Dual booting a computer can seem daunting if you have never attempted it before, but it is quite a simple task when given clear instructions. Windows 7 is coming soon, but there may well still be people who are considering dual booting Vista with XP, so I’ve decided to share how I go about doing this. I have done this several times and on different computers, you can trust I’ve actually followed the steps outlined in this tutorial. 😉

Most steps will be relevant to Windows 7, I imagine. Just replace “Vista” with “Windows 7”.

This is a very quick tutorial that expects you to have some understanding of or familiarity with the installation screens for Vista and XP. If you don’t it should be possible to follow this tutorial, just make sure you have a copy available to reference.

I take no responsibility if something should go wrong with your system while following this tutorial. However, I am quite willing to try to help with any issues.

Please read all steps before following them.

What you will need

It is important to check you have all of the following on portable media (i.e. some where other than your computer) before you begin this process:

  1. Genuine install disk for Windows Vista and genuine activation key.
  2. Genuine install disk for Windows XP and genuine activation key.
  3. Network driver for Vista.
  4. Network driver for XP.
  5. The install file for EasyBCD

You should also ensure you have access to all the other drivers that came with your system, e.g. a driver CD or access to them through the manufacturer’s website. However, if you have your network driver you should be able to obtain your other drivers through the device manager once you are connected to the Internet.

Please be aware that if your system is fairly new you may not be able to find all the drivers you need for XP if your computer did not come with XP. One example of this is if your hard drive is SATA. XP’s installation does not support SATA drivers and will result in a blue screen of death. Please contact me if this is the case for you, I know a work around.

Step 1. Back up files

This may seem quite obvious to do, but I think it’s one of those things that is so obvious it can easily be overlooked.

Even if you are planning to shrink a volume to make space for a second partition (see step 2) it is important to back up your files in case something goes wrong.

Step 2. Create the partitions

Option 1 (recommended)

Warning! This option will completely wipe your hard drive, so be sure to back up your files first.

  1. Insert the Vista installation CD and boot your computer. At the bios, press the key to enter the boot options screen (usually F12)

  2. Select the option to boot from your CD/DVD. Remember it will ask you to hit any key to confirm – it only gives you a few seconds.

  3. Follow the standard installation steps until you reach the dialog that asks you which partition to install Vista on.

  4. Delete any existing partitions.

  5. Create a partition for Vista and another for XP. I recommend atleast 30GB for each (enter 30720MB), as Vista recommends around 24GB of free space on it’s partition. Create any other desired partitions.

    It is possible to have a 3rd partition which you can use as an install location for programs. Surprisingly few programs actually require registry entries to run. My husband’s computer is set up this way so he doesn’t have to install programs on each OS.

  6. Continue to step 3.

Option 2 (existing Vista install only)

Alternatively you can attempt to shrink your existing OS partition if it is Vista.

  1. Open Control panel -> Administrative tools -> Computer Management (alternatively right click “My Computer” and select “Manage”).

  2. Select “Disk Management” under “Storage”

  3. Right click the partition you wish to shrink and select “Shrink

  4. You will be told how much you can shrink the volume by and are asked to input how much you wish to shrink it. Input an amount and click the shrink button.

    N.B. The amount is likely to be smaller than the free space on the partition. This is due to fragmentation and unmovable files. Defragmenting the partition could increase the amount you can shrink by, however unmovable files are, as the name suggests, unmovable so defragmenting will only help to the point that an unmovable file is the last partition entry.

  5. Use the disk management tool to create a new partition for XP with the space you freed up. To do this, right click the unallocated space and chose “New Partition”. Follow the partition wizard’s instructions.

  6. Continue to step 4.

Step 3. Install Vista

No need to do this if you did option 2 in step 2.

Boot from the Vista installation disk and install Vista on the first partition. The installation process is fairly straight forward, just follow the instructions.

Reminder: To boot from the install disk, hit the key for boot options on the bios screen (usually F12), chose to boot from CD/DVD and remember to press any key when prompted.

I don’t see that you have to install Vista first, but really as the newer OS you should have it on the first partition.

Step 4. Install XP

Boot from the XP installation disk and install XP on the second partition. Again, just follow the instructions Microsoft provide on the installation.

Step 5. Repair Vista’s boot

As Vista is the newer OS, it should be the one to “control” the boot sector of your computer. However, as XP was installed sencond it wrote over Vista’s boot sector and so Vista’s boot sector needs to be repaired to overwrite XP’s.

To do this, boot onto the Vista installation disk, but instead of going to the install option select the repair option (it’s near the bottom of the dialog in smaller text).

On the next screen, select the option for repairing the startup (top option). When it has completed it will ask you to confirm you want to exit and it will restart your computer.

If this stage was successful your computer should boot into Vista.

Step 6. Set up the boot option screen

At this stage you can only boot into Vista. To be able to boot into XP you need to add it to the boot list.

You can edit boot options without 3rd party software, but I find it is much easier (and some what safer) to use a tool to help you with this. I use EasyBCD to manage my triple boot and find it is very easy to use.

  1. Install EasyBCD on Vista.

  2. Run EasyBCD and go to the “Add/Remove Entries” section.

  3. In the “Add an Entry” subsection, go to the “Windows” tab, select XP from the drop down box and click the add entry button.

Et voilà. Your dual boot is complete.

You can use EasyBCD to further customise your boot options, such as default OS, time until default is booted and the text that appears for each OS. Those 3 options are in the “Change Settings” section.

Let me know how it goes

If you dual boot your machine, or if you have in the past, please tell me of your experiences. Did you come across any difficulties?

Please leave a comment below.

Need any help?

If you need any help, please contact me with your queries via the contact form and I will get back to you ASAP.

No problem is too small, I’m happy to try to help. 😀

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