Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Symlinks, SSD's and Windows 7

So while I had been testing out software solutions to multibox with, back on Windows Vista, I ran into a great thread on the d-b forums. The thread was talking about saving large amounts of hard drive space and making your hard drive thrash about less by using symlinks.

To do that you needed to install a product called powershell which is provided by microsoft and adds alot of features to the command prompt and lets you run scripts - similar to a unix enviroment.

One of the forums users, Chorizotarian, posted up a guide on how to get this working and true it worked great on my single 7200rpm WD hard disk - it saved me some space and made it do a lot less work.

This has come in even more handy since I moved to using Solid State Disks - as they have a much lower capacity than the huge drives we are seeing these days. I had purchased a 120GB SSD for my shiny new Windows 7 install and my other applications and a 60GB SSD just for my WoW folders.

I discovered after a little bit of searching that Windows 7 natively comes with Powershell which saved me a step or two in cloning my WoW folder. Frustratingly I discovered that a few of the steps in the thread no longer worked - Windows 7 is a bit more anal about script security.

So my main WoW folder was called WoWMain. I made a copy of this folder and called it Clone1. So now I had used 30GB of hard drive space. I then installed the 'new-wow' powershell script into my system32 directory under the windows folder and ran the command prompt and ran powershell by typing 'ps'.

To let me run the new-wow.ps script I had to turn of some security features that required the script to be signed. The command to do this under Windows 7 is:

Set-ExecutionPolicy Bypass
This command assumes you are running the command prompt as administrator which you can by right clicking the icon and choosing 'run as administrator' or you can simple disable the ever annoying User Access Control in Control Panel - which stops all those annoying popup boxes everytime you do something and most likely protects you from evil internet villians.

So now that I had turned of script protection temporarily (for this ps session only) I could run is command:

new-wow d:\Clone1 -sourcePath "D:\WoWMain
"I repeated the command for Clone2, Clone 3 and finally Clone 4. The only folders and files that are not linked to Clone 1 are the WTF/WDB folders. Even the Interface\Addons folder points to Clone1 meaning that all I have to do is manage the patches and addons for two folders and this will update everything.

Since I am a Curse Premium member I loaded up my client and asked it to manage two copies of World of Warcraft - one called Main and one called Clones. I set the game directories to respectivly match the folders above and automatically update. Now I can easily add and remove addons for either my main or my clones.

Now all I have left to do is to setup keyclone and my in-game macros and interface and I'm good to go and on my journey to 80.

Refer-A-Friend - or refer yourself

So things have changed a bit on the account front since I last multiboxed. And things have only gotten easier! For signing in I can link all my accounts with my e-mail address on battle.net and I can now use the refer-a-friend feature to give my 4 lowbies 300% xp bonus!

So I logged into my account and referred myself. I made a new account and thanks to being a customer on Shattered Crystal getting 4 new account codes and 4 new bc codes was almost instant. Sadly as now I am alliance if I want to level up shaman I will need TBC on these accounts as well.

So Main refers A refers B refers C refers D. With all my accounts upgraded and ready to go I just need to setup my WoW installation as well as my macros and keyclone.

A new journey

So after hardware multiboxing for quite some time in TBC then taking a long break and dabbling in Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, I've come full circle.

A few things have changed however, I no longer have 5 PC's and look like I could command NASA in my study. This has appeased my fiance greatly. I also dont have an insane power bill - nor require the AC on in the middle of winter as my room got so warm.

After playing around with a few different software options like Innerspace and Keyclone - I have settled on using Keyclone. The support the author gives over at dual-boxing.com has always been excellent. So before I could seriously get started I needed to make a few upgrades to my machine and ended up picking up some solid state disks and another 4GB of RAM.

This puts my system at the following specs:
Intel Q9550
Asus P5Q Motherboard
8GB OCZ Reaper DDR2 8500
Asus GTX280 1GB
120GB OCZ Summit SSD (for OS/Applications)
60GB OCZ Summit SSD (for WoW)
320G WD HDD (For Movies/Music/Photos)
Creative X-Fi Extreme Audio PCI-Ex

I am using a Dell 27" Display as my main monitor and a Dell 24" Display as my secondary. Both have a native resolution of 1920x1200.

I reformatted my PC and loaded up Windows 7 RC 7100. I am extremely impressed. It is rock solid stable - all my drivers loaded correctly. Initially I had a few crashes but I worked out that I needed to load the X-Fi drivers and not just use the default MS ones and the crashing went away.

I also discovered that my sound defaulted to 7.1 Surround Sound which made for some interesting in-game sound at first as I only have a standard 2 speaker system.

So now I had a decent system, I had my software picked out and my OS installed with all my drivers up to date - I just needed to setup and get started.