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Dual-Boot Windows 7 on a Windows Vista computer (Vista installed first)

Last reviewed: June 2011


October 2013: This is the new location for this page on this site. Please update your link or bookmark.


This guide shows how to safely create a natural dual-boot of Windows 7 with Windows Vista on a computer with Windows Vista already installed. You can then run either of those two Windows by selecting one from a menu during bootup. No data loss will occur and a third-party boot utility is not used.

In this procedure you need to shrink the Windows Vista drive to make room for Windows 7.

32 and 64-bit versions of Windows Vista Home Premium & Basic, installed on a single NTFS partition, were used in testing. The computers used were (1) a 32-bit Dell Optiplex with Pentium 4 (2.26GHz), 2.0 GB RAM, 160 GB ATA hard disk, and (2) AMD Athlon 64-bit (2.4GHz), 2.0 GB RAM, 1 TB SATA hard disk

The procedure used is quite easy and suitable for users of all abilities.

Important Installation Notes

Full Installation CD/DVDs. The Windows you are adding cannot be installed from Recovery or Repair CDs or DVDs provided by some OEMs. You need the full installation or setup version to install a Windows.

Shrinking a Windows Vista drive. You should use Shrink in Windows' Disk Management to resize the Windows partition. If the free space achieved is inadequate, you can read Shrink the Windows Vista Partition for instructions on completing this task successfully. Use the free GParted Live CD to gain disk space only if you absolutely must - read the page Use GParted to Resize the Windows Vista Partition to learn how and, before you use GParted, read Repair Windows Vista Startup (below).

SUMMARY of Procedure (Advanced users)

  1. Backup important data.
  2. Create Unallocated space for Windows 7 at end of Windows Vista disk (use Shrink).
  3. Install Vista as new installation on the Unallocated space.

That's it! The Windows boot loader menu will boot Windows Vista and Windows 7.

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Details: Install Windows 7 when Windows Vista is already installed

It's important to follow the instructions exactly as stated and you should have a properly working Windows.

Make your preparations

  1. Backup important data before making any changes to a partition. You can burn files to a CD, clone an image of your hard disk, copy files to a USB flash/pen/thumb drive, or use an USB external drive (a good choice)
  2. Optional: Download NeoSmart's free Windows Vista System Recovery Disk if your Vista DVD is missing!
  3. Disconnect all unnecessary external devices before you start.

Make Unallocated space for new Windows 7

The single 160 GB disk usually used in testing initially had: Windows Vista (150 GB, Primary, NTFS). The Windows Vista drive was shrunk leaving about 40 GB Unallocated space at the end of the disk (to the right). After repartitioning it had: Windows Vista (100 GB, Primary, NTFS), new (50 GB, Unallocated).

  1. Restart computer correctly (close all programs before you Restart computer).
  2. Open Disk Management in Windows Vista (right-click Computer, select Manage, click Disk Management).
    • Right-click your CD/DVD drive(s), select Change drive letter and paths..., and click Change.
      Change the drive letter to K (get it out of the way!).
    • Right-click the Windows Vista Volume (probably C:), and select Properties.
      In the General tab, enter vsta as the label for the Windows Vista volume, and click Apply.
  3. In Disk Management in Windows Vista
    • Right-click the vsta volume, and click Shrink Volume.
      • In Enter the amount of space to shrink in MB: enter enough for Windows 7.
      • Click the Shrink button (it may take some time to complete!).
        Note that we are leaving the newly acquired free space as Unallocated.
      If Shrink does not give you sufficient Unallocated space, read how to Shrink the Windows 8, 7 or Windows Vista Partition for instructions or use the free GParted Live CD. Then return here.
  4. Restart to Windows Vista two times.
    • Open Disk Management and check that the change made is correct.

Now Install Windows 7

  1. Bootup from the Windows 7 installation DVD.
    • Select your Language, and Time..., and click Install now.
    • In Which type of installation do you want?, select Custom (Advanced).
    • In Where do you want to install Windows?, select the Unallocated space you created.
  2. Restart your computer when installation is complete. Select either Windows Vista or Windows 7.
    Label the new Windows 7 drive to wn_7.

The new Windows 7 has been automatically added to the boot menu. Nice!

Congratulations! You have created a natural dual-boot of Windows 7 with Windows Vista.

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Repair Windows Vista Startup

You will not have any problem if you follow the instructions as stated above. However you might encounter some freak occurrence like a power failure during installation. Windows Vista will boot again if you execute the following procedure.

  1. Bootup a Windows Vista installation DVD or even from NeoSmart's free Windows Vista System Recovery Disk.
    It must be a 64-bit version if a 64-bit Windows is installed.
    • Press a key when you see Press any key to boot from a CD or DVD.
    • Select your Language and then Time....
    • Select Repair your computer (bottom left of the Install now screen).
      An automatic check of your system will run.
    • Click Repair and restart
      Windows Vista should boot normally (very likely). If not, continue here.
  2. Bootup from the Windows Vista installation DVD again
    • Select Repair your computer again.
    • In System Recovery Options, select Windows Vista, and click Next.
    • Click Startup Repair.
    • Click Finish when it's complete, and then Restart.
    • You must let CheckDisk run if requested.
      Windows Vista should boot normally.

If still stuck for a solution, boot again from the installation DVD, select Repair your computer, highlight Windows Vista, get to a Command Prompt, use DIR command (DIR C: or DIR D: etc.) to identify drive letter allocations (sizes and Labels will help), and type in:
bootrec /FixMbr
bootrec /FixBoot
bootrec /RebuildBcd
X:\boot\bootsect.exe /nt60 C:
  (where X: is your DVD drive letter, and C: is the installation drive for Windows Vista).
EXIT, and click Restart. Remove the DVD.

Related Reading

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

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