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How to: Dual boot XP and Vista

Posted October 2007 by Steve Sinchak

Application compatibility remains one of the most annoying issues for Windows Vista users.  The ability to upgrade the software to a new Vista compatible version is not always an option.  The company that developed the application may no longer be around or the cost to upgrade is too high.  In my case, I have a lot of classic PC games that will not run at all under Windows Vista no matter how I configure the compatibility options. In order to play my old games I need to install Windows XP. However, I am not exactly ready to give up all of the advances in Windows Vista just so that I can play my old games once in a while. The answer is to dual boot Windows Vista and XP.

Dual booting Windows XP and Vista on the same computer will allow you to select from a boot menu what operating sytem you want to run. This menu is shown right after you power on your computer. Setting up both Windows XP and Vista on one computer can be a little ticky depending what operating system you have installed first.  The next two sections will help you configure both versions on your computer, depending on what OS you have installed first:

Windows XP is installed

If you want to dual boot XP and Vista and XP is already installed on your computer you will not have to do much work to dual boot vista.  Just boot to your Windows Vista install DVD, select a custom install and install Vista on a separate partition or physical drive than where XP is installed.  This will leave your XP install intact and automatically install a boot menu with both XP and Vista listed.

Windows Vista is installed

If you were like me and compley reformatted your hard drive and wiped out XP when you installed Vista, your setup is going to be a little more complicated. Follow these steps:

  1. Boot up your computer with a Windows XP install CD and install Windows XP to a different partition or physical drive than where Vista is installed.  When the setup is finished, your computer will automatically boot into Windows XP. Don’t worry, Windows Vista is still on your computer if you correctly installed XP to a different partition or physical drive.
  2. When you installed XP, the Vista Boot Manager was replaced by the Windows XP boot components. The Vista Boot Manager needs to be fixed by using the Windows Vista install DVD. Boot your computer to the Windows Vista install DVD , click Next on the regional settings screen and then click on Repair your computer in the lower left of the window. Select your Windows Vista install and then run the Startup Repair.  This will fix the Windows Boot Manager and Vista will once again startup automatically.
  3. Now we need to add an entry to the Windows Boot Manger for Windows XP.  This is done through Windows Vista.  When you are back in Vista, open an administrative level command prompt window and run these commands:

bcdedit /create {ntldr} /d "Windows XP"
bcdedit /set {ntldr} device boot
bcdedit /set {ntldr} path \ntldr
bcdedit /displayorder {ntldr} /addlast 4. Reboot your computer and test out the new boot menu.

Dual boot has now been configured on your computer. You will be able to enjoy the enhancements of Windows Vista without giving up the ability to run older applications that require Windows XP.

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