How to Dual-Boot two Windows Operating Systems

Dual Booting XP and Vista

Windows VistaDual booting means installing two operating systems on your computer and at startup choosing which one to launch.

You can in fact install any combination of Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, older versions of Windows, Linux and even an Apple OS.

To keep things simple this article concentrates on how to add Windows Vista to a Windows XP system.

You must install Windows Vista on a separate partition on your hard drive (or even on a second hard drive).

To find out if your PC has a spare partition open My Computer and see if there are multiple drive icons.You should now check the size of the extra partition by clicking the drive icon and seeing the display (just hovering over the icon will also show the free space and total size) e.g.

Local Disk

File System NTFS

Free Space 20.3GB

Total Size 50.7GB

It is the total size of the partition that matters i.e. 50.7GB in the example shown above. You will need a good sized partition, at least 20GB or more, depending on how many programs you will install later.

If you need to create a new partition see our article Why should you Partition your Hard Drive?

Once you have your partition, you can install Vista in one of two ways: either start the install from within XP (telling Vista to not perform an upgrade) or you can boot with the Vista DVD, making sure that your BIOS is configured to boot to your DVD drive before anything else.

At QBS PC Help we always prefer to boot from the DVD. The main reason for this is that you don't have to worry about any interference from programs running in the background on your XP installation (e.g. anti virus, anti-spyware, firewall, desktop search etc).

Once your PC boots from the DVD, Windows Vista’s Setup will begin loading. You'll be pleased to hear that Vista's installation program is fairly straightforward, and if you have installed XP from scratch before, Vista's initial setup screens will be quite familiar.

When you arrive at the 'Where Do You Want To Install Windows?' page, you will see your second partition or second drive listed. Select the second partition or separate drive (not the C drive) and click next. The rest of the Vista installation will now proceed as normal.

Once the Vista installation is complete, you'll see the Windows Boot Manager screen, as shown below. As you can see, booting either Windows XP (listed as an Earlier Version of Windows) or Windows Vista is a simple menu choice. This menu will appear on the screen for 30 seconds before Windows Boot Manager launches the default operating system, which is of course, Windows Vista.

Windows Boot Manager screen

Editing the Windows Boot Manager

Windows Vista no longer uses the Boot.ini file. That file and the old underlying boot system has been replaced by a new boot loader/bootmgr, which reads boot configuration data from a special file named BCD. A brand new tool called Bcdedit.exe (Boot Configuration data Store Editor) can be used to make more in-depth changes to the contents of the BCD.

Keep in mind that Bcdedit.exe is a command line tool that operates solely via switches and can be a bit hard to use.

To run the command, from within Vista, to change the description of the Earlier Version of Windows to something more suitable you should do the following:

  1. Right click on the Command Prompt shortcut and select the Run As Administrator command.
  2. Type the following command:

    bcdedit /set {legacy} Description "Windows XP"

    The text inside the quotes can be anything that you want to replace the "Earlier version of windows" string in Vista's Boot Manager.

Another way of accessing the Boot Configuration data Store Editor is to use a free tool called DualBootPRO. This is a graphical interface to the command line tool bcdedit.exe. It allows you to make changes to the Windows boot manager such as boot order, time to boot, Operating System listing name and more.

Dual Boot Pro

As you can see from the screen shot It has a simple, tabbed interface.


Read more articles about PC repairs, Web design & SEO