You want to test Windows 7, without impacting your current installation of Windows XP or Vista on your desktop? A possible solution is: Boot from VHD.
To facilitate testing of Windows 7 with minimal impact on the existing OS, I recommend using a new feature called Windows 7 "Boot from VHD. It is the ability to boot the system on a virtual disk (physically represented by a *. vhd file on your disk).
The idea is to create a *. vhd file to be viewed by the Boot Manager (the program run at startup of your machine, which runs your operating system) as a physical disk, and install Windows 7 on this virtual disk. With this technique, there is no impacte on the structure of your physical disk, and it has no OS currently installed: minimizing the risks!
The advantage of this technique compared with virtualization solutions on the workstation (Virtual PC, VM Ware, ...) is that the performance of the system in the virtual disk is done natively on the hardware resources of your PC, and not not by an emulation layer that may degrade performance significantly.
With this technique, constraints / impacts that come to mind are:
- Occupying a space of 6 GB of storage for the virtual disk (*. vhd)
- Replacing the boot manager of your current OS (Vista / XP) with that of Windows 7 to support the "boot from VHD"