Dealing with four operating systems living on one machine can be quite cumbersome. I could either let the Windows boot manager handle the choice, or GRUB. But I am going to opt for a third option: letting the BIOS do the handling.
Using 4 hard drives, each with their own encapsulated operating system, provides me the cleanest way to switch between them at boot time. The BIOS I have will allow me to choose which drive I would like to boot from, which allows me to do a full, unadulterated install of each of the operating systems, without having to worry about boot loaders and keeping things working when there are updates.
The main reason I am doing this is to provide myself with a way to get better results while gaming, while maintaining the ability to use the software I need to get things done. So, it makes sense that I would be using games to benchmark the installs which are based on gaming performance.
For the other installs, as long as things run smoothly, I will be happy, and I don’t need to do any further benchmarking.
As an in-between, I will be timing the switching process going from gaming to general and vice versa, to determine which situation is truly the best match for what I am striving for.
The first thing I am going to do is install the hard drives (they are currently in another computer, and I need to switch things around and ensure that they are in working condition).
Next, I will install a base Windows installation, make all the updates, and create a drive image, which will be used for the virtual machine, and the three Windows hard drives, thereby making the process simpler, and not take up a ton of my time.
After I have committed the image to all of the drives, I will install the software that I need for a normal workflow on the general installs.
I will then begin installing the games on each of the gaming installs. I will backup the Steam files before, so that I can quickly install the game files (rather than waiting for my broadband connection to download them in their entirety on each install).
I already foresee a problem with the split-user installation, and will most likely have to deal with changing services and startup programs in order to tweak the performance of this install.
This will not be a small undertaking, and I plan on having a series of blog posts further chronicling my trials in the process. I hope to provide a clear and concise description of each of the problems I face, so that anyone in the future who is looking to do something similar will have a resource to build off of.
I also hope to come out with a clear winner in the set of arrangements, so that I can go into the future using the same arrangement on future machines.
At the end of all of this, I may consider working in 64-bit comparisons, as well as looking at Windows 7 for each of the Windows installations.
I look forward to writing the next post, Workflow Experiment – Part 1: Getting Ready.