Dual-booting all versions of Windows and Linux
Install Dual-Boot of Windows 7 + Vista + XP on Windows 7 computer (Win7 installed first)
Last reviewed: June 2013
This guide shows how to safely create a natural multi-boot of Windows 7 plus Windows Vista and Windows XP 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 Windows Vista and XP unless you install those 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 XP Professional SP2 or XP Home SP1. 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.
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.
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.
Restore Points and Windows XP. While not essential, it's best practice to apply a Windows XP fix to prevent XP from removing Restore Points created by Windows 7/Vista.
Install Windows Vista and Windows XP 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
Make free space and create new partitions
This part is best completed BEFORE you start installing any other operating system.
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 (25 GB, Primary, NTFS), XP (13 GB, Logical, NTFS). You can use a second hard disk for Windows XP and Vista - the procedure will be similar to that described here.
Always note the size of each partition and also label each (this guide uses wn_7, w_XP, Vsta).
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 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 and XP when selected.
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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