Windows

How to switch boot partitions through a VPN tunnel

Daryl Lucas explains how he rebooted his office PC into a different OS while tunneled into it through a VPN tunnel.

Thanks to developer inertia, I've got a dual-boot office PC, with one partition running Windows Vista and the other Windows 7. It is not uncommon for me to switch from one to the other in the course of a week. I also need to work remotely at least one week out of every three, and sometimes more often. So, I often need to reboot my office PC into a different OS while I'm tunneled into it through a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

It took me a little while to figure out how to do this, but it's actually not that hard, though I wouldn't call it very discoverable. I'd like to explain how I do it.

The first problem is that you can't just reboot as usual, via the Start button, if you're accessing a remote Windows 7 or Vista PC via RDC. The host PC won't let you. All it'll let you do is log off and disconnect (see Figure A).

Figure A

The trick to rebooting the host while inside the host is to hit Ctrl+Alt+End and choose the option to restart.

But that's not good enough if you want to boot into a different partition. Once you're logged out, you will lose your remote connection, and you aren't going to get it back in time to select a different OS.

To reboot the host into a different boot partition, fire up the System Configuration applet. (Note that you want to perform these steps on the host PC, not the client, while connected to it via RDC.) If you have made the Administrative Tools menu visible, you'll find it there; if not, no worries, just type System Configuration in the Run box, and you will see it as one of the options (see Figure B). Just select it from there.

Figure B

Once you've got System Configuration running, you'll see a dialog box that lets you change the default boot OS. To reboot your host PC in the other OS, change that setting. To do that, display the Boot tab (see Figure C).

Figure C

You will see a list of all your boot partitions, with the active one saying, "Current OS," and if it also happens to be your default boot OS, "Default OS." Select the OS you want to reboot into (instead of the current one), and click the Set as Default button, and then Apply. If your default and current OSs are now different, you'll see that reflected in the displayed status (see Figure D).

Figure D

Click OK, and you will be prompted to restart (see Figure E).

Figure E

Click Restart, and you're done. As long as nothing prevents your host PC from booting, you will soon be back up.

Of course, you will lose your RDC connection and will have to wait till the host PC reboots into a login screen before you can reestablish it. You will also be forcing Windows to shut down running programs, so be sure to save your work first. But don't worry about your VPN client; you should not have to reestablish the tunnel, just your RDC session. To switch back to the original OS, just repeat the process.

Conclusion

If you rely on a dual-boot Windows system, you don't have to choose between boot partitions before leaving the office. Using Windows' System Configuration applet, you can switch between them at will.

7 comments
Farangols
Farangols

Hmm.. Stuff prpvided by you seeme best regarding remote devices. But the problem is that nobody would be able to connect properly using the vpn reviews or notifications by you. Would anyone? Please have a look. Although the VPN tunnel is automatically closed, the site remains open, and if you attempt to communicate with the site, the tunnel will be reestablished. I would suggest you visiting http://www.bestvpn.co.uk/category/vpn-reviews-2/ for knowing more about VPN tunnels. Thanks a lot.

pgit
pgit

What do you do if the dual boot is windows/linux and you're using grub or lilo?

pompeychimes
pompeychimes

You're describing actions performed via Remote Desktop. The underlying connectivity isn't relevant.

Antar Bolaeisk
Antar Bolaeisk

If, for some reason or another, you find yourself (like I did) needing to remotely boot into a different OS, but one not listed on the boot manager, you can very quickly add a new entry like so: bcdedit /copy {current} /d "New OS Name" bcdedit /set {really-long-string-of-numbers-and-letters} device partition=X (where x is the current partition of your other OS) If you want to be really fancy you can boot to a vhd as well by adding an entry through this method. If you require Hyper-V you'll need to set that for your boot entry as well. bcdedit /set {really-long-string-of-numbers-and-letters} hypervisorlaunchtype = auto

groundhog32
groundhog32

Use an iLO remote card or similar and you can actually watch your PC reboot. Yes, I appreciate that this is server-designed tech but perhaps someone out there has tried it with a client OS? Someone correct me if im wrong but I believe there is remote desktop software out there that also can maintain a connection to a rebooting PC. Maybe not used in every corporate environment admittedly. Give it a Google.

djlucas
djlucas

I have found that many people who use a VPN don't understand its relationship to RDC and meld the two in their mind. In fact, when I ask the ones I support, "Do you use Remote Desktop Connection after you establish the VPN?" most of them have no idea how to answer. But you are right that the underlying connectivity is unimportant, and that is why I made the point that the VPN client is unaffected by this process in my closing comments. Thank you for clarifying!