DUAL BOOT

Many PC gamers find that their old favorite title does not work with the latest greatest version of Windows available.

The MBR has a 2 TB limit while the new GPT has an 18 EB limit. The older MBR can support 4 primary partitions per hard disk and more extended partitions. The GUID GPT can support many partitions as well.  Its advisable to use the x64 versions of Windows given that memory is inexpensive. We recommend using 8 GB or more RAM in order to support the demands of modern games.

Modern gaming motherboards support RAID 0 which motivates the use of a UEFI BIOS to support the huge capacity possible using 4 disks. The AMD 970 chipset and above come with UEFI support. Unfortunately desktop operating systems are still not supporting GPT boot.

Our setup uses several versions of Windows installed.

  • Windows XP x86
  • Windows Vista x64
  • Windows 7 x64
  • Windows 8 x64
  • Windows 10 x64

Windows XP onwards ship with x86 and x64 editions. Vista onward ship both editions together.

Clearly at least 2 disks with MBR partitions are needed for the wide number of windows versions available. Disk manager can adjust the partitions however Windows 9x are sensitive to disk changes.

Our old Toshiba 2800 can run Windows 98 SE and dual boot with XP. The panel is 1024×768 which is XGA and well suited to classic games. The old Celeron 700 is faster than needed for old DOS titles. With a wireless mouse its actually does work well.

DISK PARTITIONS

The hard disk has 2 basic types of disk partition. The primary partition and the extended partition.

 

WINDOWS SIZE STATUS
7 x64 disk adequate
8 x64 64 GB adequate

Depending on the mix of games it may take some planning to balance the games across different versions of Windows. For the most part, games released after 2008 will work fine with Windows 7 and 8.

We are using Windows 8 like a tablet and this will probably be the best use of 8 until new games emerge that are better suited.

VIRTUAL PC

Gamers cannot use virtual PC as the GPU is not supported. For this reason using partition is the only real solution. We have Windows 98 SE installed in a virtual machine. Windows 2000 is also installed in a virtual machine. This works as old DOS games proceed the rise of the GPU. Windows 98 SE has the best compatibility for old DOS and early Windows games.

INSTALL ORDER

Its very important to install DOS first and then each successive version of Windows in order so that the boot menu will be populated correctly. If you attempt to install them in a different order problems galore will be experienced. If you want to install more than 4 operating systems, partition the disk on another machine with a 100 MB partition for the boot menu etc. then make a large extended partition for the rest of the disk.

  1. MS-DOS
  2. Windows 95, Windows 98 or Windows Me
  3. Windows NT
  4. Windows 2000
  5. Windows XP
  6. Windows Vista
  7. Windows 7
  8. Windows 8
  9. Windows 10

DOS is limited to 640KB of of RAM and 525MB boot disk, while Windows 9x can use 512MB RAM and 32GB boot disk. Windows 9x may have issues with machines equipped with addition memory. The 64-bit visions of XP and above can use 128GB or more memory.

Windows 95 and Windows 98 run better if their installers are launched from the FAT32 destination partition. Making a folder tree, WINDOWS/OPTIONS/CABS and copy the Win95/98/ME folder from the ISO contents here. Booting the Windows 98 DVD will allow access to the partition where the setup can be launched, this way when Windows wants to install components, they are on the hard disk instead of permanently mounting the ISO. Many run Windows 98 this way when it was mainstream to improve the performance. Early CD drives were not very fast.

BOOT MENU

The boot menu in Windows will recognize XP as an older OS rather than properly by name. This is not a serious problem as Vista, 7 and 8 are enumerated properly.

SCENARIO 1

Given a machine with Windows 7 x64 installed and lots of games installed. Unless the disk is completely full, its possible to reduce the partition size using the disk manager. Get a 2 TB disk as these are now cheap and can hold over 250 recent games easily.

Open the Control Panel and select Create and Format Disk Partitions. This program will allow you to shrink your Windows 7 system disk to allow you to install Windows 8 behind it. We use multiple DVD drives to deal with DVD checks. Game disks can be left permanently loaded to prevent damage.

Disk Manager

Right click on the main windows partition and select shrink partition. We suggest 64 GB will be enough space for Windows 8 to run efficiently. Apps tend to be small and space efficient. Most new tablets are shipping with 32 GB.

Once space is available simply boot the Windows 8 DVD and install it to the newly available empty partition space.

Windows 7 Disk Manager

When you reboot you will see a boot menu allowing you to select which OS you want to run.

MULTIPLE HARD DISKS

Recent motherboards now feature the ability to select the boot device via a key press. Using this method its possible to use 2 or 3 hard disks and install a different version of Windows on each one. Another approach is to load 2 operating systems on one disk and others on the second disk. The MBR limit applies to primary boot disk, so extra disks are one way around the problem. XP, Vista and 7 have the 2TB problem while Windows 8 and above do support UEFI.

Using XP, which is now out of support, one the primary disk, with a small partition for the boot.ini file is ideal for the loader. Then a menu can be invoked to select the version of Windows desired. This works with one or more disks in a machine. The low cost SSD is actually could be used this way as not many games are incompatible with more recent versions. A larger capacity disk could hold other operating systems.

On a motherboard like our M5A99FX require a USB floppy to install Windows XP when AHCI is enabled. Our Corsair Carbide 300R has 4 usable hard disk bays. So its possible to install 4 hard disks and boot several different operating systems. Eventually virtual PC will have GPU support for remote desktop however some older cards may no not see future support.

STREAMING

Game streaming is now making it easier with a BYOD type of home. Steam has been moving into streaming so that consoles and the PC can co-exist better. Using Steam it is now possible to dual boot or stream so they try to be as flexible as possible.