Traditionally, you would have to install different operating systems to separate partitions on your hard drive if you boot multiple OS platforms. The disadvantage is that malwares and viruses can spread among different partitions.
Another disadvantage is that it takes a considerable amount of time to create, delete or merge partitions when you need to. Since the advent of Windows 7, Microsoft has offered a new way to easily install and boot Windows from a Virtual Hard Disk (.vhd) file. This feature is even better in Windows 8.
What is a VHD file you ask? It’s a file format that emulates a real physical hard drive. It’s a hard drive within a hard drive—inception! In fact, you can even create and mount virtual hard drives within Windows 7 or 8 running from a VHD. I have yet to try an OS within an OS that runs from a virtual hard drive, but it’s possible with virtualization software like Virtual Box.
One of the benefits of a VHD compared to a physical partition is that it is a portable format. You can easily back up or restore it. Another benefit is security protection. If your other operating systems on the same hard drive get infected with malware, your OS on a VHD file will be isolated from that infection.
There are some minor disadvantages with running an OS from a VHD. Performance decreases about 3 percent, and you will lose the Hibernation and Bitlocker features. Moreover, only Windows 8 Pro/Enterprise and Windows 7 Ultimate/Enterprise support VHD booting.
Let’s create a VHD file so that you can install Windows 8 to it. You can do this during the install process, but it’s easier to demonstrate it using the tools available on Windows 7; that is, assuming you are running Windows 7. Step-by-step instructions are just ahead. Continue reading
There are now more than a handful of Start menu replicas out there for people that need their daily Start menu fix on their Windows 8 machines. From classic ones such as Classic Shell and StartMenu8 to experimental ones such as Pokki and RetroUI Pro. There are just no shortages of what type of Start menu one might need.
We reviewed Start8 from Stardock recently. It is probably one of the better replicas out there. It works almost exactly like the Start menu from Windows 7 and can be switched to the fancier metro Start screen mode that it scales down to size. The problem with all these clones is that they’re all still third-party solutions and require extra processes running in the background and taking up resources.
If people wanted the original no-fuss Start menu, then they were out of luck. Microsoft replaced the traditional Start menu in Windows 8 and offers no solution to re-enable it, even in the corporate Windows Server 2012. Long-time Windows users and angry critics have been calling for the death of Microsoft because of it.
While third-parties have been hard at coding to satisfy the needs of those angry users, nobody asked if the native Start menu is really gone or just deeply hidden inside Windows 8? They’d be happy to know it’s the latter, but just some of it. Programmer Tihiy successfully worked on a solution to bring back the original Windows 7 Start menu to Windows 8.
According to Tihiy, some Start menu codes are still present in the explorer.exe process of Windows 8. Those codes are shared with the Jump Lists function and thus are essential and were not removed. The Start menu shell interfaces, start button, and Windows key codes are removed however. The exact method is not clear but it’s possible to speculate that Tihiy ported the required codes from the Windows 7 and re-implemented them in Windows 8 through private APIs access. Whatever the case is, the final product — StartIsBack — is exactly what it claims and includes some extra features.
After running a rather small install file, you’ll find that this is the very same Start menu from Windows 7. You won’t find any StartIsBack processes in task manager because there is no startisback.exe. The installed codes will hook itself to the native explorer.exe in the memory at boot up, thus does not modified the actual system file. You can search, pin programs, and drag&drop files to the Start menu as you could in Windows 7. There’s even the hidden “Exit Explorer” menu item that shows up by Shift+Ctrl and right clicking the Start menu. Remember the Customize Start menu setting that was in the Windows 7 Taskbar Properties? It’s no longer in Windows 8, but it’s brought back in its own Properties box. You can get to it by right click the start button, select Properties and see that all the options are exactly the same to Windows 7. Continue reading
One of the most taboo features of Windows 8 is the absence of the start button that has been iconic to Windows since its earliest iterations. Some have adapted to using the Windows 8 start screen, while others have erupted in mass protest, begging Microsoft to give them their precious button back. While the new interfaces really aren’t too hard to adapt to, Start8 by Stardock software is a solution for the latter group of people. Read on for a quick guide on what this fairly simple application offers. Continue reading
Tired of those old x86 style icons cramping the style of your beautiful Windows 8 start screen? Well, today you’re in luck because deviantArt user dAKirby309 has you covered. This set of over 600 app icons are made to look like Windows 8 tiles and fit in with Microsoft’s app icons that are there by default. With these icons, an app called OblyTile, and just a little work you can have all your desktop apps looking fantastic. This tutorial is going in-depth to show you how to make it happen. Continue reading