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Install Dual-Boot of Windows 7 + Vista on Windows 7 computer (Win7 installed first)

Last reviewed: July 2009

 

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

Introduction

This guide shows how to correctly and safely create a natural dual-boot of Windows 7 and Windows Vista on a computer with Windows 7 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 7 drive to make room for Windows Vista unless you install Vista on a second hard disk. Using a second disk simplifies the procedure but it's not necessary. The example shown here uses a single hard disk.

32 and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 Home Basic, Enterprise and Ultimate were used in testing so this will also work with Windows 7 Premium and Professional. The operating system added was Windows Vista Home Premium. 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.

Following these instructions correctly should always succeed. However, any change to your computer should not even be considered unless your have a rescue plan. This guide also contains that rescue plan - just in case!

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 7 or 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 7 or 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 7 or Vista Partition to learn how and, before you use GParted, read Repair Windows 7 Startup (below).


SUMMARY of Procedure (Advanced Users)

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

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

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Details: Install Windows Vista when Windows 7 is installed first

Installing other operating systems on your Windows 7 computer may invalidate your warrantee.
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 7 System Recovery Disk if your Win7 DVD is missing!
  3. If you intend using a second hard disk, make sure that disk is in place before you start.
  4. Disconnect all unnecessary external devices before you start.

Make free space (Unallocated) for Vista

The single 160 GB disk usually used in testing initially had: System Reserved (100 MB, Primary, Hidden, NTFS), Windows 7 (150 GB, Primary, NTFS). The Windows 7 drive was shrunk leaving about 40 GB Unallocated space at the end of the disk (to the right). After repartitioning it had: System Reserved (100 MB, Primary, Hidden, NTFS), Win7 (110 GB, Primary, NTFS), Vista (40 GB, Unallocated).

Always note the size of each partition and also label each (this guide uses wn_7 and Vsta).
You can use a second hard disk for Windows Vista - the procedure will be similar to that described here.

  1. Restart computer correctly (close all programs before you Restart computer).
  2. Open Disk Management in Windows 7 (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 7 Volume (probably C:), and select Properties.
      In the General tab, enter wn_7 as the label for the Windows 7 volume, and click Apply.
  3. In Disk Management in Windows 7
    • Right-click the wn_7 volume, and click Shrink Volume.
      • In Enter the amount of space to shrink in MB: enter enough Vista.
      • Click the Shrink button (it may take some time!).
        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 7.
    • Open Disk Management and check that the change made is correct.

Use the free GParted Live CD to gain adequate disk space only if you absolutely must - read the page Use GParted to Resize the Windows 7 or Vista Partition to learn how, and read Repair Windows 7 Startup (below) before you use GParted.


Now Install Windows Vista after Windows 7 was Installed

Traditionally, installing an older Windows on a computer containing a newer version stopped that newer Windows booting. This was caused by different versions of the boot loader. The new boot loader used in both Windows 7 and Vista is much friendlier!

  • Bootup from the Windows Vista 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 Vsta partition prepared earlier.
      - check both the size and the label.
      Optionally, click Drive options (advanced) and click Format and then OK.
    • Restart your computer when installation is complete. Select Windows Vista.
      Label the Windows Vista drive to Vsta.

    Vista has been automatically added to the boot menu. Nice!

Congratulations! You have created a natural dual-boot of Windows 7 and Vista when Windows 7 was installed first.

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Repair Windows 7 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 an installation. Windows 7 will boot again if you execute the following procedure.

  1. Bootup any Windows 7/Vista installation DVD or even from NeoSmart's free Windows 7 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 7 should boot normally (very likely). If not, continue here.
  2. Bootup from the Windows 7 installation DVD again
    • Select Repair your computer again.
    • In System Recovery Options, select Windows 7, and click Next.
    • Click Startup Repair.
    • Click Finish when it's complete, and then Restart.
    • You must let CheckDisk run if requested.
      Windows 7 should boot normally.

If still stuck for a solution, boot again from the installation DVD, select Repair your computer, highlight Windows 7, 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 7).
EXIT, and click Restart. Remove the DVD.

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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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