Taking Windows 8 for a test drive

While your organization may not be ready to roll out Windows 8 as soon as it becomes available on October 26, chances are like any good IT professional, when it comes to new technology, you want to evaluate and test it out, take it for a test drive and play around with it. Colin Smith from Cistel wrote up this post to help you do just that without having to re-image your entire workstation.

And while you’re at it, check out this free, online session happening TOMORROW (October 18) on Windows 8 for IT Pros. It’s a Jump Start session covering everything from UI tips and tricks to recovery, security and virtualization. 

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My first blog post on TechRepublic, “How to install Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V and Windows 7 on the same partition” focused on booting Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 from a VHD. I used the same concept to deploy Windows 8 to a series of new laptops for my team and we had some interesting findings:

1 – It’s Easy

We were able to use the same methodology to deploy Windows 8 to a VHD as we used for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. A brief overview of the process:

  1. Create a VDisk
  2. Attach it
  3. Partition it
  4. Format it
  5. Install OS

2 – It’s Fast

We weren’t able to detect any performance issues when we used fixed size VHDs. Although we didn’t try it, there is also support for the VHDX format which has a size increase to 16TB (VHDs are limited to 2TB) and can be significantly faster for some workloads depending on block and sector size requirements. Using Dynamic sized VHDs is not recommended.

3 – It’s Portable

We easily moved the VHDs between machines and had no issues. In some cases we had to make some minor changes with BCDEDIT. It’s not as portable as Windows to Go but it is portable and makes for an easy provisioning experience.


4 – It’s Virtual

Although we haven’t finished our testing yet, we fully expect to be able to use the VHD as a virtual machine in Hyper-V. More details in a future post.

5 – It’s Limiting

There are a few things that you can’t do when booting Windows 8 from VHD. The two that we found most readily are:

· The hibernate functionality of a laptop is not available


· The Windows Experience cannot be measured


If there are other issues that you notice, please let me know. I’m now working with Hyper-V 3 in Windows 8 Enterprise and will let you know my finings in a future post.

Colin  Smith

    Colin Smith

    Colin Smith is an IT professional with over 20 years of experience deploying Microsoft-based solutions for the private and public sector and has helped organizations. He was previously the Canadian Technical Product lead for SMS and Terminal Service. He is currently the Practice Manager of Cistel's Microsoft Solutions Practice with a focus on System Center.

    Comments (2)

    1. Harold says:

      What a waste of my  time. The blog may be of some small use to an in-house IT support person but it is absolutely off the mark with end-users. Very poor topical reference, little or no relevance to the real world in which end-users live. It just increases the perception that W8 is a miss to the people who need a computer for day-by-day use. If one wants W8 then just buy a tablet. Convoluting the access for daily users just wastes everyone's time.

    2. Ruth Morton says:

      Hi Harold,

      While we get a variety of people reading our blog, the articles we write are geared towards the in-house IT Pro, not the end user. So in that sense, the blog is successful according to your comment and I'm happy to hear that. 🙂

      Thank you for your comment.


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