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

Last reviewed: June 2013

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 XP 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 XP unless you install XP on a second hard disk. 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 computers used were:
(1) 64-bit Dell Studio XPS 8100 (2.93 GHz), Core i7, 8 GB RAM DDR3, 2x1 TB SATA hard disks in RAID 0 as 1.6 TB & 60 GB
(2) 64-bit AMD Athlon (2.4GHz), 2.0 GB RAM, 1 TB SATA hard disk.
(3) 32-bit Dell Optiplex with Pentium 4 (2.26GHz), 2.0 GB RAM, 160 GB ATA 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!

This procedure is suitable for experienced computer users.


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 8, 7 or Vista drive. You should use Shrink in Windows' Disk Management to resize the Windows partition. Read Shrink the Windows 8, 7 or Vista Partition for instructions on completing this task successfully. Use the free GParted Live CD only if you must - read Use GParted to Resize the Windows 8, 7 or Vista Partition to learn how.

Formatting. It's best practice to install another operating system on an Unallocated area of the hard disk. If necessary you can try with an unformatted partition (RAW). All partitions should be Formatted when installing that OS to ensure compatible file system versions. Avoid formatting Windows partitions with GParted or any other third-party partitioning utility.

EasyBCD. The highly-acclaimed EasyBCD is a free editing utility that allows any user to easily edit the Windows 8/7/Vista boot menu (the BCD or Boot Configuration Data). EasyBCD runs in Windows 8, 7 and Vista, but also in Windows XP if you first install Microsoft's free .NET 2.0 Framework.

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Details: Install Windows XP when Windows 7 is already Installed

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. Plan and create your new partitions carefully before you install.
  3. Download Neosmart's EasyBCD (free - edit Win8/7/Vista boot loader).
    Optional: Download NeoSmart's free Windows 7 System Recovery Disk if your Win7 DVD is missing!
  4. Download any essential device drivers for your older Windows.
  5. Disconnect all unnecessary external devices before you start.

Make free space and create new partitions

Always note the size of each partition and also label each (this guide uses wn_7 and w_XP).

You should have no trouble using Win7's Shrink in Disk Management to create Unallocated space on a 2nd or 3rd hard disk. Restart Windows when finished. Then skip from here to Next Install ...

If installing on the first hard disk:

  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 for XP (and maybe a Data drive).
      • Click the Shrink button (it may take some time!).
        We will leave the newly acquired free space as Unallocated (preferred) or RAW (unformatted).
      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.
    • Do this next part ONLY if you want to create a size-specific unformatted (RAW) partition for XP.
      • Right-click the Unallocated space and select New Simple Volume.... Click Next.
      • In Specify volume size:, enter the size you want in MB and click Next.
      • In Assign Drive letter or Path, just click Next.
      • In Format Partition, select Do not format this volume in the drop-down - leave it unformatted (RAW).
      • Click Finish button.
    • If you have a very large hard disk, you can create an extra partition for data - now or later.
      (Disk Management will automatically create Logical partitions when those become necessary).
  4. Restart to Windows 7.
    • Open Disk Management and check that the changes made are correct.

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Next Install Windows XP in this Windows 7 Dual-Boot

The link below shows how to install Windows XP in this dual-boot and how to return to a Windows 7-controlled computer.

The Windows 7 boot menu will then boot Windows 7 or Windows XP when selected.

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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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