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Dual-boot Windows Vista on a Windows XP computer
(Windows XP installed first)

Last reviewed: June 2010

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Introduction

This guide shows how to create a native (natural) dual-boot of Windows XP and Windows Vista on a computer with Windows XP already installed on it. 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 will not be used.

The installation of Windows Vista on the Windows XP computer will automatically create the dual-boot for you. The partition that currently controls the bootup will continue to do so but will be changed to the Windows Vista variety (that can be changed back to XP's type if you ever wish to remove Windows Vista).

In this procedure you need to shrink the Windows XP drive to make room for Windows Vista unless you install Windows Vista on a second hard disk. Using a second disk simplifies the procedure but that's not a requirement. The example shown here uses a single hard disk.

You also need to determine if your computer has the minimum system requirements to run Windows Vista.

A previously installed Windows XP Home with SP2 was used in testing. The computer used was a 32-bit Dell Optiplex GX260 with Pentium 4 (2.26GHz), 1 GB RAM, 160 GB ATA or 1 TB SATA hard disk.

The basic procedure is relatively easy and is suitable for most computer users. However, the Windows XP fix required to deal with the Restore Pounts problem with Windows XP is more difficult to apply.

SUMMARY of Procedure

  1. Check at Microsoft's Windows Vista Compatibility Center
  2. Backup.
  3. Create sufficient Unallocated/Free space for Vista at end of WinXP disk or on second disk
    (you'll need a partitioning utility to resize the XP partition - the free GParted works fine).
    Restart to Windows XP twice after resizing the XP partition.
  4. Bootup from Vista installation DVD and select Install Now.
    Select "Custom Install". Select Unallocated space. Select the Format option.
    If XP uses NTFS then also use NTFS for Vista.
    Let the installation finish including the reboots.
    The dual-boot has been created automatically by Windows Vista.
  5. Restart computer to Windows XP.
    Correct the Restore Points problem that occurs with Windows XP (read below)

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

Use the free EasyBCD utility under Vista to rename the boot menu item, "Earlier Version of Windows", to "Windows XP".

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Fix Restore Points Problem in XP

Windows XP does not understand some of the disk management techniques used by Windows 7 and Vista. Every time XP is booted, it destroys 7's or Vista's Restore Points and all except the most recent backup files from Complete PC Backup - read Microsoft's Knowledge Base article 926185. The problem does not affect Windows 2000.

A small addition to XP's registry avoids this problem by making the Windows 7/Vista partition inaccessible when, and only when, XP is running. You must, however, use extreme care to ensure you enter the correct drive letter in the following corrective procedure. You must never enter the drive letter used by XP - that would prevent XP from starting! This fix is applied when XP is booted and not from any other Windows.

  1. Download this tiny xp_rstr_fix.reg file, xp_rstr_fix.zip, and unzip it to XP's Desktop.
  2. Startup to Windows XP. It must be XP and not any other version of Windows.
  3. Note the drive letter allocated to the Vista partition in XP's Windows Explorer.
  4. Right-click xp_rstr_fix.reg on the Desktop and select Edit. Look at this line in xp_rstr_fix:
    "\\DosDevices\\Z:"=dword:00000001
    • Carefully change that Z to the drive letter allocated to the Vista partition by XP
      (make sure you do not remove the \\ before the letter or the : after the letter).
    • Save the file back to the Desktop as xp_rstr_fix2.reg
    • Right-click xp_rstr_fix2.reg on the Desktop, click Merge, and click OK.
  5. Reboot to Vista, and create a new Restore Point (right-click Computer > Properties > System Protection).
  6. Delete the two .reg files on XP's Desktop when you're finished.

When XP is booted, you will be denied access to the Vista partition and the partition will appear to be unformatted (RAW) even though the contents have not been changed. It will still be allocated a drive letter in XP. When you boot to Vista you will have access to all your drives, including the Windows XP partition.

This is the full xp_rstr_fix.reg file: (the blank line is required)

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\MountedDevices\Offline]
"\\DosDevices\\Z:"=dword:00000001

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Help! Remove Vista and Repair XP Startup

If you wish to remove Vista and return to a XP-controlled startup then follow these instructions.

  1. Boot up from your XP installation CD.
  2. Press R to enter the Recovery Console.
    Enter the number that represents XP (probably 1 for C:\Windows).
    Press Enter for Administrator password (or enter the password).
    • Type in and then press Enter after eack entry
      FIXMBR
      FIXBOOT
      EXIT
  3. Remove the CD.

Your computer will automatically boot to Windows XP without any boot menu if none existed previously.

You can now use your partitioning utility to delect the Vista partition and then resize the XP partition to incorporate the free space left after deleting Vista, or you can simply Format the Vista partition.

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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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