SharePoint Server 2010 can be installed on Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2. You can find installation steps for different OSes on MSDN: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee554869(office.14).aspx . So is there any difference between these OSes when you want to play with SharePoint? Here’s a table to compare different configuration. If you have any suggestions on this table, please comment and I will update.
Note: I’m not discussing SharePoint Foundation 2010 in this table.
Remember – boot from VHD does not mean virtualization – it has nothing to do with virtualization at all. In that case, you can’t move such VHD directly to other machine. When you want to move the VHD, you have to sysprep it, which will lose all configuration on the system.
So, for developers, I would suggest dual boot or VHD boot to Windows 7 or virtualization. For IT Pros, 2008/R2/virtualization should be the way to go for evaluation. But you should judge that yourself – it depends on your environment and your goal.
Technical Product Manager, SharePoint