Ok, I primarily use XP (Home, SP3), which is why I posted in this forum, but I also have Ubuntu (might have 7 or 8, I can't remember, plus an 8.10 live CD, and want to upgrade to 9.04) installed, and have downloaded the 64-bit RC of Windows 7, but haven't yet installed it.
I had the beta of Windows 7 installed, but only booted into it like twice, in part because my parents also use this computer, and XP right now is their primary OS.
I currently have a multi-boot configuration set up which will basically allow me to choose Windows 2000 (which was our previous OS and I never use anymore - it's still there, but was originally used on different hardware so I've never booted into it recently), XP Home, 7 (Beta, which was uninstalled (by formatting its partition) yesterday), and Ubuntu (probably 7 or 8 I can't remember right now). However, I cannot run multiple OS's at the same time right now. When starting the computer, first I am presented with the GRUB boot loader, where I choose between Windows and Linux. Then, upon choosing Windows, the choices are Earlier Version or 7. Choose earlier, and I'm presented with 2000 or XP. (They're set so that by default the computer boots into XP if there's no user intervention.)
Someone (don't remember if it was on a forum or where) had recommended I try VMWare for simultaneous multi-boot. Thing is, I really don't want to buy any software, and can't figure out how the VMWare Player and Server (or whatever is the free one) work (not to mention I haven't tried installing them. Recently I was hearing things about VirtualBox, and am wondering if that would be one I should try? Thing is, though, I was reading the docs on it, and they say you have to install each OS you want to multiboot inside the virtual machine, but I already have the OS's installed in different partitions, and would just like to use those.
What I would like to have / do includes:
* choose between XP, 7 and Ubuntu on bootup, for my primary OS to start (I already can do this, but it takes like 3 bootloader screens to actually start XP, and I'd like to consolidate it down to 1)
* load multiple OS's concurrently (i.e. boot Ubuntu while XP is running), and switch back and forth
* have as close as possible to near-native performance of a "virtually running" OS (which is partially why I put that in quotes - when I say multi-boot, I mean multi-boot, not necessarily running one inside the other
* in companion with the above one, if system resources are starting to get a bit squeezed, I'd want the maximum resources possible dedicated to whichever OS is currently focused
* improved crash recovery for whatever OS's I'm running (another reason to have a bare-metal or whatever it's called install of the software, rather than have it run inside of an OS), so if it crashes / I have to shut down / whatever, I have as good of a crash recovery as Firefox and OpenOffice have. Also sandboxing would be nice.
So is VirtualBox the way to go? Or is there another free option? I've already told you what OS's I want to run, but here's my hardware, in case it might help tell me what I should use:
Mobo: Gigabyte GA-MA69G-S3H
CPU: AMD 64 X2 4000+ (2.1GHz Dual Core). I believe it supports hardware virtualization, because there's an option for it in the bios.
RAM: 4GB DDR2-800 (4 1GB sticks, dual channel)
HDD 1: 80GB WD800JB (this one will have the OS's installed
HDD 2: 250GB WD2500JB (this is an older data drive)
HDD 3: 750GB WD7500AAKS (this is my current main data drive, and my parents' data is also on here on a separate partition)
HDD 4: 1TB WD10EADS (my recently acquired backup hard drive, in an external enclosure, only to be plugged in when I'm actually backing up or restoring, currently unplugged.)
Video: on-board ATI X-1250 (acceptable for the games I currently play (No, I don't have Crysis 4 lol), considering I used to play Half-Life / Team Fortress Classic several years ago at 5-10fps at 320x240 resolution (when that was an option way back when) on a 56k modem). I'm mentioning this because my brother gave me reason to be concerned with video performance, or rather lack of being able to do it at all, when multi-booting, and I would like as near as possible to native performance. Audio is built-in Realtek ALC889 HD.
So how would I go about doing a multiboot? I really would like to be able to test out Windows 7, and use Ubuntu, but I don't want to have to shut down programs and reboot when my parents want do work on things in XP, for example.
Unfortunately you have to boot from a single OS. Then use VMware Player (Windows or Linux) or VirtualBox (Linux) to run virtual machines. Unfortunately your system is not ideal to run several VMs. VMs are not suitable for gamers, but they are fine for almost everything else. For decent performance, you have to run games on the host OS.