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WIMBoot VHDX Windows To Go Virtual PC

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8 replies to this topic

#1
JeffB

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I have a history of jumping into "improvements" to my PC setup without first making sure that they are actually improvements...

 

This time, I thought I would get some outside insight and advice, prior to the actual undertaking...

 

I'll start with my current setup, and then outline the idea that is floating around in my brain.  Comments and criticisms are welcome at any point in the process...

 

Currently, I run my system from VHDX, primarily for the differencing, and as a space-saving measure (differencing disks are denoted by indentation level):

  • "Base" vhdx, simply a blank vhdx, with the OS (8.1) applied via DISM
    • Hardware Base vhdx -> contains drivers & programs common to various boot scenarios
      • Daily Use vhdx -> has Office & various other odds & ends
      • Gaming vhdx  -> Screens setup for surround gaming, extraneous programs stripped out
      • Testing vhdx -> useful for testing out new hardware / software
      • (List expands & contracts as needed)
    • VPC Base vhdx -> Drivers & programs common for VMs
      • VMs (varies)
  • To-Go VHDX -> I have a Win to go setup, very useful for the inevitable family & friends service calls.  I run it as a VHDX for ease in un-doing any potential changes

 

In the setup I am considering moving to, I would add a top level WIM file, and enable booting from WIM for all of the listed scenarios.  I am also planning on moving from my single (x86) to-go to a dual x86 / x64 setup...  I'm not terribly concerned about any potential speed hits, saving space on my SSDs (in my main PC, and for my to-go setup) is of more importance...

 

Are there any "gotcha" scenarios I should be aware of?  Any potential system breaking issues?

 

I am currently working on updating my Windows 8.1 ISOs to update 1, then I am planning on slipstreaming any & all of the updates that are out so far...

 

Thanks for reading, and any comments are much appreciated!




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#2
jaclaz

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I have a history of jumping into "improvements" to my PC setup without first making sure that they are actually improvements...

 

It sounds a lot like recent Microsoft attitude :w00t: :ph34r:.

 

Seriously, maybe you are in a "early adopter" group.

 

I don't think that there is much experience around for that kind of setup, though experiments into that (or something similar) has been made, I haven't seen reports of people using it on a daily basis (I mean the combination of vhd/vhdx with wim) while each of them separately seem to work fine.

 

Personally (but I am notoriously, besides, picky, cheap and grumpy :ph34r: very "old school") I see a generic issue with compressed files when it comes (if needed) to recover a failed system (but nothing of course that cannot be solved through a "sound" backup strategy )

 

jaclaz



#3
shae

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I'm not familiar with this. Are you switching sub-VHDs for different uses? How do you choose what set to use?



#4
JeffB

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Thanks for the replies, and Happy Monday!
:w00t:
 

It sounds a lot like recent Microsoft attitude :w00t: :ph34r:.
 
Seriously, maybe you are in a "early adopter" group.


That is a relatively fair assumption. Although, I could also be classified as an overly ambitious tweaker as well...

Back when Win 7 was originally released, I jumped straight into running from VHD, before I even tried the OS in a "standard" setup. ;) I have sunk many hours into tweaking Windows to Go, managing to get it up and running off of a VHDx as well, and made quite a snazzy USB drive. (I could boot to-go x86 as well as x64; and had a single Install.WIM for multiple versions of 7 and 8, both x86 and x64.)
And then I wiped everything and started over. :w00t:
 

I don't think that there is much experience around for that kind of setup, though experiments into that (or something similar) has been made, I haven't seen reports of people using it on a daily basis (I mean the combination of vhd/vhdx with wim) while each of them separately seem to work fine.


Sounds like I'm in for an adventure, in that case!
:thumbup 

I'll have to do some experimenting, and document the procedure for posterity.
 

Personally (but I am notoriously, besides, picky, cheap and grumpy :ph34r:) very "old school") I see a generic issue with compressed files when it comes (if needed) to recover a failed system (but nothing of course that cannot be solved through a "sound" backup strategy )

 
I'm personally a little paranoid about my backups, compared to the average computer user. I manually copy & keep backups of my boot VHDs, and my data lives on a separate data drive, RAID 1 with ReFS, that is backed up continually to the cloud and my wife's PC, as well as to a weekly rotating pair of external drives that I keep offsite...

 

I'm not familiar with this. Are you switching sub-VHDs for different uses? How do you choose what set to use?


In a nutshell, my PC is setup thusly:

  • Boot SSD
  • Data HDD (RAID 1, ReFS)
  • Data HDD (RAID 1, ReFS)

 

On my boot SSD is arranged like this:

  • A small UEFI system partition with the boot entries
  • Primary partition to house my VHDx files

My VHDx files are laid out as indicated in the first post.  Essentially, each is treated as a completely separate install of Windows, as far as the boot loader is concerned.  Each VHDx has its own BCD entry, and switching between them is as simple as a reboot.  Each boot, I can choose what VHDx to load in the standard BCD boot menu.

To be perfectly honest, I primarily use two different ones, my "Daily Use" and my Gaming.  It was a complete pain to have to configure my screens for multi-monitor gaming, and then reconfigure them for normal use.  So I simply made a new VHDx that has the appropriate settings, and can switch quickly.

 

 



#5
NoelC

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I can't contribute too much meaningfully to your plans, but I saw your mention of ReFS and wanted to mention that my experience with ReFS has been all good.  All perfect.  I wonder whether Microsoft is going to have Windows 9 booting from a ReFS volume.

 

SSD storage is still somewhat gold plated by comparison to HDD still, but 2 years ago I made a (nearly) 2TB RAID 0 array of 480 GB OCZ drives and have never had a lick of trouble, nor a single regret.  SSD works, and when set up right it's so potent I will surely never go back to a system that does not run from them.  I have some HDD too, but they're virtually always spun down - they're just for backup and low-access downloaded files.  I'd suggest that you might benefit from shifting a lot of your files to SSD.  The responsiveness of a (way) sub-millisecond latency I/O system that can also sustain GBs (plural) per sec data throughput is thoroughly addictive.

 

-Noel



#6
shae

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On my boot SSD is arranged like this:

  • A small UEFI system partition with the boot entries
  • Primary partition to house my VHDx files

My VHDx files are laid out as indicated in the first post.  Essentially, each is treated as a completely separate install of Windows, as far as the boot loader is concerned.  Each VHDx has its own BCD entry, and switching between them is as simple as a reboot.  Each boot, I can choose what VHDx to load in the standard BCD boot menu.

To be perfectly honest, I primarily use two different ones, my "Daily Use" and my Gaming.  It was a complete pain to have to configure my screens for multi-monitor gaming, and then reconfigure them for normal use.  So I simply made a new VHDx that has the appropriate settings, and can switch quickly.

 

How did you create the differential VHDs? Are the non-leaf VHDs immutable? What did you use to link them to the boot loader/manager?



#7
JeffB

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I actually created the both the primary VHDs and the differential VHDs through command prompt / diskpart...

 

create vdisk file="v:\base file.vhdx" maximum=40960 type=expandable
     {apply image, drivers, etc.}
attrib +s +h +r "v:\base file.vhdx"
create vdisk file="v:\daily use.vhdx" parent="v:\base file.vhdx"
create vdisk file="v:\gaming.vhdx" parent="v:\base file.vhdx"

 

(That creates a 40 gig VHDx, located at V:    Adjust as desired...)

 

Then I use BCDEdit to add the entries to the boot menu.  (I used to use EasyBCD, but it forces UEFI boot into the old fashioned text mode menu.)

 

Hope that clarifies, let me know if more information is desired...



#8
shae

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Thanks.



#9
JeffB

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No problem.  :)







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