So. I have a Windows XP partition on my digital audio workstation. It exists to run two things: imgcopy and lightscribe. The machine spends 98% of its time in Ubuntu – but XP support is ending, and 0% is about to be the right amount of time.

However, received wisdom (and every other time I’ve done this) says you have to install Windows first, in a dual-boot configuration, then install clean Linux. A fresh install of Linux is unacceptable, because of reasons. Good reasons, not bullshit/ph33r reasons. Don’t argue with me about that; if you want to, you are wrong.

Now, if I have to, I can just yank the network drivers, not even turn on the external network card YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT EXTERNAL NETWORK CARD AGAIN REASONS and keep running XP, but wow, do I not want to do that. I’d like to turn this into a gaming machine as well – it has l33t specs in many ways, and with graphics card upgrades, could be a tiny goddess.

So. First: is there a way to keep my Linux partitions and still end up with a dual-boot machine? I know I can’t upgrade WinXP in place, but I have enough room in the current XP partitions for Windows 8.1, if the spec sheet isn’t lying. I don’t mind wiping the XP partitions, If there’s a way to accomplish this, that would be awesome; how, specifically, do I do it, and if you’re proposing a method, have you done it?

Keep in mind that given that the supposed XP-and-Vista binary to check your machine for Windows 8 compatibility failed to run because it doesn’t support XP, my confidence in my former employer is not high right now.

Second: Failing that, and I think we can assume failure there, are there reasons of which I’m unaware which would make it insane to install Windows 8 to a USB drive and just boot off that when I need to run Windows? Preferably a flash drive? Obviously I’m not an Enterprise Customer ™ so I don’t have Windows To Go, so only have Windows 8.1 Pro, but does it really matter since I’d be only using it on one computer ever?

Or, again, is that crazytalk? I don’t have USB 3.0, so this might be crazytalk, and honestly, I’d prefer a regular non-USB-drive install. But as a workaround, this would be fine. I’d have a Windows partition on the drive and use that for swap and My Documents and and and.

If neither of these are options, but you have another option that does not involve reinstalling Linux, I’m all ears. Maybe some sort of VM solution, I could see that. Please, tell me. Because right now I’m looking at lol winxp 4eva, or, more accurately, winxp until it decides it really wants to register again and can’t because it has no network, and tells me to DIAF.

I’d rather avoid that outcome. Because reasons.