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back to article Microsoft preparing for diskless Windows 8 PCs

Microsoft has imagined future computers that don't include onboard disks, but do boot from external USB 3.0 devices, and has prepared Windows 8 so that it can install and operate in such environments. Microsoft's Michael Niehaus, a senior product manager and the lead developer for the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, revealed the …

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Re: Still haven't separated OS and Data

redirected special folders have been around since at least XP, maybe even 2000.

NTFS partitions can be mounted in folders in the same way you can on linux.

Windows 7 introduced (to windows) the idea of libraries, where you can group several folders together so you could have your documents folder spread across several disks but all accessed together.

The problem is most people don't have a clue about this stuff or why it's useful. I recommend to most people they just have one big partition and just take decent backups. I see a lot of laptops where the OEM has split the disk into two partitions for OS and data but the owner doesn't understand that so they have a full C drive and an empty D. Since keeping your data on a separate partition doesn't remove the need for backups and most people don't regularly reinstall their OS, I think most people are better off with a single partition.

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Re: Still haven't separated OS and Data

@ Fuzz, AC 09:06, JimC

So, does this mean our IT people are lying when they say my "C:\Documents and Settings\myname" folder can't be "H:\Documents and Settings\myname" instead? (where H is the individual network drive allocation)

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Linux

Re: Still haven't separated OS and Data

> Its not done by default in linux, just like it isnt in windows.

You must have been using a numpty distro. IME it is normal in linux distros, but it is a distro rather than kernel option.

It's been a few years since I've tried, but windows used to make a hash of it, since drive space was calculated at the "drive letter" level - directory mounted volumes appeared to be a kludge.

Also, separation is not as useful under windows, since the UIDs are unique to the installation and you'll end up with "unknown user" which isn't easy to fix (unless you've got central authentication running from somewhere else) since user data appears to be scattered all over the system - file and registry.

For example, I keep a spare partition so I can do a clean install to a different partition for a major upgrade and just remount the user directories. I made the mistake of trying to do the same thing for a windows install. I suspect there is a migration agent somewhere which will do it cleanly, but linux... well it's just less hassle. I also tried changing the "special folder" location - that didn't go well.

I'm sure all this stuff can be done under windows, it just seems like more trouble than its worth.

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Re: Still haven't separated OS and Data

Would I be right in saying that you can do it in Windows but:

You have to do it yourself, It's not offered as an install option.

There may still be applications that throw up on you if you do.

It can be slow over a network

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Still haven't separated OS and Data

try copying your data to cloud ...

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Re: Still haven't separated OS and Data

Yep. There's no limitation to map your profile and all that goes with it (documents etc.) to network location and keep it synced and up to date.

The problem is that this is typically slower, increases network bandwidth and can lead to data loss more easily than taking regular backups of your profile. Which why the IT dept. where you are is playing it safe and not allowing you to map things that way.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Still haven't separated OS and Data

Yes. And no.

Yes you can mount a network share in any directory, but no as (if you're running roaming profiles) you should use the server to host the user profile and a network drive automatically mounted to host the non-profile user data.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Still haven't separated OS and Data

Part of the problem is that people are talking, here, of enterprise. I'm talking home user; the kind of person who, if they inserted the recovery CD, would lose every last bit of personal data.

Under /home are not only all my files but all the preferences, etc. and the applications that I install separately are mostly self contained when I want them .... eg, Celtx, just make sure the file is marked executable and run it. For the rest of the stuff, a simple sudo apt-get install, walk away, come back half an hour later and everything I want is installed; it already picks up the pre-existing preference files and all the extra fonts that are located in /home/username/.fonts ... and all sorts of stuff that makes the re-installation process SO easy.

With Windows, although you could right click and move the "my documents" folder it took a registry hack to alter the location of the documents and setings folder, and as for the user part of the registry, well, you could forget that; all software would have to be re-installed and re-validated again, wasting hours.

As for Windows 7, the plethora of extra folders that are in there for backwards compatability which give, "Access Denied" problems and all that stuff ... it is a real pain in the rear.

Re-install, patch and get full range of applications on a Linux machine, probably two hours at the worst on a 6Mb/s ADSL line. Windows ... scrub a day, easy.

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Re: Still haven't separated OS and Data

"So, does this mean our IT people are lying when they say my "C:\Documents and Settings\myname" folder can't be "H:\Documents and Settings\myname" instead? (where H is the individual network drive allocation)"

Possibly.

You can set up a junction (Symbolic Link) to move your profile to other places, but moving your windows profile to a network disk could be an issue if the file sharing does not initialize before windows needs to load your profile.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Still haven't separated OS and Data

@Michelle:

The recovery of a Windows system will always try to recover, rather than re-install, if possible. There have also been various improvements made to this in W8. Re-installation, which is what you seem to be talking about, will - by default - on both Linux and Windows re-partition the whole disk.

User preferences in Windows are stored with the profile, as by default is your user data. Preferences are loaded into the Registry of the machine at logon. Therefore, if you destroy a Windows install and have your ID on a different disk/partition you'll get all your preferences and data back.

The repo system used in Linux is great, but not a panacea, it is heavily skewed towards FOSS software, if you need anything commercial you're either going to be running scripts or manually installing an rpm, should one have been made available.

I am not aware of any Linux system where you could move a critical folder and all of the conf files which point to it would be automagically updated. It is now possible to move the special folders with tweakui, other utils or a registry hack.

All the folders which give access denied are pointers to folders where the name has changed, sure you have to learn the new names, but I have to learn something every time I use something new. Not a big deal.

I install Windows, Linux, UNIX and occasionally Mac systems all the time at work, Windows 2003/XP does take a lot longer, but it is nearly ten years old, Windows 7/2008R2 is way faster, it certainly doesn't take even a morning, let alone a day.

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Go

@ S4qFBxkFFg

Quote: 'So, does this mean our IT people are lying when they say my "C:\Documents and Settings\myname" folder can't be "H:\Documents and Settings\myname" instead? (where H is the individual network drive allocation)'

'can't' doesn't always mean a technical limitation, it could be a policy etc.

But technically you can.

From you path, I assume you on Win XP?

If so, all you have to do is right click on 'My Documents' and there should be a target folder location showing your example path.

Underneath there is a Move button, just click and browse to where you want your new 'My Documents' to be, including Network mounted drives, secondary drives in the same PC etc.

Same works for My Documents, My Pictures, My Video, and My Music as well.

So yes, Windows has been able to do this for years without issue. Win 7 just gives you more flexibility now with it's Library approach. i.e. You could have local and network locations at the same time. For example I have all my music on the Network, so my 3 Win 7 systems have all had that network location added to the local music libraries, so to each machine it looks like local data, and any new files added appear for everyone.

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Vic
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Joke

Re: Still haven't separated OS and Data

> try copying your data to cloud ...

We're talking about separating OS and Data, not Data from User...

Vic.

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Re: Still haven't separated OS and Data

"where the OEM has split the disk into two partitions for OS and data but the owner doesn't understand that so they have a full C drive and an empty D."

This is due to the use o/t preinstaller being used. Most didn't cope with NTFS so the initial pre-install was one on a small(er) FAT32 C:-drive and then converted to NTFS (so the knowledgable end-user wouldn't know) not to mention that the windows user-setup should have detected an empty D: drive and used that automagically for user data.

Anyway, YOU know this. So why don't you provide that service for the computer-illiterate at an acceptable fee. You could make a buck or two. Don't complain, turn this into an opportunity.

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Vic
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Re: Still haven't separated OS and Data

> if you need anything commercial you're either going to be running scripts or manually installing an rpm

This is not true.

It is a trivial matter to create a repository; it doesn't need to be FOSS within that repository. Adding that repo to the user's list of active repos means that your commercial software pops up right alongside all that FOSS in the package manager browser.

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Still haven't separated OS and Data

Vic: Re repos: Why would you create a repo at home for installing COTS software? I can see why you'd bother to do so in a large enterprise, but we're talking about individuals here. Besides, it's fairly trivial to setup a similar system for Windows in the enterprise.

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Re: Still haven't separated OS and Data

> Why would you create a repo at home for installing COTS software?

You probably wouldn't. That's not the purpose of the repository.

But the vendor of that software could do so trivially. And then updates go through the same channel as everything else.

> Besides, it's fairly trivial to setup a similar system for Windows in the enterprise.

Maybe it is. But my comment was in reply to the comment "if you need anything commercial you're either going to be running scripts or manually installing an rpm", which is patently untrue.

Vic.

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Re: Still haven't separated OS and Data

I wanted to move the profile directory (Windows 'home directory') to another 'disk' (drive letter) with a Virtual Box installation I set up for running Lightroom on XP on a Linux host. I wanted the OS disk (C:) / image file to contain the barest minimum of stuff so that it would be easy to back up, while all the user data was to go on what XP sees as a network drive provided by Virtual Box, in reality a directory on the Linux side for easy access and backup (from the Linux side). The short of it is that it apparently couldn't be done.

The registry edit relocating the profile directory didn't work for a network drive, nor did junctions*. I suppose setting up a samba server on the Linux side for the profile directory might have worked, I didn' t try that as it seemed far too complicated for such a simple thing.

For my purposes moving the 'My Documents' directory to the 'network drive' was good enough and for this the Virtual Box network drive worked ok: it seems Lightroom puts most of its data there by default**. Lightroom gave me trouble about its 'catalog' (picture database) though, it didn't like this being on what seemed like a network drive to it. Turns out one can overcome this by using 'subst'***, which apparently always appears a local drive.

* I seem to recall the target should have been on a NTFS partition on a local physical disk.

** The only exception, I'd recall, was the raw converter cache, which, of course, was configurable from within Lightroom.

*** That is, 'My documents' is on the drive created by 'subst', which, in turn points to (a directory on) the 'network drive' provided by Virtual Box, which, in reality is a directory under my home directory on the Linux side (where I can use symbolic links to further map things around.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Still haven't separated OS and Data

Network shares as junction points were introduced at vista, you needed a local ntfs disk prior to this.

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So they have basically announced what BartPE has been able to do for years with existing Windows XP/Vista and 7 files. Well done MS

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Anonymous Coward

timewarp..... woohoo!

So we're nearly but not quite back to where we were with Dos/Win3.1 where you could have true diskless PC's woohoo..... lol

Even with Win95 it was kinda/almost possible to run diskless with RPL booting and ramdisk for the OS.

I wouldnt call having usb storage being diskless at all though.

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Anonymous Coward

Welcome to the 1980's Microsoft

DEC had diskless VAX cluster members way back then. From about 1986/7 I believe...

Come on HP get those lawyers wearmed up. (only joking).

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Coat

Misread the title

I initally read it as "Microsoft preparing for disliked Windows 8 PCs"

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Linux

Re: Misread the title

I read it as "Microsoft preparing for userless Windows 8 PCs" or even "Microsoft preparing for useless Windows 8 PCs".

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Re: Misread the title

I misread it as "...dickless Windows 8 PCs".

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MS FUD

Wow USB stick Windows runs really hot, just shows how much hammering the Windows OS does to HDD's and how appalling it is at managing itself or looking after hardware. But as articles go MS has overcome their own limits. Yay!!!!

4 partitions, well that is one way to limit dual booting with a better OS (fruit or penguin based) If you can't beat them make it so techincally complicated and difficult that you can't.

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Anonymous Coward

Discless... I'd rather have the OS on my Smartphone and when put in a dock (connected) to a PC or I/O Devices to show up there (Like the Ubuntu/Android stuff)

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USB 2.0

Dont even try it. Took 20 minutes to get to the desktop running a Windows 8 to go USB boot.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: USB 2.0

I wouldn't try to boot anything I wanted up quickly from a USB2 anything. I have a Mythdora box which boots from a USB2 stick, it's cut down as much as possible, but is still slooowww, abuot 5 mins for a very basic XFCE desktop and little else.

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Vic
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Re: USB 2.0

> I wouldn't try to boot anything I wanted up quickly from a USB2 anything

I have a Fedora USB stick in my pocket. It's my most uiseful recovery tool.

> still slooowww, abuot 5 mins for a very basic XFCE desktop and little else.

Then there's something wrong with your installation. I get a desktop up very quickly.

Vic.

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Facepalm

Re: USB 2.0

Might I suggest you try a faster USB stick? Some cheap ones can be really slow, but the best ones can equal typical hard disk read/write speeds.

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Re: USB 2.0

Our pXe build and DART environments boot up pretty quick from 2.0. But then they are pretty small.

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Re: USB 2.0

"I get a desktop up very quickly."

Ditto

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Diskless Booting

I already use diskless client booting with Windows 7 by iPXE booting an iSCSI disk container holding the Windows 7 installation. I also use a locally installed USB stick as a Readyboost Cache. It works really well on a gigabit network, but don't think i'd like to use it over a WAN - not without caching boxes that could accelerate the data transfer, or a change in technology that could use local USB as a proper file cache. Sounds like this may be facilitiating that going forward.

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Linux

Alternatively

Why wait for Microsoft to solve a set of problems of their own making? Create a Linux image on your USB stick and run your copy of Windows in a VM.

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Windows 8 hype machine?

seeing a ton of pro Windows 8/Phone 8 articles at the moment on el reg. Smells like M$ are trying to hype us all up for launch.

So far I'm not buying into it, the proof of the pudding is in the eating after all.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Windows 8 hype machine?

Conspiracy? Or maybe it's just good?

I've personally not used Win8, but I am finding the constant nay-saying about anything pro-MS here rather tedious. The idea that MS could produce something good seems to be so outrageous that you'd rather accuse The Reg of taking bribes...

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Vic
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Re: Windows 8 hype machine?

> you'd rather accuse The Reg of taking bribes...

I'd accuse certain Reg writers of accepting gratuities from the cmopany about which they've just written a very enthusiastic piece. Particularly as TFA *says* this author did...

Vic.

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Re: Windows 8 hype machine?

"The idea that MS could produce something good seems to be ..."

"demonstrably false." There, fixed that for you.

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Anonymous Coward

running hot

Could it be to do with the reading/writing to the swapfile and the indexing process perhaps?

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DVD

"boot off the DVD"

Well, you may not have noticed that the very-iMac-like HP Spectre One doesn't have a DVD drive. That's the direction in which things are going. So MS is quite sensible in not replying upon it.

But this line about being unable to partition a USB-stick. That's just incompetence, pure and simple.

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WTF?

Dangerously hot?

"Such devices, Niehaus said, will have to be certified to run Windows to Go for two reasons, one of which is that in Microsoft's tests external storage ran dangerously hot."

WTF? So if you take a drive that was internal and put it in an external case, suddenly it runs hot?

Anyone care to enlighten me as to how this could be possible? The only thing I can think of is that the external cases they were using had no ventilation or cooling - cause if anything I would think the opposite would be true. Ambient temp inside any (conventionally cooled) computer case is going to be higher than the temperature of the room it is in.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dangerously hot?

If something runs hot with a heat sink and you take away the heat sink, then its internals *will* run even hotter, and it likely runs hotter on the exposed outside too.

There are cases (ahem) where a metallic (or other heat-conductive) case is intentionally used as a heatsink, to aid getting rid of unwanted high temperatures. Some laptops(etc) do this with varying degrees of success, some external storage enclosures I've seen make half hearted attempts at this.

How this might relate to what the MS man said to the MS-funded El Reg author is another story altogether.

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FAIL

What do you mean you can't put multiple partitions on USB attached media?

> “USBs report themselves as fixed disk,” Niehaus told the crowd in his session, and therefore cannot be

> partitioned. Microsoft has therefore had to work with third parties to create devices capable of making

> Windows to Go a goer. Super Talent and Kingston Technology have created such devices.

I've been putting multiple partitions on USB attached media (flash and spinning disk) for at least 10 years. When did they stop letting me partition my USB attached media?

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Time for new glasses

I thought the title said "dickless" Windows 8. This being The Register, that somehow made perfect sense to me...

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Re: Time for new glasses

@ TechW

El Reg doesn't bite the hand that feeds the IT as it used to be

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