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I have multiple projects in my life but only one notebook.
This means that documents, software, notes, almost everything goes into the same machine and this can be very distractive.

My solution to that is to use Virtual Machines (specifically VMware).
Every time I start a new project I create a virtual machine on my computer so that all the relevant project data and software are there.

The problem is that Virtual Machines are slow, and some times is really annoying to start/stop them. Somehow you pay the price of this separation of concerns with speed.

Does any one has a better solution?

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I think this may be related somehow to this question, but here we are sticking with having only one device… – mottalrd Jul 20 '12 at 1:31
You could also use different users. – Korinna Jul 20 '12 at 7:48
Potentially look into a multiple-desktop program that gives you a large number of customization and new "desktops" to switch to- using a new one for each project. – Gaʀʀʏ Jul 20 '12 at 16:39
Do a search for VirtuaWin – Demian Kasier Jul 23 '12 at 20:03

I used to run different user accounts for each project, but now I just use folders, and archive the projects I have completed.

I wouldn't dual-boot or run virtual machines, eventually you will get lost in all of it when you take on more projects.

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does running different accounts separate the software you have installed? Sometimes I just install, test and create so much trash in a project that I do not want the productivity of the others to be affected. – mottalrd Jul 21 '12 at 23:56
When you install software in generally asks if you want it installed for all the users or not. User accounts do not share the same preferences because a different LOCAL_DATA folder is used, so except in rare cases, it should be just like using a VM – Adam Jul 24 '12 at 5:58

If you must have a separate system for each project, then you could run a multi-boot system (with grub) and multiple installations of a Linux distribution, or other operating systems as well.

CrunchBang Linux (my current favorite), and Lubuntu, both boot in 30 seconds on various low power machines I have (10 seconds from login to desktop).

File sharing on the same machine is no problem with mounting and linking partitions and file systems (including your other installed operating systems).

Also, depending upon the project, you can try pre-optimized/specialized Linux distributions like AvLinux for audio and video.

As with a virtualized system, you can replicate your initial operating system installation to other partitions (copy the partition), and you can back up your installation (with a single command, zipping up a low-level/physical copy of the partition).

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The problem with this solution is that if I have to switch from one project to another I have to reboot my PC. This is not uncommon in my case – mottalrd Jul 21 '12 at 23:54

This means that documents, software, notes, almost everything goes into the same machine and this can be very distractive.

Starting and stopping a virtual machine do have a positive point. In that way you're committed to work on the project that you've activated.

Regarding the performance of the virtual machines, it all depends what you're trying to run as a virtual machine and which computer you're using to host the virtual machines.

Depending on the project you could install less demanding operative system. And if you're willing to spend money, I would recommend getting ssd-disk for the virtual machine and also dedicate a good amount of memory to your virtual machine to avoid the swapping between the disk and memory.

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