What is the most robust (e.g. recoverable) way to create multi-boot operating system with ‘all the big ones’?

Joe Videtto April 7, 2012
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I’d like to start with a great thank-you to the authors of the site, and all those that respond. This is one of my daily website visits, and I always learn something new, AND USEFUL.

Now, a little background for my question – I had created a dual boot operating system that first had Windows XP, and then I added Windows 7. Eventually, the XP caught a virus that I just couldn’t get rid of, and I had to reinstall. I then lost the ‘dual boot’ option and could no longer boot into Windows 7.

I have a new goal – I’d like to install all the ‘big operating’ systems on my next hard drive (I have an Intel corei7 PC), so I could potentially run apps on and/or develop under all 3. I would like it to have:

1.) Windows XP
2.) Windows 7
3.) Windows 8

4.) Android (I’m guessing this would run over Windows though

5.) iOS (to develop for Mac and iPad – please correct me if I need more OS’s than this)

6.) Linux (haven’t decided which one yet)

Could one of our experts out there outline the things I need to think about and how to go about this, so if one of the OS’s gets corrupt, I can still recover and reboot?

Even better, recommend
a.) what order to install the OSs,

b.) whether to install to the same (single drive with different partitions) or different hard drives,

c. and what backup/restore disks to make for each that will require the minimu back-up hard drive space – I’m assuming most viruses will be attacking the OS directories, and don’t want to have to back up all my data (is this a good assumption ?)

Thanks in advance,
Joe V.

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  1. Oron Joffe
    April 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    If you're looking for a *robust* solution then I have to agree with Fidelis - virtual machines are your solution. You can back them up by copying the image files, and restoring the systems will be dead easy thereafter.
    Another solid solution would be to use hard disc caddies and install each OS on its own hard disc, which you would slot in before booting in the computer. You could have a fixed hard disc as well to allow you to share data between the systems. However, the virtual setup is definitely the way to go unless there's an overriding reason not to use it.

  2. FIDELIS
    April 8, 2012 at 12:14 am

    Hello, if all you want is access to all the operating systems for developing, the easiest choice would be to use a virtual machine and install the operating systems there.  The advantage of this method would be that you would not have to be restarting your system to boot up the next one.  With a virtual machine, just start the virtual machine program and start whatever machine you want to use and you can use them all at same time provided your system has enough memory for the host system all the virtual machines.  If your system does not have enough memory and a good multicore processor, they would all run but your system would be really slow.

    Now, if you want to proceed with a multiboot system, the best thing is always to start with the oldest system first.  In your case, XP and then 7.  I do not see a problem with this even after adding a third operating system like ubuntu to it.  I read this article once not long ago where this guy had 32 systems installed in a system.  He was using dynamic/extended partitions to install more operating systems.  Of course this would only work with linux system.  I am not sure but I would think problems would probably start when trying to install windows 8. 

    With regards to harddisks, I would say  the best thing would be not to install all of them in the one harddrive.  Best option would be to have a separate harddrive for each but that can be quite expensive and at same time, most towers do not have space/connections for many harddrives.   

  3. Simon Slangen
    April 7, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Hello Joe,

    First of all, Android and iOS are both mobile operating systems, so you can't install these on your computer.

    To develop for iOS:
    - (Mac OS X) XCode.
    - (Windows) Check out this article.

    To develop for Android:
    - How To Write Your First Google Android Application
    - A Quick Guide To Developing Android Apps With Google App Inventor

    It doesn't much matter how many hard drives you have, but be sure to have about 40GB per operating system you want to install, and 100+ GB for the rest of your data.

    Start out by formatting your disk(s) and creating partitions for all you operating systems. It doesn't much matter how much hard drives you have, but be sure to have about 40GB per operating system you want to install, and at least 100+ GB for the rest of your data (preferably more). To do this, you could use a Linux live disk, like Ubuntu. Do not install the Linux distro yet.

    Install the Windows operating systems in successive order: first XP, then 7, and then 8.

    Finally, install Ubuntu or another Linux distribution. To do this, follow the instructions posted at the Ubuntu forums from step 4 and onwards.

    Beware that this is not an easy feat you are trying to accomplish. Installing 2 Windows versions + Linux on the same computer has proven more than troublesome. Add Windows 8 to the mix and you're making it very difficult for yourself. I'm not saying you shouldn't give it a shot; if worse comes to worst you can always format your disk(s) again; but be prepared for a few bumps in the road.