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Install Dual-Boot of Windows 7 + Vista + Win98/Me on Windows 7 computer (Win7 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.

Introduction

This guide shows how to safely create a natural triple-boot of Windows 7 plus Windows Vista and Windows Millennium or 98 on a computer with Windows 7 already installed. You can then run any of those three 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 a Primary partition for Win98/Me on the first hard disk (and also 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 systems added were: Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Millennium or 98SE. 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!

Only experienced computer users should attempt to create this multi-boot.

Users with 64-bit computer systems should note that they are unlikely to get 64-bit hardware drivers that work with Win98/Me. However, since all the x64 cpu's support x86 as well, you can dual-boot Win98/Me on a 64-bit computer provided you execute an extra few cold boots while the Win98/Me installation tries for compatibility - it finds a little, but not much. Some users will still find it worthwhile.


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.

EasyBCD. The highly-acclaimed EasyBCD is a free editing utility that allows any user to easily edit the Windows 7/Vista boot menu (the BCD or Boot Configuration Data). Some settings, not used here, are very advanced. EasyBCD works in Windows 7 and Vista, but also in Windows XP if you first install Microsoft's .NET 2.0 Framework.

Hidden Active Partition. Many Windows 7 users will have a small Primary disk partition(s) that's marked active and is hidden (but is visible under Disk Management in Windows 7). This must be counted if you want to create a new Primary.

127 GB Partition Limitation in Windows 9x/Me. Windows 9x/Me must be installed on a Primary partition that starts before 127 GB from the beginning of the first hard disk. We can have just 4 Primaries per disk or 3 plus one Extended partition (containing many Logical partitions). This physical limitation cannot be avoided.

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

Formatting. All partitions should be created before you start installing any operating system (OS). The partition 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.

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Make a Partition Active

The Win98/Me FAT32 Primary partition is automatically marked as Active when Win98/Me is installed. After Win98/Me installation, the originally Active NTFS partition must be made Active again. And Fdisk may prove difficult!

It's very important you know how to do this BEFORE you install Win9x/Me. If you need help with this, read this page now and select the method that best suits your situation. You must be prepared for this in advance.

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Install Windows Vista and Win98/Me 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. Plan your new partitions carefully before you start.
  3. Download Neosmart's EasyBCD 2.1 (free - it edits Win7/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. If you intend using a second hard disk, make sure that disk is in place before you start.
  6. Disconnect all unnecessary external devices before you start.

Make free space and create new partitions

This part is best completed BEFORE you start installing any other operating system.
Remember, you should never alter the starting position of a partition that contains an OS you wish to keep.

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 (120 GB, Primary, NTFS), Win98/Me (2 GB, Primary, FAT32), Vista (26 GB, Logical, NTFS).

When a single disk was less than 127 GB in size, the Win98/Me Primary partition was put at the end of the disk. Win98/Me must still be on the first disk even if you have a second hard disk.

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

  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.
    • Right-click the wn_7 volume, and click Shrink Volume.
      • In Enter the amount of space to shrink in MB: enter enough for Vista and Win98/Me.
        (make sure the Win98 partition starts before the 127 GB limit for that OS).
      • Click the Shrink button (it may take some time!).
      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.
    • If you need a fourth Primary partition, read Create a Fourth Primary partition
      - but remember, four Primaries means you cannot have any further partitions on that hard disk!
    • Right-click the Unallocated space and select New Simple Volume.... Click Next.
      • In Simple volume size in MB:, enter about 2000 (2 GB for Win98/Me). Click Next.
      • In File system, select FAT32 in the drop-down.
      • In Volume label, enter w_Me.
      • Tick to enable the Perform a quick format check box, and click Next.
      • Click Finish button.
    • In the same manner, create the other partitions using NTFS as the File system, and Label them
      (Disk Management will automatically create Logical partitions when those become necessary).
    • If you have a very large hard disk, you can create an extra Logical NTFS partition for data.
  3. Restart to Windows 7.
    • Open Disk Management and check that the change made is correct.

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Installing the Operating Systems in this Windows 7 Multi-Boot

These pages show how to install each operating system in this multi-boot and how to use EasyBCD 2.1 with each.

You can install the OSs in any order you wish but you should have already created all appropriate partitions. Installing an older OS first is suggested as this facilitates its easier removal if you decide not to continue with it.

The Windows 7 boot menu will then boot Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2000 or Win98/Me 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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