5 if you include the couple of Dell partitions! The Dell pc comes with two hidden partitions – one is the diagnostics partition and the other is the system restore partition so you can get back to factory image if you ever need to. After I had installed Vista on the machine I then attempted to install Windows2008 but the installation process wouldn’t let me proceed as it couldn’t make a new partition due to the limit of 4 primary partitions on a hard disk. I therefore booted back into XP, blew away the Vista partition, created a new extended partition and within that created two drives – one for Vista and one for 2008. A quick reboot off the dvd and Vista was soon installed, then a repeat of the process, this time with Windows2008 and that was installed quickly too – I think Windows 2008 took about 20 minutes.
This evening I was preparing for an adminstrator password change that I need to do tomorrow on a Windows 2000 box so to check everything worked ok I created a new virtual machine in 2008, loaded the Windows 2000 cd and 26 minutes later I had installed Windows 2000 in a vm, rebooted, changed the password using the Offline NT Password cd and rebooted back into Windows 2000 and was able to log back in again. I suspect on old hardware it will take that long just to boot the machine up and change the password and log back in again!
I also really wanted the ability to select the Operating System that the machine would boot into after it was rebooted. The default installation of any OS is going to prompt you for the installation but that isn’t much use when the reboot is happening remotely. I remember some software I used back in the NT4/2000 days that would do this but couldn’t remember what it was called. That wouldn’t actually help though as the boot structure in Vista and Windows2008 is radically different requiring the use of BCDEdit…… Alternatively EasyBCD could be used to edit the boot configuration. This is well worth downloading as it makes editing the boot configuration much nicer. I was able to use this utility to remove the extra Vista configuration as a result of the dual installations of Vista. What is even better is their iReboot software. Install this on all the OS’s and then you can select which OS to boot with from a Task Notifier icon and restart the machine – just what I needed. (Note this does require .net framework so I had to install this on the new xp installation as it didn’t have it already! Also note that the first result for .net framework 2 comes up with a page can’t be found on Microsoft’s site and the second hit is for the beta version! Use this link instead and don’t forget to check Windows Updates afterwards)