Managing multiple Windows

Ok, please read carefully the story so you can catch the real factual questions. The reason to have multiple windows is one for usual work, another for gaming and the last one for video editing, unless you can suggest me a better option to have multiple environments without mutually affecting them.

I started partitioning my drive in three, lets call it C, D and E in the same physical drive. Let’s assume all drives have enough space for apps.

I installed Windows 2000 in drive D, as the “main” Windows. Then I installed Windows ME in C (for gaming). The result was a starting menu as this:

Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional
Microsoft Windows

(the second is ME, of course)

Later I installed another Windows 2000 in E. The second menu was the following:

Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional
Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional
Microsoft Windows

I don’t remember which Windows 2K was each one, but it doesn’t matter. The default starting is easily changeable from the System properties.

Then some friend told me why I was using ME for gaming, when 2K had better support for that. I said for being able to run old games as Doom, etc. But no matter. I tried to replace ME with another 2K. The Install disc didn’t allow me (a different language version reported, please install another instance in a different partition). No prob. I installed it in the same partition, C. Now I have four Windows, and this menu:

Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional - (my main Windows, in drive D)
Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional - (for gaming, in drive C)
Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional - (for video editing, in drive E)
Microsoft Windows - (ME, for any not NT application, in drive C)

Until this moment, to this day, everything is fine as it is.

But what will happen if any Windows becomes corrupted?

My original idea was: three partitions, three Windows. If any of them goes wrong, I only format the correspondent partition and install it again, the others remains the same, as the legendary song. But… what if my “main Windows” becomes corrupted and I format drive D? Will I lose the starting menu? I think there is a lesser problem if one of the other two W2K corrupts, but I suspect there will be a trouble with the starting menu, pointing to a Windows that doesn’t exist anymore (I only suspect it).

And if the Windows I want to reinstall is the ME? I know I can erase its “Windows” and “Program files” folders, but how can it be installed again? I think the install program won’t allow me if it finds a “newer” Windows in the same partition (as if I didn’t know it).

Any suggestions to erase and reinstall windows and mantaining or improving the starting menu without all of these issues? I know this may have been asked before but I want it exactly the layout I have now.

I hope you got the real point and sorry for the long post. But this was the only way to expose this stuff.

The boot menu is controlled from a file called boot.ini which is stored in the root directory of the primary partition of the primary drive (i.e. the one the BIOS will boot by default).

It’s marked sytem and hidden, so you’ll need to enable “show hidden files and folders” in Windows explorer to see it, or just open “c:\boot.ini” in notepad.

Make a copy of this file and keep it somewhere safe. Print it out even.

Each line under the “operating systems” section specifies a device and partition path to a bootable version of Windows.

If you format over your primary drive primary partition to reinstall windows then you’ll need to restore this file from your backup in order to restore access to your other versions of windows. Alternatively, just reinstall windows over the top of itself - there’s no real need to reformat the disk unless something’s gone wrong with the hardware itself (in which case you really need a new harddisk anyway).

The boot.ini of one of my boxes looks like this:

[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(3)\WINNT="Microsoft Windows 2000 Advanced Server" /fastdetect
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(1)\WINNT="Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional" /fastdetect

It specifies two options, Win2k Advanced Server and Win2k Pro, each on a different partition.

There are programs to re-constitute/replace the boot sector. I got a copy of PartitionMagic free after rebate a while ago; works great on an old laptop booting MSDOS6 and Linux. If things got dire, I’m pretty sure it would fix things up.

If you don’t mind me asking, why don’t you just install XP Pro?

AFAIK, it supports all 98/ME programs (including DOS Window games) as well as NT programs.

If The windows you installed first dies, then you will be in a bit of trouble since it will not find boot.ini. All others are fine. To fix, just pop your 2k cd in and press F3 for the recovery console. Once in the console, type fixmbr and it should be able to boot fine from then on.

There’s no need to have three different copies of the OS just because you wish to use the computer for three different tasks.

If you really want three different environments, stick with one install of the OS and create three different users, one user for each task.

It’s hard enough keeping ONE copy of windows up to date and stable.


Thanks, Armilla, btw I’ve noticed that if I install Windows over itself, it insists to maintain a lot of traces of any trouble giving program. I know there are cleaning utilities, but there’s nothing like a new fresh just-installed Windows, don’t you think?

On the other hand, to LordVor response, are you really sure that three different users don’t affect each others? Not every program, almost no one, asks me where to be installed. They often put their dlls in the same directory and the registry is always full of trash. To keep one copy of Windows stable, I only don’t install it any other program than needed, unless a hard disk / cluster failure arrives.

I’ll warn up front that I’m feeling a bit snarky. I’ll try to keep it to a minimum.

There may well be advantages to having the three different copies of windows installed, but I don’t think that you’ve demonstrated that you’re experiencing any of them.

Under XP, at least, all users share a default screen resolution. All users also share a portion of the desktop icons and a portion of the start menu and a portion of the system startup folder. All users also share access to most of the installed software on the system. That’s it, each user has his own preferences, rest of the desktop and menus, etc. The screen resolution thing is the only one I consider a complete detriment, as the others can be worked around.

Every program I’ve installed in the past two years has asked me where I want it to be installed. Often, it’s an “advanced” option, but the choice is there. If it wants to put a dll “in the same directory” as other programs, I assume that it’s for a good reason and let it. It’s not hurting anything there. It does not adversely affect your computer.

And why the hell does it matter where a program is installed? With one version of the OS installed, you don’t have to partition your hard drive to heck, so you have one big drive with everything installed instead of three drives that you have to carefully manage the space on.

Registries get crap in them. It happens. Mostly, the crap comes from uninstalling programs with shitty uninstallers. With your method, you have three registries gathering crap, rather than one.

And, in keeping your machine up to date and stable, I was referring more to the big-assed security patch that you have to download from Microsoft every three months to keep things like Blaster from taking over your system. You have to do it three times to keep your system up to date.

So the detriment from your approach is:
[li]Wasted space due to multiple copies of the OS files[/li][li]Highly segmented space due to multiple partitions[/li][li]Wasted time updating three separate OSes[/li][li]added complexity at boot time, selecting which partition to boot[/li][li]added administration problems, like the one that lead to this thread[/li][/ul]

I stand by my recomendation of one partition, one OS, and three users.