Dual-booting all versions of Windows and Linux

   Dual-Boot    |    Win 8    |    Win 7    |    Vista    |    Win XP/2K/NT    |    Win9x/Me    |    How to    |    Legacy 9x Tweaks    |    SiteMap   


Here: Home > Dual-Boot > Dual-Boot Windows 9x/Me with other Operating Systems >

Dual-Boot or Multi-Boot:

Install Windows XP or 2K on a Windows Me/98/95b system

Last reviewed: March 2004

How to dual-boot Windows XP or 2000 when Windows Me, 98, 95b, or 95c is already installed on your PC. No third-party boot utility is used here.

If you wish to install XP/2K on Win 95 or 95a, go to Install Win XP/2K on a Win 95, 95a system.

This is reliable and safe, easy and painless. No loss of data occurs. It's even suggested by Microsoft!

Boot up Win9x/Me.
Install Win XP or 2000 as a NEW installation on its own partition.
The Win XP or 2000 partition can be the same FAT type that is used by C:, or can be NTFS. But DO NOT convert the PC system partition (C:) to NTFS.

The Boot Loader menu will then allow you to boot to either WinXP/2000 or the Win9x/Me.

Please read Dual-Boot Win9x+XP/2K/NT for an overview.


Installing a Windows XP or 2000 on a Windows 95b+ system is quite easy.

Already installed: WinMe or 98/SE or 95b,c (OSR2).
You want to add: Win XP or 2000.

You just install the Win XP/2000 (to its own drive/partition). It's usually that easy!
Then, during boot up, a menu pops up and you can select which Windows to boot, or allow the default to boot. But read on . . .

Windows XP/2000 are designed to operate with other operating systems. The Win XP/2000 installation will SAVE the current Win9x boot sector in the file c:\BOOTSECT.DOS. and will then create its own boot sector on C:. If the Win9x is selected from the Boot Loader Menu then Bootsect.dos is used - this runs IO.SYS & MSDOS.SYS which load the Win9x/Me.

Your current C: can be a FAT16 ('FAT') or FAT32 partition. During the XP/2K installation you'll have to choose the same FAT type as C:, or NTFS, for its installation drive. Windows XP/2K can initiate boot up from a FAT or FAT32 drive (C:) and then operate under NTFS from its own NTFS partition.

If you choose the FAT/32 type used by the Win9x then you will have access to all files on all drives (but you will lose some of the benefits of the NTFS system, mainly security related).

If you choose NTFS for Win XP/2000, then, while in Win9x, you will lose access to the files stored in the NTFS partitions, but you will retain all the benefits of the NTFS. Do NOT convert the PC system partition (C:) to NTFS or FAT32.

[top of page]


One possible difficulty is that you should have two logical drives (or hard disks).

Ignore Microsoft's suggestion (Q217210) to install XP/2K/NT on the same partition as Win9x.

WinXP/2000 and a Win9x/Me should not be installed on the same logical drive. Installing different OSs on a single partition may cause problems running those OSs. A single Hard Drive is perfectly fine, but it should be partitioned to at least C: and D:. At a minimum the items in Program Files, including those Common/Shared components, will cause conflicts. IE and Outlook Express are likely to break, and other applications are also at risk.

The PC system partition is almost always the C: drive, so lets presume it is. C: must always use a FAT or FAT32 file system. This situation can not be altered except by third-party utilities.

A Win9x partition must be Formatted prior to the Win9x installation. However XP/2K should be allowed to Format its own pre-existing partition during the XP/2K installation.

If you have a single Hard Disk with a single partition (a C: drive, but no D: except for a CD or DVD drive), it's recommended that you Fdisk & Format (with loss of data!). You can use BootIT ($), or Partition Manager (165KB, freeware) to repartition without loss of data.

If you must repartition (and reinstall the Windows) then do it! You can use this opportunity to take a long-term view of your partitioning needs. You can probably create an image of Win9x first and avoid any loss of data.

Click HERE to learn how to install another hard disk without changing current drive letters.

[top of page]


It's worthwhile emphasizing the importance of FAT types with a Win9x.

Windows 9x can not boot from an NTFS partition.

There are four important ingredients to a Win9x installation:
1. PC system partition type (C: must always use FAT or FAT32)
2. Win9x boot files (always on C:)
3. Win9x boot partition (usually C: but can be elsewhere using same FAT type as C:).
4. Win9x boot partition must begin before 2 GB (Win95,a) or 8 GB from physical start of disk
    - 98+ can boot from beyond the 8 GB boundary if the system supports INT13 Extensions.

Therefore, in this dual-boot:

• If Win9x is installed on C:, then you just need a second partition, or a second disk.
• If Win9x is not on C:, then you can install XP/2K on C: using same FAT type as C:.

• If you have only one partition then you must:
     start fresh using the #2 Reinstall method (data is lost when you repartition),
     or add a second hard disk (no loss of data),
     or use third-party partition utility to create more partitions (no loss of data).

Adding a disk will alter drive letter allocations if current disk has more than one partition!

[top of page]

EXAMPLES: Install Win XP/2K on Me/SE/98/95b,c

Examples of Partitions & File System types that can be used in this Dual-Boot.
A second hard disk (Disk 1) is helpful, but it is partitions and file system types that count most.

Example 1: 
Disk 0  C:  Win9x  FAT32  Primary (PC system partition) 
Disk 0  D:  XP/2K  FAT32  Logical (both Windows can read both drives) 
Example 2: 
Disk 0  C:  Win9x  FAT32  Primary (PC system partition) 
Disk 0  D:  XP/2K  NTFS   Logical (XP/2K can read both. Win9x can't read D:) 
Example 3:
Disk 0  C:  Win9x  FAT/32 Primary (PC system partition) 
Disk 1  D:  XP/2K  FAT/32 Primary (both Windows can read all FAT32 drives) 
Disk 1  E:  No Win FAT/32 Logical (data shared by both Wins) 
Example 4: (Win9x installed first) 
Disk 0  C:  No Win FAT32 Primary (PC system partition) 
Disk 0  E:  XP/2K  NTFS  Logical (XP/2K can read all drives) 
Disk 1  D:  Win9x  FAT32 Primary (Win9x can read only C: & D:) 
Disk 1  F:  No Win NTFS  Logical (XP/2K data) 
When C: is not the OS Boot Partition:
The OS boot partition must begin before a certain distance from the start of the hard disk to be bootable. The OS boot partition for DOS, FAT, NT must begin before 2 GB from the start of the hard disk. The boot partition for other Windows must begin before 8 GB from start of disk. If your PC supports INT13 Extensions, then 98+, XP, 2000 can boot from beyond 7.8 GB.

[top of page]


Remember, you will need to repartition or add a hard disk:
  • if you have only one partition (only a C: drive).
Remember, you will need to format your C: drive:
  • if that PC system partition is not formatted correctly (C: must use FAT or FAT32).
Note: PartitionMagic 5.0 was freeware with PC Magazine in June 2002. Get a copy!

OEM Windows 95B & 95C (OSR 2.x) starting errors with some 'fast' processors.
If you wish to install OEM Win95B or OEM Win95C on a system with one of the following processors, then you must read this first for a recognized software fix that is required.
  • AMD K6-2 (350MHz or faster)   • Pentium III (1GHz, or faster)   • Pentium 4 (any)
This does not apply to Win98, 98SE, or Me which come already fixed.
The fix does not correct the problem for the retail version of Windows 95.

Uninstalling Win 9x.
Never 'Uninstall' Win Me from a dual-boot. You should edit Win Me out of Boot.ini, and manually delete all Me's folders and files. Win Me's Uninstall.exe restores a backup copy of the Me partition information (stored in c:\Suhdlog.dat) even if the partition information has changed.
Uninstalling Win 98 Upgraded from Win95 in a Dual-Boot. Uninstalling the Win98 upgrade may delete boot.ini. Recreate it. Also, the uninstall deletes the Bootsect.dos file (save it first).

"Do you wish to enable large disk support (Y/N)?"
When Fdisk asks you this, it wants to know if you wish to use the FAT32 file system.

[top of page]


Adding a [Win XP or 2000 or NT] to a Win9x/Me system:

1. Hardware drivers compatible with next Windows (mainboard, hard disk, video, ..)
    For those in Windows, check list shown in \Drivers\ on its CD,
    or here for a system compatibility check for XP.
2. Win95b(+), or Win98/SE, or WinMe already installed.
3. At least two partitions (one can be Logical - for XP, 2K, NT).
4. C: drive must be FAT or FAT32, but only FAT if installing NT (FAT means FAT16).
    Right-click C: drive in My Computer, and click Properties. Look at File system:.
5. Installation CD for the Win9x/Me - it may be needed, sometime.
6. Installation CD for WinXP or Win2000- obviously!
7. Backup of current Win9x boot files.
8. Win9x Boot disk (that contains SYS.COM and gives CD access) - essential.
9. Floppies - for Win XP (6) or 2000 (4) Setup boot disks - recommended.
10. Make sure your system is suitable for running the new OS.
11. Read and save the REPAIR DUAL-BOOT page BEFORE you start.

You are not restricted to just two versions of Windows.
Multiple OSs can be installed to their own partitions. Installing the oldest OS first is easiest.
Install in this order (skipping any OS you do not want to install):
   MS-DOS 6.x (C: must use FAT)
   Windows 95 or 98 or SE or Me (C: must use FAT/FAT32, but just FAT for 95a)
   Windows NT4 (C: must use FAT. Update with SP 5(+) if installing Win 2000/XP)
   Windows 2000 (C: must use FAT/FAT32, but just FAT for 95a or NT)
   Windows XP (C: must use FAT/FAT32, but just FAT for 95a or NT)
You can then start any of the installed Windows from the Boot Loader screen on boot up.


Dual-boot [WinXP or Win2000 or WinNT] on a Win9x/Me system:

1. Switch OFF anti-viral software (& check in BIOS/CMOS also).
2. Routinely backup the current boot files, and important data.
3. Create a Win9x/Me Boot disk (that contains SYS.COM) - essential.

4. Boot up to Win9x, and insert XP/2K CD (run x:\I386\WINNT32.EXE if there's no autorun).
5. Install Win XP/2K using the Advanced option in Setup.
      Make sure it installs as a new installation - not as an upgrade.
      Make sure the correct target drive is selected as the installation drive.
      Make sure Win XP/2000 uses a name different from the Win9x/Me name.
      Do not convert the PC system partition (C:) to NTFS.
      Use NTFS for the XP/2K boot partition or use the same FAT type as C:
      (Win9x will not be able to read the XP/2K partition if you use NTFS).

Win XP/2K controls the boot up. A Reboot brings up its Boot Loader menu and you can select Win XP/2K or Win9x as the next Windows to boot (if not, read Repair a Dual-boot).

6. Always create a new Rescue Boot Disk when a new dual-boot is successful!
7. Install the Recovery Console (optional, 7 MB hard disk space).

Note: In an emergency any Win9x Startup Disk (with CD support) can be used for running a XP/... CD (boot up with it and run WINNT.EXE from the I386 folder on XP/... CD).

Note: If rebooting for hardware installation, be sure you select the correct OS!

[top of page]


To start MS-DOS from a Windows 9x multi-boot with Windows XP/2000:

This, obviously, applies only if MS-DOS was previously present with a Win9x.
Remember that Win Me does not allow a dual-boot to true MS-DOS!

1   Choose the Wix9x from the menu on the boot loader screen, and then press ENTER.
2a To start MS-DOS directly: press F4 just as Win9x starts to load just as Win9x starts to load
2b To display Windows 9x Startup menu, press F8.
     and, then to start MS-DOS, choose the Previous version of MS-DOS option.

But check this first:
For the MS-DOS option, the line
should be in the [Options] section of the Win9x Msdos.sys file.

To add BootMulti=1 to Msdos.sys:
Open a MS-DOS Prompt, and type in (assuming C: is the PC system partition)
  Now add the line
  to the [Options] section.
  Save, and Exit.
Now type in

[top of page]


Specifying the Default OS to Boot, and the Boot Menu delay (the Timeout)

When you have established Dual-Booting, you will want to set which OS boots by default.

You can set the default OS (and the timeout) that you want via Control Panel.

1. Boot to the Win XP/2000.

2. Go to Start > Control Panel > System > Advanced tab

3. Under Startup and Recovery, click Settings.

4. Under System startup, in the Default operating system list, click the OS that you want to start when you turn on, or restart, your computer.

5. Also select the Display list of operating systems for check box, and then type the number of seconds for which you want the list displayed before the default OS starts automatically.

You can also edit the boot options file (click Edit). Be careful of typing errors if modifying the boot options file (Boot.ini), because doing so may make your computer unusable.

[top of page]


NEVER dual-boot without your personal safety net - a BOOT DISK for XP/2K/NT.
If stuck, use a Win9x Startup Disk (CD support), and run WINNT.EXE from I386 folder on CD.

RESCUE BOOT DISK for when XP, 2K, NT will not boot - ESSENTIAL, 1 floppy
   Create a bootable floppy to get XP/2K/NT running even if the boot record,
   or boot files, are ever a problem. Write-protect and keep it safe.
      Format a floppy with that XP, 2K, or NT. It must be a full XP/2K/NT format.
      Alter file Attributes (Attrib -r -s -h) of these files in root of C: (PC system partition)
      Boot.ini, NTLDR,, and Bootsect.dos & Ntbootdd.sys (if present)
      (plus Arcldr.exe & Arcsetup.exe - for Windows 2K) and copy them to the floppy.
      Write-protect the floppy. Then restore original Attributes to the files on C:.
      Read the Rescue Boot Disk page for fuller details, plus a much improved Rescue disk.
Use the CD: If you have a Bootable installation CD you should check if your BIOS
   supports booting from it. This is hugely convenient, but still make the floppy.
ERD XP, 2K, NT: Emergency Repair Disk - repair key Registry entries and partition geometry
2K/NT Setup Boot Disks: (4 floppies for 2K, or 3 for NT)
   Use WINNT32 and MAKEBT32 from 2K/NT (Boot disk folder on CD).
   Use WINNT and MAKEBOOT from a non-2K/NT system (such as Win9x).
XP Setup Boot Disks: (6 floppies)
   Read the Microsoft page How to obtain Windows XP Setup boot disks.
   It provides free downloads that create setup boot floppies for all versions of Windows XP.
   Each download is specific to each XP version (Home/Pro; original/SP1/SP2).
Win9x/Me Startup Disk:
   (95+) From a Windows: Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs > Startup Disk tab.
   (98+) From true MS-DOS: Go to the Command folder in Windows, and type Bootdisk.
   Windows 95 Startup Disks do not have CD support (add your CD-ROM driver).
   You can download free Win9x/Me boot disks from (IDE CDrom Drivers Included).

[top of page]

Please remember that you alone are responsible for the consequences of any changes you make to your computer hardware or software.

Copyright © LarryM 1998-2015