On a Windows XP, Server 2000 & Server 2003 system if you multi-boot using the native boot loader it's pretty straightforward to edit the names listed in the menu you see at boot time - simply run a command shell (as an administrator), make the boot.ini file (resident in the top level of your primary partition) visible by executing "attrib -s -h -r boot.ini" and then editing the entries accordingly.
The mechanism for Windows Vista and Server 2008 is different except when loading earlier operating systems in which case the trusty old boot.ini is called from the new boot loader. The new boot loader stores the configuration in the "Boot Configuration Data" (BCD) store.
I know this isn't normal and I'm not advocating it as a best practise but I've rebuilt my demonstration laptop to run five operating system instances. It's ironic that one of the drivers for me to set up this complicated configuration is to support operating system virtualisation!
I want to use Windows Server 2008's Windows Server Virtualisation (WSV) hence need a physical machine to activate the hypervisor. In addition I want to use System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) which dynamically manages the load on multiple Windows Server 2003 machines - as it uses Virtual Server I need physical machines.
My machine is now built as follows:
Windows Vista includes the tools MSConfig and BCDEdit which give some control over the boot loader but neither lets you change the display names for each operating system. I was scratching my head wondering how to make the changes I desired when I happened to open this month's TechNet Magazine, spookily enough there was an article on page 12 that gave me everything I needed to solve the problem :-)
Greg Steen wrote about a tool named VistaBootPro which enables you to all kinds of wonderful things with the boot loader including the ability to change the names displayed on the boot menu. I was delighted to find that VistaBootPro is a FREE download and works really well.
Note: I recommend taking a back up of your existing BCD configuration onto a removable storage device - just in case it goes horribly wrong!
The following screenshot shows my edited boot menu:
The following screenshot shows a review of the settings for each boot loader menu item: