Dual-boot remote access – it can be done!November 20, 2009
Just imagine that you have a dual-boot system, say at home, and want to access it remotely over the Internet and also want to be able to switch between the two operating systems.
The remote access part is now quite easy, thanks to Microsoft Live Mesh which has similar functionality to commercial product such as Citrix’s GoToMyPC but is helpfully free. It also works on the Mac. Live Mesh is still in beta but is rock solid. From my office I can access my PC at home over the Internet. It breezes past the enterprise firewall and proxy server setup as if they weren’t there.
But switching between the two operating systems on the home PC, while accessing it remotely, seems rather harder. After all, while you can easily force a system reboot remotely, by the time the system is going through its boot-up processes your remote connection will have been lost, so you will have no access to the boot menu to choose which operating system you want to launch. Live Mesh will not restart until after the OS has booted up, so you will always get the default operating system back again.
For Windows users, the solution is a very simple utility called iReboot from NeoSmart Technologies. It was designed with dual-boot systems in mind, to cut out the effort involved when switching between systems. Once running, it lives in the notification area of the Windows taskbar. Using that icon you can force a reboot into the OS of your choice, rather than having to make the OS choice from a boot menu at restart time. That means you can choose the OS to boot up in when accessing the PC remotely. I don’t think NeoSmart created iReboot specifically to help remote users of dual-boot systems, but it certainly can be used for that purpose, in combination with Live Mesh, GoToMyPC or similar.
Of course, Live Mesh will still lose contact with the PC while it goes through its reboot process, but you can connect again once the chosen OS has booted up, provided you had installed Live Mesh (with saved password) on both operating systems. Provided both systems are Windows based, and you have iReboot installed on both, you can switch back and forth to your heart’s delight however many thousands of miles away you are.
The one complication is with Mac/Windows dual-boot systems, because iReboot is Windows only and there is no equivalent of iReboot on the Mac. Having said that, if you make Windows your default OS and force a straight reboot from the Mac side of the system it will still boot back into Windows, and from the Windows side you can use iReboot to get to the Mac.