Dual booting in Sync – lowering duplication

30 01 2013

There are quite a few reasons you may dual boot a computer. Some of them are great, and some are just for curiosity. But whatever the reason, you usually want to have important files with you at all times.

The problem I tend to have is “Where did I leave that document / presentation / photo?”

Typically it’s in some “My Documents” type folder, but in “the other OS” that I just booted out of. And, of course, in some cases you may mount the other partition you were using as a drive, and you can find that folder to get the file.

However, with the advent of Windows SkyDrive (and I started doing this with Mesh), I figured out that I could sync important files someplace outside each operating system so that I always had the right files when I needed them independent of what operating system I had booted into. So, now that I’m part of the SkyDrive Insider program with Microsoft (a volunteer program where you basically explain how you use SkyDrive a few times a year), I figured I’d share my setup.

Setting up your hard drive

I basically use laptops for everything. Hard drive space is a premium. Especially now that SSD’s are here. So when you plan to dual boot a computer there are a few things to consider sharing (especially with Windows 8) that can help you cut down on duplicated space:

  1. Create a “Shared Document” partition for work files – this is where you’ll share your SkyDrive folder for the Desktop Client and GoodSync client folders. Every OS should see it, and call it the same drive letter in Disk Manager
  2. Create a “Shared Swap” S: partition for your swap file. Windows forces you to create about a 400MB file for each C: partition. Windows 8 also creates an extra thing called “swapfile.sys” now that you can’t move, and “hiberfile.sys” lives in each C:. But if you can share the bulk of your swap files between OS’s on an S: partition, Windows will wake up and re-make the pagefile.sys at each boot. Plus, it is near the edge of the spinning media, so in theory it might go a tiny bit faster.
  3. If you don’t need to hibernate, you can turn off hibernation with the powercfg command.
  4. You could also move “Favorites”, Downloads, Music, or browser cache files etc. out to the shared location.

In one laptop, I added a PCI-e mSATA hard drive for both photo backup / storage and shared drive access for dual boot use.

Setting up SkyDrive

SkyDrive’s desktop client asks you to choose a location for it to use on its first install. It, by default, will choose something like:

  • C:\users\<your account>\SkyDrive

Don’t pick that. Pick your partition from Step 1 above and it will become something like:

  • M:\SkyDrive

Which both operating systems should see (make sure you refer to them in Disk Manager with the same drive letter). On your second operating system, SkyDrive will ask you if it is OK to use the existing folder because it has files in it already. It will “Merge” them, but really nothing will happen.

At this point, SkyDrive appears smart enough to (quickly) track files in both operating systems via a single location.

Drag any shortcuts you need up to Windows Explorer’s Favorites locations for easy access.

Setting up GoodSync (for direct PC-to-PC sync)

This is the exact same setup to use for GoodSync. You can set up far more granularity in your syncs, but when GoodSync wakes up, it will check the local sync status files and figure out quickly that everything is OK.

This works for both local and server jobs. Basically, GoodSync is awesome (and Live Mesh was awesome) when you have a bandwidth cap, and you’re a photographer because you can skip uploading to the cloud before re-downloading your files to the target computer. That way your ISP won’t decide you need a “business-sized” account because all your files stay inside your LAN, or at most, go once across your router and modem (not out and back).

Cubby Fails for a Dual Boot Setup

I tried this with Cubby. It was an epic fail. It pegged the CPU on my Windows Home Server and my laptop. It compared all my files (though there were no changes) upon restart, and took an hour before I could use the computer.

So Cubby is not recommended by me for dual boot setups that share storage.

SkyDrive in Windows 8 (non-desktop) cannot share locations

If you are looking for a way to cut down file duplication in a dual boot setup of Windows 8’s SkyDrive… well, I don’t know if there is a way to do that yet. Windows 8’s SkyDrive Windows Store App uses a specific location, and as far as I know, it syncs ALL my files.

Windows Home Server 2011 and SkyDrive Desktop

So far, I have been syncing some files to my Windows Home Server 2011 via SkyDrive. But I actually want to sync “Shared” folders via SkyDrive’s Desktop client to WHS. I don’t really need to sync ALL the files. I would like to have a single SkyDrive client with several shared folders from family members for important files that sync to WHS for backup and local access when needed.

Hopefully that feature shows up soon in the SkyDrive desktop client.

GoodSync can make that sort of thing happen, but the client isn’t as easy for my family to use.

Hopefully with this type of tip, any dual-booting adventurer out there can keep their partitions smaller and upgrade / reinstall their computers with ease!

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