back to article Virtual sanity: How to get a grip on your home PCs

Virtualisation can have a role in the home computing environment. Personal computers are kind of crap at migrating (or duplicating) your settings, applications and data from one system to another. Virtualisation can remove some of this grief. In the consumer space, Windows PCs come preloaded with crapware. The shiny new …


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  1. DJ Smiley


    Well you say you have to use Windows eventually.... but really, no you don't. You just don't want to spend the time to learn Linux / OSX to the level you require. Specially if whatever your doing requires windows XP and not 7.... and once April 2014 arrives and the XP updates finally stop, your STILL going to end up doing that whole upgrade shebang you hate.

    I meanwhile, am curled up in a ball keeping warm off the heat of my gentoo box warming my room :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > I meanwhile, am curled up in a ball keeping warm off the heat of my gentoo box warming my room :)

      My faithful old dual Xeon Gentoo heater is building glibc at the moment. So toasty.....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Notice he installed Steam as a high priority item. Linux and OSX still lag way behind Windows when it comes to gaming, and I dont see that changing in the near future. If you are a serious gamer, Windows is still where its at...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Linux and OSX still lag way behind Windows when it comes to gamin"

        Whereas using RDP (as per the article) for gaming is OK? No it isn't, as others have already pointed out.

        Does not compute.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge


          No, Steam was the only only thingI've installed on endpoints in a long while. Not in the VM. Everything else goes in the VM.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            > Steam was the only only thing I've installed on endpoints in a long while. Not in the VM. Everything else goes in the VM.

            So this set up is both complicated and incomplete? Plus you now have the host machine and the network as additional points of failure.

            If it's applications settings that are the problem then you can likely get the same effect with using a USB stick full of portable apps.

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              "Point of failure?"

              Who cares if the computer dies? It isn't the end of the world. What I care about it never having to reconfigure anything or set anything up again for my personal research/communications/etc. environment ever again.

              “A USB stick full of portable apps” doesn’t give me the apps I actually want to use. And the USB stick itself is a point of failure! (I go through about 2 a quarter.)

              As to complicated…I don’t see how. “Virtual host run personal virtual machines that maintain a personal computing environment that I can move from host to host to host without having to reinstall or reconfigure anything. Ever. Oh, it also can run little scut-work virtual appliances that someone who is not me put the time and effort into testing/installing/etc.”

              The endpoint runs nothing but video games locally. My house can burn down – and all my computers with it – and I could be back up and running in a half hour. Which would be important. That VM is where my email, IM, etc lives. All my contact information, my communication with my insurance company, my bank…all of it.

              For all intents and purposes my entire personal life’s worth of information and communications history resides in that VM. As my personal research environment, so to do my settings, configurations and preferences. Bookmarks, saved passwords, little notepad documents with half-written ideas (digital post-it-notes!) and all the detritus that I need to do things like write articles for El Reg, find the archaic list of super-secret code words to get the good cell phone plans from my carrier, the phone numbers that let me call tier-2 tech support instead of the call center in Manila, etc.

              It is more than just some files. It is like being able to take my entire office and carrying it around with me in my pocket, knowing that every scrap of paper, every pen, even my desk plant is exactly the way I left it. Safe and backed up. And I don’t have to do the smallest stitch of work to make it so.

              That I have to install Steam on the notebook in order to play a game is perhaps irritating, but not remotely the end of the world. I don’t have to touch that notebook otherwise. I don’t think I have opened a browser on that device for anything other than “downloading steam” since the day I bought it 6 months ago.

              So no, the setup isn’t perfect. It isn’t complete…but it requires zero effort to keep all my stuff working and configured exactly the way I want to be regardless of the hardware changes to endpoint, virtual host, etc.

              And that endpoint can be – and for several hours a day usually is – an Android phone. It can be my Android tablet. (Wyse pocketcloud is a good thing.)

              Unless I am playing video games, the endpoint simply does not matter. And frankly, Steam turns my windows PC into a console. Simple, easy, and my roommate’s xbox seems to need to download roughly the same amount of content anyways.

              I've been doing this for about 7 years now. So far, it has served me quite well; I have gone through about 18 endpoints, but haven't had to rebuild my personal workspace once.

              1. AdamWill

                all well and good...

                ...but you're still basically re-inventing the thin client with a somewhat unnecessarily exotic design. I don't know a lot about RDP/VMware but if it's like any other similar system I'll bet a small amount that you also have issues with external peripherals and hi-def video playback; and how does dual-monitor support work? How does it work when you're out of the house?

                I prefer to set things up in a more traditional thick client way; my 'endpoints' are bare-metal, fully-specced systems, but almost all actual data lives on a server (the servers are VMs) - personal mail server, web server, IRC proxy, and various utility webapps (for stuff like news reading, todo lists, note taking and so on). Like you, I can deploy a new system and have it configured exactly to my workflow in about a half an hour. (As the systems are all Linux machines, it's trivial to copy the configuration for most apps from any other client machine I have). And this way there's no loss of performance or issues with video hardware-intensive tasks or external peripherals.

                1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge


                  The endpoint OSes handle things like watching video. Actually, they're rather good at it. I haven't even had to install VLC in quite some time.

                  RDP supports multi-monitor just fine.

                  "Out of the house" experience has thus far been positive. I use the setup from my smartphone using 3G for a couple hours a day.

                  You just don't really do any video-intensive stuff in the VM unless you are at home. (BTW, 720p video seems to work just fine over RDP as long as I am on the same local area network.)

                  Is this “reinventing the thin client?” Sure; to a limited extent. It’s a halfway point between traditional thin client and a fat client. Some tasks (gaming, video) are typically handled by the endpoint. But the central location stores most of your “daily work.’

                  It is about making things easy to use and configure; about being to access from anywhere without a big power expenditure. It’s about the ability *not* to nerd about the details and the Linux this or the image that or the “just use 15 lines of perl to get the job done!” As stated in the article: I do this sort of stuff for a living. I know a dozen other ways to skin this cat, but almost all of them require some form of upkeep.

                  This is the zero upkeep system. It doesn’t require thought. I doesn’t require care, or planning, it doesn’t require backing up your endpoints or migration or any of that crap. It just works. Anywhere. From any device. It backs itself up into the cloud.

                  If I drive over my laptop, I can just not care. If I want a new computer, I can go get a new computer. The power of the endpoint determines the games I can play, or the videos I can watch.

                  But I can get work done from a $10 android phone over a crappy 2G connection if I need to.

                  Someone needs to package this and sell it for a yearly fee. If I didn’t already have the setup in place, I’d be the first customer! Just because I can do all the various Linuxy things or build my own domain and group policies or manually move this and configure that doesn’t mean that I want to.

                  Fixing computers isn't my hobby. It's my job. I refuse to do it at home.

                  1. Mark 65


                    Any chance of you doing a brief overview of how you go about this sort of thing?

                    Are the personal VMs all up and running on that $750 box, or are they run up on demand like VDIs are?

                    What software and versions are you using etc?

                    I have various machines, various OSes, a SoHo NAS appliance etc and wouldn't mind being able to do the same. The thought of VMs with their snapshot/last known good configuration is a big benefit although I like the data to be kept separate from the OS (bookmarks, emails, documents etc).

                  2. Anonymous Coward

                    Like you...

                    Like you I've been in the VM game for quite a while. I first met it in the late '70's as a late teen. Started using it on my personal (non-IBM compatible) computers in the mid-'80's, and started using it on PC-compatibles in early beta-test versions of VMWare (ca. 2000). I've been playing with all the variants from everyone since then.

                    One of the first applications I used it for was a browser appliance. Go ahead and do a drive-by on my browser. Didn't matter since I never saved the browser state, just turned the VM off. Every session started from a golden image created on a disconnected machine. Then I got to thinking and started using VM's for my servers. Again, same thing. On detected hack, start working back to a non-hacked version, patch for signature/source, and back in business. Even bad patches from MS, or anyone else (virus updates anyone?) for that matter, just don't matter that much. Report it, restore the VM, move on.

                    Toss in having total (catastrophic) DR on top beyond just security issues, as you discuss using way off-site storage, is just icing on the cake. You are going to get a lot of flack, as I have experienced, from the various fanbois. They don't understand that this is just about doing away with being a sysadmin at home as well as at work. Been there, done that, burned the t-shirt.

                    Frankly, I'm more interested in which virtual appliances you've taken out, beaten up on, and how they worked out. I don't know of anyone whose taken them all out, but I'm sure you've got some helpful advice here. Be safe out there!

        2. JEDIDIAH

          Yes. The RDP insanity.

          RDP is not bad but it's still very limited in what it can do for you. While it can certainly handle light desktop tasks without the lag and stutter of something like VNC, There is a lot of stuff you simply can't do across RDP even if you wanted to.

          There are simply limits to the whole Xserver/RDP approach.

          Plus maintaining all of that big box Unix style setup seems like a bit of a chore really.

    3. /\/\j17

      When you've managed to get SlingPlayer working on Linux you will let me know won't you - it's the main reason I installed Windows 7 on my Netbook, over Linux.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    I'm not understanding something

    The "ditto linux".

    My home directory is on its own partition, so when I reinstall the operating system (half an hour) install all patches (about another half an hour) and then install the apps (another half an hour done by a simple sh script) then the things just work, because all my preferences are in my home directory.

    The home directory can also be mounted on a network share which makes things even more portable.

    If someone can show me how I'm not understanding the article, I'd appreciate it.

    1. The BigYin


      I'm glad it wasn't just me then. I thought this was going to be some clever way of reversing a virtual image out on to physical hardware or something else.

      Instead it's just bizarre-o and IMHO wasteful. Games inside virtual machines? Over RDP? Yuck.

      Full consumer PCs to simply remote into an XP image? Huh?

      Maybe I too a missing something, but it strikes me that most of the issues could be resolved with a lot less complexity.

    2. lIsRT

      Out of interest, how do you manage system-wide settings?

      I'm able to keep most of my settings in my home directory, but have ended up with far too many customisations sitting in /etc/, which I've occasionally forgotten about when formatting the non-/home/ partition at re-install time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        As much as I can, it's done by scripts with commands. Occasionally some of them are file copies.

        One example is my screen configuration; one is twin view so I get a nice wide desktop, the other is separate x-screens so that when I start a game, it doesn't spread over both screens. A script below home, copies the appropriate file in to /etc/X11 and restarts X.

        It takes a while to develop stuff like this as needed.

        It also saved me a load of grief once I discovered that you can put some things like .fonts in the home directory also.

      2. JEDIDIAH

        System wide settings?

        System wide settings like what?

        There is very little going on in my /etc or root disk in general that isn't related to daemons that are outside of the domain of the original article. What little there is is pretty darn easy to clone since it's just human readable text in files.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          [gollum voice] SED is my frieeeend [/gollum]

    3. Microphage

      re: I'm not understanding something

      @Michelle Knight

      I see you've been attacked by the phantom modder :)

  3. b166er

    Try running 2x on a server 2008 R2 box.

    You can do VDI with RemoteFX then. (And they have Android, iOS clients)

    You can even PXE boot the 2x client software.

    (now I'm wondering if they'll do an ARM client for the RasPi, that would be genius!)

    1. Captain Underpants


      That sounds nice, and it might even help for gaming via RDP, but it's hardly feasible when the budget for the host system (including OS) is $750 as per the article.

      Thanks for mentioning RemoteFX, I had no idea it existed and it sounds quite interesting :)

    2. ElNumbre
      Thumb Up


      Didn't know they did a 2xOS until this post - I've been using the Android client on my transformer, but PXE booting an RDP session is veh intermaresting. I shall be trying that over the next few days.

      I just hope it supports more keyboard layouts than then droid version which has US and Japanese.

  4. Captain Underpants

    I may be confused here, but... all your home computing work is done via RDP to a virtual machine? That must be awesome for gaming :P

    The idea of running all your home computing on one box with virtual machines is interesting, although kind of horrific tbh (that may be because all the home computing in my household involves at least some system-intensive stuff, mostly gaming but also some video editing and graphic design work).

    I was expecting this article to be about something like booting from a VHD to allow for ease of migration between machines, rather than network-bound VMs.

    Also, Ninite sounds interesting but I'm not convinced it's worth the money compared to the somewhat-less-simple-but-free Secunia PSI ( which also supports a wider range of software. Allegedly the latest version features automatic updating, which (if it works correctly - I haven't tried it yet) would solve its biggest flaw.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Also, Ninite sounds interesting but I'm not convinced it's worth the money


      It's free.

      1. Captain Underpants

        Ah, I appear to have gotten confused between Ninite, Ninite Pro and Ninite Updater. (Only the first one is free).

        The point about Secunia's PSI covering a much wider base of software in terms of detecting updates & vulnerabilities still stands, but they can't be treated as direct rivals as they aren't aiming to do the same things.

        (That being said - having long ago spent some time looking into automating the installation of a local set of "standard" software packages with very basic install scripts and silent installation switches, Ninite is of limited use to me either at home or at work...but that's my local bias rather than a judgement on the tool itself.)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And for the rest of the world

    Just use DriveimageXML once a week to an external HDD...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Home network?

      Seems way over complicated for a home system, if you're going to use Win 7 anyway why not just do a regular system image backup to a nas or external drive?

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge


        I change endpoints too often. Window 7 system image doesn't cross hardware platforms too well.

        1. Ammaross Danan

          Crosses Fine

          Just the other day, I restored a Clonezilla image of a Win7 box from Intel SNB hardware to a Core2 system (both HP biz fortunately). Runs fine. Took the hard drive out of an AMD AM2+ mobo system and plopped it in a AM3 mobo system. The only glitch was the nVidia drivers needed to be removed beforehand so the AMD Radeon vid card switch-in wouldn't toast the OS on load (still was able to remove the vid drivers by swapping the old vid card into the new system, remove the drivers, then pop the Radeon back in). Simples.

          Win7 isn't as bad off as XP when it comes to underlying hardware change. You can even move from SATA IDE emulation mode to AHCI with a one-liner registry change.

          Trevor, your setup sounds quite extravagant, and I do hope your SNB $750 HTPC runs well hosting the 3 or 4 XP VMs that you allocate for "all your computing needs except gaming." However, I for one know that it would not work for most tech-savy users, as my web-browsing alone takes up over 750MB of RAM (yes, I have lots of research threads open, usually 6 or 7 separate browser windows with multiple tabs each). Hope you decked out that SNB with 16GB of RAM and a 120GB SSD, which is the only way it would be tolerable if both you and your family are using it concurrently.

          Something you might want to look into is an nCompute setup. Works like RDP, but is a separate physical thinbox client. It's more seamless than a Wyse or the like, and gives you a more-native view than an RDP session. Also would save you having to run your i5 w/ an nVidia power-sucker just so you can tote around the internet in an RDP session.

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

            @Ammaross Danan

            I5 2500, 16GB RAM and Vertex 2 120GB SSD. It is in a tiny little case with an 80+ gold PSU and I am pretty sure the whole thing didn't cost me more than $750 at the time of build. (Which was some time ago.)

            I regularly run with 120+ tabs of Firefox open, 50+ rdp sessions, 25-30 SSH sessions, 12-15 Notepad sessions, Outlook, Trillian, FeedDemon, Dropbox, 3 or 4 Word sessions, a pair of Excel spreadsheets, Google Calendar sync and MSE. (Give or take, that's my PVM setup.) That fits just fine a VM with 3.5GB of RAM. I have not had a problem with it in 7 years.

            My wife's Windows 7 VM has 2GB of RAM, hold more or less the same loadout of programs (but nearly as many open at a time) and I haven't heard complaints. My roommate's CentOS has 4GB of RAM; no blitting from the back buffers there.

            I don’t see how that “isn’t good enough for most people.” There’s gobs of free RAM for little widgety VMs to run in the background and still have lots left for the host.

            The whole thing consumes next to no power (I think it averages less than 50W consumption during the day,) and the exhaust from the fans actually blows into the cage for my Geckos, helping to keep them warm.

            Cheap, does the job…fast enough for three people’s work with overhead to spare. Where’s the issue?

            As to Windows 7 image-based backups; my success rate with them is only about 70%. Oh, like hardware to like hardware, sure. But if the southbridge is too far out, the thing just doesn't seem to like to go.

            But even is Microsoft fixed that, it is still only part of the puzzle. I own more than one endpoint! I have a desktop, notebook, netbook, two tablets two cell phones and that’s before I start counting work computers or trying to get the things I need done while over at a friend’s house or on a client’s site.

            The VM solution puts everything I need on the other end of an RDP session for 50W of average electricity usage. I don’t have to leave some monstrous desktop running 24/7. I don’t have to synchronise profiles/bookmarks/settings/sqrt(-feet)/whatever between all these different devices.

            I just need an RDP client. Then work gets done.

        2. The Original Steve


          Windows 7 Images (and Vista) are VERY good cross hardware.

          Got a mix of Dell's and HP's, laptops and desktop ranging from 1 month old through to 5 years old.

          One image - works on the lot.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          Ok, I just misunderstood your reasons, I'd assumed you were talking more about restoring OS's to dead disks, as opposed to imaging a standard OS onto new hardware.

          However, I'd have thought a custom install script with a standard System iso and the required apps would have been less labour intensive.

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge


            Scripted install? For an image-based OS? (Windows 7 is image based!)

            Then you have to write a script to kill aero snap with fire, install classic shell, set the folders to visible, make sure extensions show up, kill simple file sharing, beat IE9 into shape, yadda yadda yadda.

            Then I have to import my bookmarks. Set up outlook. Import my dictionary for Word, move over my chat logs, install all the things on Ninite. Install mIRC, remember that nnscript is broken on modern mIRC. Uninstall mIRC. Spend an hour hunting old mIRC, then install nnscript. Copy over nnscript configs. Set up Trillian. Configure Feed Demon, Dropbox calendar sync and every single browser.

            Desktop shortcuts have to be created or migrated. Quick launch configured. I have to punch in every single password for every single website or network device all over again. (If I remember them.)

            I have to map my H:\ drive to my homefolder on the Synology diskstation and then “move” my “My Documents” folder to the diskstation so that dropbox and all the rest of the stuff works the way I want it to, and so that a document saved in one location will actually make it to the other computers I use. (My homefolder is ~2TB, so no, I can’t just use dropbox to syncronise files.)

            Every. Single. Time.

            So I am supposed to SCRIPT this? And have those scripts remain valid for more than 6 months and a handful of application versions? What a truly monumental pain in the ass!

            I set up my VM seven years ago. Years. Seven of them. That is the before time! It took me a grand total of 8 hours. (Because that is what doing all of this and patch, patch, patch, patch, patch takes.) I haven’t had to reinstall it or reconfigure it, migrate it or otherwise putz around with the thing since.

            It isn’t the most secure. It isn’t the most highly available or done according to a white paper or set up to never ever fail with added !!!111!!11oneoneone.

            Instead, it is really – really – convenient. It requires next to no maintenance beyond periodically migrating the VM from host to host as you upgrade the hardware. (Move file. Press “play.”) The backup widgety thingamabob backs it all up once a night and so if my house burns down, I lose only a day’s worth of data. (Less; the hyper-critical stuff like financials, El Reg articles, etc. are all in Dropbox.)

            Maybe what I am describing is slightly more labour intensive than setting up a single new computer. But when you look at how many computers I plough through in the course of a year, and then realise this has worked for SEVEN so far…

            …the sheer laziness this has enabled gives me the happy.

            1. Mark 65

              Bookmarks and passwords

              Xmarks in Firefox. Password protected, syncs wherever I need it. Don't care about banking passwords as I will never commit those knowingly to the storage of any browser. It's worth using even if you want to persist with VMs.

            2. Captain Underpants


              It sounds like part of your problem was, originally, not being particularly well organised ("spend an hour hunting around for old mIRC"? Really? Once, maybe, but every time you set up a new machine? Fool me once etc).

              That being said, if you've gone through 18 client machines in 7 years (presumably through choice rather than buggering the hardware up) and use several devices for connectivity, your setup starts to make sense.

              What sort of security do you have for inbound connections? It sounds like you're set up for external access - is that right?

              1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge


                Netgear WNDR3700 v2 /w Openwrt.

                The Big Guns. :)

  6. OzBob

    Prediction: there will be a 3rd party company,...

    that will write its own utility to manage windows profiles and saved games better than default, then M$ will buy them out, add its own cruft and bundle it free in future versions of windows.

    See Visio, Virtualisation, Media Player, et al.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    New Machine comes into the house

    Remove all the crud, patch to latest everything

    create to-the-metal disk image on home file server across network

    set up weekly scheduled backup to home file server across network

    give to whoeveritisthatneedsit


  8. Chappy

    Tutorial please, or a pointer

    If I want to create a setup like that, what do I need to do to create the virtual server?

    What software do I need to run on the virtual server box?

    Do I need special license to allow multiple instances of XP (or Windows 7) to run?

    Can anyone point me to a good tutorial on that?


    1. Captain Underpants


      You need VMware Server - it's free, though now out of support and obsolete. It runs on various flavours of linux, though for version 2 Ubuntu seems to be the only non-enterpise version.

      For the VM licensing it gets fiddly. If you run Ubuntu as your host OS but want to have 3 separate Windows XP VMs, the normal assumption is that you'd need 3 licences. If you won't ever run more than 2 at a time, you might get away with having 2 licences, but I wouldn't want to bet on it unless the terms of your license explicitly allow you to count licences in this way.

      There are tutorials on setting up VMware Server for Ubuntu and Fedora at and, and advice on creating virtual machines in VMware Server at

      It probably helps if you're using a decent router at home rather than one of the freebie pieces of cack that ISPs are so keen to give new subscribers...

    2. Veni, Vidi, Velcro

      XenServer is a decent, free option for the host server. The free edition should provide everything you need. Of course, you'll need to download a free license for it, but that's not a huge deal.

      Multiple instances of Windows require individual licenses. For Win 7, I think that Microsoft may have an alternative "VDI" licensing or similar, but the specifics are beyond the sphere I typically worry about.

  9. Mike Flex

    @Captain Underpants

    > Secunia PSI... Allegedly the latest version features automatic updating, which (if it works correctly - I haven't tried it yet) would solve its biggest flaw.

    Seems to work. It's slow though and there is minimal feedback on progress (which might make it feel slower than it actually is).

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ooo, ninite

    Interesting, I will have to give that a whirl, thanks.

  11. AndrueC Silver badge

    I feel your pain

    I've spent the last eight months installing different versions of Windows, Exchange, SharePoint and various backup packages. I'm sick to death of the whole 'virgin' browser experience.

    Tell the EU to sod off - I just want a browser, thanks. Any will do.

    /No/ I don't want to confirm every bloody site just because it's a server. /No/ I don't want Bing as my default search engine. /No/ I don't want accelerators. Blah, bloody blah. But what really gets up my nose is that if you decide you just can't be arsed because you just-bloody-want-to-install-the-damn-applications-thank-you-very-much then clicking No causes a new tab to open with some marketing shite anyway. Maybe we need a third button.


    'No, I'll do it later'

    'Fuck off and let me browse'.

    As for the rest. Sigh. Turn off shutdown prompt on servers (they are only test servers anyway). Single click thank you, don't you dare hide known extensions, show the full path, open a new window for each folder. Turn off all the panes except the actual folder view.

    Gordon Bennett - the list goes on. And you know you're trapped. If you try to skip something you'll get pissed off at it later anyway. And does anyone understand how the Group Policy Editor works in Win 2k8r2? You have to launch the reporter then ask it to edit a setting so that it can open the editor in some magical way that allows you to actually edit group policies. Assuming you can even find where the setting is in the first place.

    I'm bloody glad I'm only a programmer. Visual Studio is bad enough but configuring Windows and applications is a nightmare. I take my hat off to IT support gurus.

    1. Mark R

      Group Policy Editor in Win2k8

      "And does anyone understand how the Group Policy Editor works in Win 2k8r2?"

      Hit Start

      type "gpedit.msc"

      hit enter

      If you're editing domain policies and prefer the Group Policy Management Console (and you have it installed), type "gpmc.msc" instead.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Ah, yes. I did a bit of Googling and I think you're right. In the past used rsop.msc then clicked edit but it looks like that is launching gpmc.msc and that ought to work on its own. Thanks for that. I'll probably forget it now that I'm back to my real work but thanks anyway :)

    2. Andrew Barr

      This is the difference between Developers and the Infrastructure guys :P

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        >This is the difference between Developers and the Infrastructure guys

        Yeah, I guess. If you do this stuff as part of main job then you can remember it. But I still think it's poor design. Why the hell do we need two different utilities that look almost identical to do what's essentially the same job?

        I think they should be replaced by a single console app 'policyeditor.msc'. If not then gpedit.msc/gpmc.msc should warn you and offer to run the correct version.

        Ah well, thanks again guys anyway :)

        1. foxyshadis

          GPMC is that all in one

          And has been since 2004. There are other ones, including gpedit.msc, rsop.msc, but they've been included in GPMC for so long that I almost forgot that there were once other ways to access them. The old ones are just vestiges - aside from gpedit's ability to edit local policies without installing the administration pack.

  12. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

    I don't like VM

    Dont get me wrong, I do use them if I need secondary OS to do things my primary is not good at (e.g. hacking gcc is so much easier under Linux than under Windows I normally use). However when I built the box I'm using, my intention was not to waste large part of its power doing virtualization stuff; the CPUs, network, disk IO aren't really all that good at it. Meaning all the stuff I bought and which happens to require Windows defines my primary OS.

    However I still take benefit from incremental virtual disks with quick rollback, but without actual VM - via magic of .VHD boot support in Windows 7. Well and of course plenty of backups but that's another story.

    1. foxyshadis

      It's not 2002 anymore.

      Virtualization has a near-zero footprint for most tasks, and if you get a system with IOMMU/vt-x you can actually passthrough the GPU and other peripherals to your VM, leaving you with zero functionality loss. Occasionally you run into licensing restrictions with number of core of maximum memory, but free versions usually stay at most six months behind the consumer state of the art (right now, 8-12 cores, 8-12 GB memory, and a few VMs. More are switching to charging by VMs than hardware support).

      If you're running an ancient computer with minimal or no hardware virtual support, like pre-2006, it might be worse, but in that case you won't have the horsepower to run multiple OS instances anyway.

      If you have one of the insanely overpowered modern systems for web browsing and compiling, multiple instances not only won't impact your experience, they'll actually help you more efficiently use the hardware to its maximum potential by running multiple segregated services.

      1. MacGyver


        Unless you bought a Sony, only to get it home and find out that they modified the BIOS to not have any VM options, and are forced to use your 2011 laptops as 2002 laptops (or push VM BIOS edits into NVRAM blindly).

        Not really directed at you as much as a jab at Sony. Seriously, my two Sony VAIO laptops BIOSs has Time Settings, and Passwords Settings only. FU Sony!, I bought it, now let me do whatever I want to my possessions.

        1. gratou


          Who buys Sony these days? Don't you guys learn?

          Sony proved over and over they will always screw their customers when given a chance.

          1. MacGyver


            I know now; I was just making sure everyone else does too. I thought it was relevant to the VM issue.

      2. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

        I don't want new system

        well not really, but my CPU is Yorkfield family dated 2008 or so and it's just fine, even for more complex tasks (surely SSD RAID and 8GB RAM help). I'm going to eventually replace it with Iron Ivy or better but I see no need to do so just to be able to run VM with less of an overhead. For now, bootable VHD does just fine.

  13. jason 7 Silver badge

    Sounds like hard work to me!

    The only real changes I'd like to see are simple lift and shift single folder migration for Outlook/contacts/favourites etc.

    All those silly hidden folders and data stuck all over the place for what is for some such a core application.

    Sorry but the import/export options are not good enough.

    Would be so cool to be able to copy the user folder and drop it into a new machine and all the appropriate installed apps just pick up the data and run with it.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    time saver

    wow that Ninite is pure gold! I use Steam too so between the pair of them I can get almost all my apps done super fast - not that I rebuild my home PC that often TBH.


  15. Dave 126 Silver badge

    interesting article, if confusing to me

    There were lots of little points that I found interesting - eg Ninite - but evidently I'm ignorant about some of the terms/ideas. May we re-wind and look at what is desired?

    - "My Environment" (My operating system(s), applications, application and system settings, account logins, history, documents) to be easily transportable to any machine for convenience and pain-free hardware changes.

    So, what possible ways may this be accomplished?

    -Use your environment remotely, using whatever local machine as a terminal.

    -Copy the entire image over to your machine at the start of each session and run it as a virtual machine so as not to get caught out by hardware differences.

    -Cheat, and somehow automate the process of installing every piece of software and changing every setting automatically.

    I'm confusing myself, now. Sometimes I want my desk to be just as I left it, sometimes I want it clear of documents, pens and mislaid biscuits.

    1. Captain Underpants

      @Dave 126

      Booting from a VHD seems the least miserable way of doing this if you want to take full advantage of local hardware (ie graphics-intensive stuff, which is a no-go if you're RDPing to a VM manager) without waiting to transfer a full system image over your home network every time you boot up. This does bring with it the inevitable anguish of Windows reactivation when you move to a new set of hardware. Still less hassle than a clean install from scratch though.

      It doesn't help with OS migrations, either. (Mind you, neither does OS virtualisation).

  16. jason 7 Silver badge

    One other change I'd like....

    When you have rebuilt your PC and are then downloading and installing the 118 updates for XP/Vista/7 that half way through the install (when you have walked away for a bit to do something more interesting) that it doesn't stop the install to ask if you want to install Windows8/9!

    Well yes I bloody ticked the box so just install it and stop asking me if I want this or that running I dont care!!!!!

    Many is the time I have come back to an install an hour or so later to find it sitting there waiting for me to tick 'yes' with 75 updates (and a lot of .NET ones at that) to go.

    1. jason 7 Silver badge

      Arrghh I meant Explorer 8 or 9 not Windows.


      1. Captain Underpants

        @Jason 7

        Your best bet there is to download the offline installer from, write a quick batch file to silently install it, *then* run Windows Update. (You can couple this with a bit of VBscript to automatically enable Microsoft Update and pull down updates for Office and other non-Windows MS stuff too, if you're interested).

        None of which makes it alright for Microsoft to have done something so bloody stupid in the first place.

    2. AndrueC Silver badge

      In my case I always hide the IE9 upgrade. I just can't get on with subpixel addressing of any kind.

      1. J. Cook Silver badge

        IE9 - Not Prime Time...

        @AndrueC: I don't install IE 9 on any of the machines I have at work, largely because of some of the quirks it has with the MMC framework and some of the management consoles we use.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge

          Interesting. Several of our utilities are hosted inside MMC. I'll ask our QA department if they've done any IE9 co-existence tests yet. I hope we don't have to start faffing around with that. They are all written in VC6 and no-one has bothered to migrate them to a later version yet. Or are scared to even try, lol.

  17. Anonymous Coward


    How does this work for gaming?

    I got quite excited when I read about RemoteFX in the RDP 7 protocol. It allows video and 3D graphics to work smoothly over a remote desktop connection, and I have that successfully working between my gaming PC (running Server 2008 R2) and my laptop, playing video and with Aero Peek working as a proof of concept. Unfortunately none of my games work. Valve games put up a message abut failing to create direct 3d device, and Skyrim flatly refuses to start on a remote desktop.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge


      Steam goes on the endpoint. But Steam installs all games for you, patches, etc. One single install; can live on multiple PCs.

      But everything that isn't Steam? In the VM you go! Then I never have tk reinstall, reconfigure, futz with or otherwise care about setting my personal environment ever again!

      Though I just might. Just once. If Windows 8 remoteFX lets me put Steam in the VM. (as of now, only about 25%) of games are playable with remoteFX. The rest of the games must be installed on the endpoint.)

  18. fourThirty

    point missed...

    I think the majority of you have missed the point.

    The new 'endpoint' can be used for gaming etc locally as steam does all the install work. (Granted it may take a while to download the install files, but I'm pretty sure theres a way to take a backup of all downloaded content)

    The VM with all the required apps for day to day computing tasks can still be accessed in the meantime.

    It's not rocket science, and not a bad idea really... in fact, the gaming experience may even be slightly better without all the bloat of productivity apps installed locally.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Cookie? Cookie for that man there!

    2. Captain Underpants
      Thumb Down


      Yes, but no.

      If your usage scenario is correct, you still have a new endpoint that needs to be managed for updates, etc. Steam in particular is a fucker and will install half a dozen runtimes along with Direct X when you install your library, which will then need updates along with the usual stuff.

      I can *sort* of see the idea having legs *if you can do everything in the VM*, but if gaming and other system intensive stuff is still done locally, all you're doing is creating extra systems that you need to maintain over time to save on the pain of the initial migration/setup process.

      At which point, why aren't you looking at booting from VHDs or booting directly to a virtual machine? (Yes, non-trivial to set up, but if you're *that* terrified of migrating from machine A to machine B, surely it's worth it...)

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        @Captain Underpants

        But WHO CARES what steam wants to do with the endpoint.? It OWNS the endpoint. There is nothing on it excepting the OS, Steam and the RDP client. I dont' ask steam what its doing, or why. It doesn't tell me. I can play any of the games in my library. My workspace lives in an RDP window.

        Also: you aren't "creating other systems that you need to manage." The virtual host can be - and usually is - some random box that i find on sale that runs ESXi. ESXi takes all of 5 minutes to install and requires zero configuration.

        This has worked for 7 years. Life is easy.

        I fail to understand how this is remotely harder or more scary than reinstalling and reconfiguring every tiny thing each time you get a new endpoint...

        1. mikejs


          "Also: you aren't "creating other systems that you need to manage." ..."

          Of course you're creating other systems - you've gone from one system, to three (the endpoint, the vm host and the vm guest). All of which need patching, updating, maintaining in various ways.

          "This has worked for 7 years. Life is easy."

          So you're still using a 2004-era WinXP install as your VM - with all the apps of a similar vintage? That must be a really clean and fast install by now...

          On the other hand, if you're rebuilding it every once in a while, how is this different from having to do the same at the PC?

          "I fail to understand how this is remotely harder or more scary than reinstalling and reconfiguring every tiny thing each time you get a new endpoint..."

          Personally, I don't change "endpoints" that often. And I've either sysprepped and cloned the earlier machine, thereby keeping all the settings and migrating the OS to the new hardware, or I've changed OS and app versions in a fairly major way.

          I find most config tweaking is the result of new app versions, not changing "endpoints".

          What you describe isn't "scary" - it's an overcomplicated solution to a problem that doesn't really exist in the first place.

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge


            Yep; I am using a 2004-ish XP vm. Works fine. Speedy and homey.

            As to your personal assessment of the "necessity" or not...well, to each their own. I've explained my reasons and detailed the processes elsewhere in this thread. We are going to have to agree to disagree, sir.

            1. mikejs


              "I am using a 2004-ish XP vm."

              Wow. Well, each to their own and all that, but I don't think keeping an install around for that sort of time is an approach to recommend. The accumulated cruft of hotfixes, app updates, app version changes (e.g. office - or are you still on 2003 there too?) means it will be slower and clunkier than a clean install. I generally consider windows installs to have a lifetime of maybe 18 months, two years at most, before the benefits of a clean install become very significant.

              In short, you don't solve the problems of accumulated junk in windows by moving it into a VM.

              Do you plan on sticking with XP indefinitely, or are you going to move to something newer at some point? When you do move, aren't you going to run into exactly the problems you're trying to avoid?

              1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                I will use XP and Office 2003 until it either stops working at an acceptable speed, or stops doing what I need it to do.

                Give me one good reason to switch?

                "Be cause X is newer" isn't a valid reason.

                It simply isn't slow or otherwise getting in my way.

                If, in the very unlikely event my well defended XP setup gets a virus, I can revert to a previous copy.

                There are zero apps I have encountered that require anything newer than XP and which offer even a remotely compelling reason to switch.

                I have some businesses on newer OSes, and I have moved most of them to the latest Libre Office. But there are business reasons for that. Usually tied to increased Active Directory awesome.

                For my personal workspace, you will have to do a truly epic amount of work to convert me to the religion of "new because it's new."

                I don’t spend money or expend my time unless there is a solid business case on the table. If you have one, let’s hear it. Al you’ve presented is fearmongering about old installs that in no way reflect the reality of the past decade or so of my professional experience

                I have thousands of XP systems in the field. I still have some 2000, some NT 4 and the odd Mac from the late 80s! If you are doing you job right, you can certainly have these things just hum along for decades.

                I don’t upgrade because Microsoft wants more money. I need a damned good reason.

                1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                  Additionally: coffee first, /then/ pull out cell phone to add comments to thread. *wince*

                2. mikejs

                  "Give me one good reason to switch?"

                  In my case, there were two. Firstly, using Win7 at work, I find it easier to use the same at home. After a while using Win7, XP feels really clunky. (At first, it's the other way around. And, yes, I use classicshell.)

                  Secondly, I moved to an SSD. Win7 provides TRIM support, XP doesn't.

                  Then there's new features such as bitlocker, newer DirectX, etc.

                  But bear in mind, I never suggested moving for the sake of a newer version. I mentioned that, in my view, a re-install every so often is beneficial. That's a convenient time to upgrade, if you're so inclined, but not essential.

                  And, as mentioned, I have sometimes kept the OS intact when changing machines (via sysprep). Changing OS and changing hardware are already separate questions, without bringing VMs into the picture.

                  "There are zero apps I have encountered that require anything newer than XP and which offer even a remotely compelling reason to switch."

                  We're starting to see some apps where 32bit is treated as legacy, and the expectation is for 64bit. Rare, so far, and specialist stuff, but I expect that will become more common.

                  "Al you’ve presented is fearmongering..."

                  Nope, just personal experience after having dealt with automating windows installation, one way or another, since the NT4 days, in an environment with 1000s of PCs and a wide range of hardware types (including departments that can buy their own kit and expect to put our image on it). I find, in practice, that a clean install every 18 months or so has significant benefits. This isn't an idle or untested view, although it obviously relies to some extent on what typically happens to that machine over that period.

                  I think you'll find that 'Windows needs a re-install every so often' is quite a widely held view, but YMMV.

      2. fourThirty
        Thumb Up


        Yeah I totally agree with you there, even a fresh windows 7 install now has a shedload of updates.

        Plus, if you are a gamer/enthusiast, you will need all the specific drivers for any GPU/Soundcard etc. and then the overclocking tools etc. etc...

        The only way to properly streamline it smoothly would be using something like nLite & WDS/RIS to completey script an install from scratch, which is a huge pain in the ass too!

        I do like the idea of keeping the bits and bobs apps and tools on a VM, you could simply run OracleBox or something similar on top of your desktop OS and keep the VHD (Or whichever proprietary virtual file system) backed up somewhere ready for use once the rebuild is complete?

    3. The BigYin


      ...if only there was some way to run an application on a server and have the client appear elsewhere. If only such a thing existed. And I don't mean a website, that's far too limited constrained to the limitations of the browser/HTML.

      What's needed some kind of crazy mechanism for the server to "run" the application but have it display somewhere else. Not Terminal Services of Citrix, much lower level than that.

      I can't believe that after all these years no one has created and tried to push - it would be the perfect solution. Some apps run on the server, some on the client. Where depends on the use-case/hardware needs.

      Such a thing would be a paradigm shift in computing to rival "the cloud" and an X-cellent idea.

      1. Jonathan Richards 1

        @Big Yin

        Very good. X-pressive and avoiding much compleXity.

      2. securityfiend
        Thumb Up

        HAH = BOFH

        This is possible on Windows using DCOM. My team leader (a true BOFH) would run Excel on *my* pc while having the GUI on his PC...

        This was in the mid-late 1990's on Win95...

        He wrote an internal RAT / admin tool for the PC's that simplified our work no-end...

    4. Colin Millar
      Thumb Up

      No need to download

      Store the main downloads centrally and copy them out as required to endpoints using a variety of techniques including any decent file backup app - you could probably even use the Steam built in backup facility. You can also delete unused games off the endpoint knowing that you can get it back pretty quick.

      Of course that is an incidental benefit of the system described here but if you've got a lot of Steam games and a lot of users it's a pretty major one.


      Point not missed at all...

      This Rube Goldberg arrangement of running some stuff through an X terminal and other things locally all seems to boil down to the problem of Windows software management. There is no good way to rebuild a system from scratch. A small subset of apps can be recreated Debian or Apple style but not everything.

      It seems the real answer is something like a local Debian/Ubuntu repository and an automated installer to go with it. Download stuff once and keep it. Direct new boxes to locally cached copies of apps and OS updates.

      It sounds like there's nothing like that for the platform you can't get yourself away from.

      Rebuilding a Windows box has always been a royal PITA.

  19. ZenCoder

    I used to do virtualization.

    When I did web programming I had my entire work environment in a Windows XP virtual machine, which lived on a 2.5" external.

    Now I'm back to being religious about my backups. Every system has a image made when windows is first setup and one done before any major changes in case something goes wrong.

    I could definitely see myself going virtual again if my work needs warranted it. Its very nice to have a 100% stable work environment, that works on any computer you own or can install software on. Not sure if I'd take it as far as the author has, the external hard drive solution was simple and portable.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "application on a server ... client elsewhere. "

    [deliberately eXcluding some earlier references]

    "if only there was some way to run an application on a server and have the client appear elsewhere. If only such a thing existed.

    I can't believe that after all these years no one has created and tried to push - it would be the perfect solution."

    You mean a bit like the thing described in

    That article was written by: Trevor Pott. Maybe Trevor didn't get to keep the review model?

    "Some apps run on the server, some on the client. Where depends on the use-case/hardware needs."

    I see where you're coming from. A lightweight client with capability of running lightweight apps locally and heavier stuff elsewhere. Powered by (say) ARM (ideally), or Wintel if desperate.

    Set the wayback machine to mid 1990s. Get 90% of a project called Shark finished. And then cancel it because Bill says you can either be Larry's friend or you can be my friend. Cheers, GQ Bob, we love you too.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      @Anonymous Coward

      Pano logic doohicky would be cool. Don't have a Pano Logic 18" notebook, don't have a Pano Logic cell phone. Etc.

      Pano is great if I want fixed desktop access points. Less awesome for writing articles under a tree overlooking the lake full of ducks, or a quick RDP in to check some financial data or an address.

      Plus – and here’s the bit that still sort of gets me – I periodically go places on vacation that don’t have internet. Indeed, I have a lake lot where the cell phone signals don’t reach. (It is why I have a lake lot there.)

      I do enjoy taking the Alienware full of games though. Most of them don’t require access to steam to play some single player.

      That said; Pano can do some really Neat Things regarding multimedia and 3D playpack centrally processed and delivered to a zero client. I'm just not that tied to a desk anymore.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Geeky Virtual Machines

    Great fun. I love showing off my Virtual XP running in Linux, which makes my dual-bootable unvirtual XP very, very, very nearly redundant. I love showing off my virtual linuxes, all within Linux; I love showing off how they can all access the "Windows" network drives on the underlying machine.

    However, the excellent series on virtualisation past and virtualisation present, published here some time last year, shows that, in terms of efficiency, it has a long way to go when it comes to PCs.

    But if it (they) works for you... enjoy.

    All I need to restore my just-as-was Windows setup is DriveImageXML (and the backup it made, of course) and a Bart'sPE CD.

    Understood that some have moved "on" from XP, and that this does not serve for recreating that "just-as-was" environment on new hardware. Microsoft has always made that hard for us, probably for commercial reasons.

  22. joe.user
    Thumb Up

    What I do...

    Base Golden Image as updated as the day it's baked, plus freenas server, plus FOG.

    Drop image, run, use. Save data to freenas share, corrupt OS, reboot, image again. Done.

    Even VM's need updates.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Even VM's need updates."


      Doesn't each "Golden Image" need updating after each Patch Tuesday?

      Or maybe a couple of months after, just in case MS broke something and didn't notice?

    2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Even VM's need updates

      Too true. :(

      38 updates pending. I should care about that at some point...

    3. AndrueC Silver badge

      >Even VM's need updates.

      Tell me about it. Got nearly a dozen test domains here each with a couple of servers and half a dozen clients. Bringing one out of stasis for a new project is best done late in the day so the updates can run. At least if the host is floored overnight no-one will mind. Oh and as an earlier poster said - it is /bloody/ annoying when the update stops half way through to ask something. Especially if you were expecting it all to be ready for the next start of business :(

      I assume a 'proper' IT department has tools and processes in place to deal with that but muggins here is just a software developer whose job happens to require several dozen machines for R&D. If I want time to set up a proper IT environment my boss has to approve it as a new project. Unfortunately as with most bosses 'I want to avoid hassle and faffing around because it annoys me' is not good enough justification. He probably thinks he's paying me to be annoyed.

  23. TonyJ Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Citrix XenClient

    Guys take a look at Citrix XenClient.

    If you're lucky enough to have a machine that is compatible (and despite the fairly limited HCL it will run on most stuff now) then this is a godsend.

    A free, bare metal (i.e. type 1) CLIENT hypervisor. Switch between running machines at the press of a couple of buttons. Have your works machine P2V image, your personal Windows machine, Linux and OS X all running (ok the latter has to be foisted on and is far from reliable but it works for limited testing and demos).

    The only reason I no longer use it is because it isn't yet compatible with Apple hardware but I did have it for over a year on my Dell.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What we need is ...

    ... Wanova Mirage Server ...

    ... well a LITE version for home use.

  25. Dibbles

    Interesting but I have a question

    I appreciate that the Reg's core demographic here is IT professionals who know this kind of thing inside out and work with it sufficiently to easily scale it to their home/ homegroups. What would this look like for the interested amateur who has 4 PCs in the house, but equally wants to avoid the hassle of migrating/ rebuilding machines as they're upgraded/ borked?

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge


      Click "email the author" at the top of the article and I'll be happy to answer any questions you have!

  26. stu 4

    page 2 and not mentioned so here goes...

    convert the household/family to osx.

    if you must have central control, osx server is 30 quid. job done.

    I still have to use windoze for work and use parallels for that - and bin/clean/snapshot as necessary, but I've never had to rebuild a mac in 5 years because of crapware/viruses/weirdstuff.... AND time machine backups can be restored onto any intel mac hardware so no more 'my windows backup is not good cause my new machine has different north bridge/graphicscard/squirreltrap/etc.

    e.g. got new 2011 MBA. Got 2008 MBP all setup and updated to Lion with all my apps, settings, firewall, blablabla.... the usual thing that with windows would mean no option but to install em all again. On new MBA:

    switch on

    point it at MBP time machine backup


    20 mins later my MBA has all the MBP stuff and has adjusted kexts as necessary automatically to new hardware, etc, etc.

    For me anyway that was a MAJOR surprise and took away one of the main reasons I was using VMs sometimes when I used to use windows.

    anyhoo - just my 2c. not a mac rant - just credit where credit's due is all.

  27. Buzzword

    Laptop-on-the-train scenario?

    I have a slightly different scenario on which I would appreciate some advice. Like Trevor, I loathe re-installing all my apps and I do need regular backups of my data. However I do a lot of work away from home, either on a train (where RDP is obviously unsuitable) or at a client site (where unfettered internet access is rare). My current setup is a laptop with Windows and apps installed on the bare metal. When I'm at home I use Macrium Reflect to take an image of the laptop's hard drive, which can be turned into a VM if necessary. Problems with this scenario arise if I want access to the computer when I don't have the laptop with me (but do have a tablet or friend or colleague's PC handy). What would be a good solution here?

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      That's a tough one.

      But I’ll try. The initial setup would be a pain, but my first instinct is to create two VMs, largely identical. (Start with clones.) One local to the laptop, one hosted on the internet/at home.

      These would both dropbox the data back-and-fourth, and use cloudy services like the firefox sync doohicky. It would never keep settings 100% the same between both environments, but if you can fit all your data into dropbox - or similar - then you should have two mostly identical "digital office" VMs.

      You could even periodically overwrite one with the other to ensure that they are kept as close to "the same" as possible.

      Also serves as a backup of you "digital office" if your laptop gets nommed.

      Second instinct: Win 7 can back up to vhd. Can you just automate that from your notebook? Regular images dump a vhd onto a home vhost, then mout it for your use? Add dropbox to sync in-the-field file changes and this would let your notebook do the thing without a VM on it.

      Again; bit difficult to set up, but could work.

      You could go old school; domain with roaming profiles and "offline files and folders." But lose the notebook, you lose the environment.

  28. Aqua Marina


    What VM software are you running, and how many guest OSs can it host at a time.

    Using Dual Screen RDP, how did you get aroudn windows either opening up smack between the pair of them (half on each screen) or even opening up spread across both fullscrees?

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Software: Windows Server 2008 R2 / hyper-v.

      I used to use esxi, but went to hyper-v after the licence change. Now my vhost is not only a vhost, it is an htpc as well. (Hooked up to my projector). The thing plays a 1080p video on the projector whilst the PlexServer VM is transcoding 2 720p videos for other members of the house to watch and still serves our personal virtual machines just fine. Total hardware cost: $750.

      I absolutely adore Sandy Bridge.

      As to dual screen RDP; the issues you mentioned have not been sol ed. When you access the VM from so many different devices, the windows will end up in odd places on the next device.

      I wish I had a better solution; I hear Windows 7 has much better multimon support than XP.

      I should check that out some time...

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  29. mikejs


    I'm also interested in how multi-screen RDP works in practice for this sort of thing. Is it two separate windows, one for each monitor, or is it one really wide window? If the latter, then it's not very good solution - it's impossible to maximise to one monitor, for example.

    I have two primary systems (work and home). One has two screens, the other three. Each has various tweaks to ensure that particular apps go to particular screens, and as the number of screens is different, these are different tweaks on each system.

    This is a specific example of the more general case of sometimes needing app and OS configs specific to the device you're trying to use, and having the same settings everywhere is actually a problem, not a benefit.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

  30. Zippy the Pinhead

    2 thumbs up!

    Two thumbs up to the author for suggesting Classic Shell! A most excellent replacement for the crap that is foisted on us in Windows 7.

  31. Gordon Fecyk

    Yet another piece of third-party "required knowledge?"

    "shiny new notebook comes out of its box and goes straight onto the bench for a quick memtest, dban, and a clean reinstall of the operating system."

    I use Ghost for this but I suppose any imaging application will work including the provided ImageX. Win7's a dream compared to XP for preloading drivers.

    And Ninite? Yet another "everyone administering Windows needs to use this?" msiexec /i installer.msi /passive works for me, assuming the developer bothered to use the damn installer built into Windows to package it. I've given up on developers who don't bother to learn how to use the OS instead of fight against it. *ahem*oracle*

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