Dual-booting all versions of Windows and Linux
Install Dual-Boot of Windows Vista + XP + 2000 on Windows Vista computer (Vista installed first)
Last reviewed: June 2013
This guide shows how to safely create a natural multi-boot of Windows Vista plus Windows XP and Windows 2000 on a computer with Windows Vista 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 Vista drive to make room for Windows XP, and 2000 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 Vista were used in testing The operating systems added were: Windows XP Professional SP2 or XP Home SP1, and Windows 2000 Professional SP4. 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 8, 7 or Vista boot menu (the BCD or Boot Configuration Data). Some settings, not used here, are very advanced. EasyBCD works in Windows 8, 7 and Vista, but also in Windows XP if you first install Microsoft's .NET 2.0 Framework.
Hidden Active Partition. Many Windows Vista users will have a small Primary disk partition(s) that's marked active and is hidden (but is visible under Disk Management in Windows Vista). This must be counted if you want to create a new Primary.
127 GB Partition Limitation in Windows 2K. Windows 2K setup files must be installed on the hard disk within 127 GB from the start of the disk. This physical limitation cannot be avoided. To play safe, all of the 2K partition should be within 127 GB from the start of the disk.
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 8, 7 or Vista.
Install Windows XP and 2K when Windows Vista is installed first
Installing other operating systems on your Windows Vista 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 Vista (150 GB, Primary, NTFS). The Windows Vista 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), Vista (115 GB, Primary, NTFS), 2000 (5 GB, Primary, NTFS), XP (10 GB, Logical, NTFS), Data (18 GB, Logical, NTFS).
You can install Windows XP and/or 2K on Logical partitions if you wish. You can also use a second hard disk for either but 2K must always be within the 127 GB limit - the procedure will be similar to that described here.
Always note the size of each partition and also label each (this guide uses vsta, w_2K, w_XP).
Installing the Operating Systems in this Windows Vista 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 Vista boot menu will then boot directly to Windows Vista, XP or 2000 when selected.
Footnote: EasyBCD creates an NST folder on the root of the Windows Vista partition when it adds an operating system to the Windows Vista boot loader. This NST folder contains file(s) vital to booting added OSs. It must not be deleted.
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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