View Full Version : Setting up multiple 'environments' on a single PC?

30th September 2008, 11:52 PM
Hi all,

When I run too many things on a single PC, eg a Jukebox, 'Regular' MAME, Mame with lightguns, Guitar Hero, regular games, etc... things start to get bloated pretty quickly with the amount of USB drivers etc and it slows the PC down.

Worse, it often causes issues where I have to recalibrate something or Player1 controller comes up as Player2, etc... its just not as 'nimble' as I'd like.

So I was thinking: What are my options for having more dedicated software setups? Eg:

Multiple installations of windows on the one hdd, each with its own theme and set of drivers, and with plug & play turned off so that its not constantly installing new devices.


Multiple hard drives (select on boot somehow?). The advantage of this is more redundancy and easier to rebuild if I want to change/replace a certain configuration... however the power consumption is a waste.

My third option that I'm contemplating is having one of those removable HDD caddies. I could then swap & change the hdd's almost as if they were game cartridges.
One for 'Regular PC/Games'
One for 'MAME (joysticks & spinners & trackball)
One for Mame lightguns
and one for Jukebox/Guitar Hero/Singstar.

1st October 2008, 10:04 AM
Going by your three scenarios presented, option 1 would be the cheapiest and most power consumption friendly path.

A 160Gb HDD from MSY is $45 at the moment. Use some partitioning software like Partition Magic, etc, or just plain old FDISK to create partitions on the drive.

Install your operating system on each partition. Even TinyXP could be worth investigating here. The NTLDR and Boot.ini files will update each time you install a new operating system, presenting you with a boot menu that lists each system to boot to. After you've finished the installs you can go into the Boot.ini file and edit each system name according to the target system you want to run on it, i.e.
Regular PC/Games
MAME (joysticks & spinners & trackball)
Mame lightguns
Jukebox/Guitar Hero/Singstar

The trouble with drive caddies is the plastic caddies are shithouse and will fail you if you are going to use them a fair bit, meaning you would have to spend a lot more money on the metal caddies. Plus you would need to buy a HDD for each caddy.

If you're concerned with redundancy on one drive, it doesn't take too long to rebuild a new drive to suit, and you would have all the files archived on DVD somewhere (roms, application setups). If you were backup fanatic you could buy another cheap drive and ghost an image of your completed drive to the backup drive. This would allow you to just pull out the faulty one and stick in the new one, and have a total system running pretty well the same, apart from a few rom and mp3 additions.

Just my thoughts, hope some of it may be of assistance.

1st October 2008, 01:59 PM
Does NTLDR allow that many? I thought it only allowed the primary operating system + one other, but my experience is rather old (NT4/2000, not XP)

I know linux had a decent boot loader, but again my experience here is rather out of date.

1st October 2008, 02:08 PM
look into GRUB. (linux boot loader, can load windows aswell).

1st October 2008, 03:41 PM
Does NTLDR allow that many? I thought it only allowed the primary operating system + one other, but my experience is rather old (NT4/2000, not XP)

I know linux had a decent boot loader, but again my experience here is rather out of date.

Yeah, allows a few. Not sure of the exact amount, but I've currently got 4 working Windows bootable partitions.

1st October 2008, 04:23 PM
What about a type of virtualisation?

I use Altiris (and it is free) to handle applications on my laptop.

What it allows me to do is install applications within a "layer" - any installation/files/folders/registry changes are captured in the layer.

You can turn on the layer (so the application is magically 'installed'), and then turn off the layer (so the application is magically uninstalled).

With the layers off, your machine has no debris from the programs. If you want to remove the application permanently, just delete the layer.

I use it ALL the time for testing apps (used to make a mess of my machine) - when I'm done testing, I delete the layer and its all gone.

I also use it for applications I don't use all the time, to reduce the bloat from my normal machine operations. I just fire up the layer, and hey presto there it is in my start menu reasdy to go...

Oh, and yes, I use it for drivers as well (especially my digital camcorder which has lots of software dross it likes to leave around) with no problems.

Here is a short blurb on it:


There is a free personal version. Symantec have bought it out now, and have a pay for pro version, but I don't know what it offers for the $$$ (probably stuff all)


2nd October 2008, 12:46 PM
That looks fantastic, I'm going to look into that.