from what i gather you installed the OS's on seperate drives, but you installed vista while the XP drive was unplugged.  Because you did this, Vista didn't overwrite the XP bootloader, making vista and XP completely unaware of each other.  From what i gather if you want a software bootloader, your only option is to install Vista again with XP plugged in so that it will overwrite the XP bootloader and you will get the microsoft selection screen like you should.

If that's not what you want, hardware selection is the only option.  Depending on your BIOS, you may have to go into the BIOS and change the primary boot device selection each time, or hit the boot device selection key, usually F2 or F12 or something.
mmoroccoAuthor Commented:
Yes, you are correct.  I did end up doing the install on separate drives, and while the XP drive was unplugged.  Because as soon as I started to get Vista installed, i started to have that black screen issue...so while i wasn;t totally paranoid at first, i ended up not wanting to lose my XP install and the 150GB of info on that disk, so I have "started fresh"
And basically its been a few days I been on the Vista side of things, so i could just as easily wipe and reinstall Vista...probably good practice too!

thanks maninblac1.
excellent response again.
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