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Install Dual-Boot of Windows 7 + XP + 2000 on Windows 7 computer (Win7 installed first)
Last reviewed: June 2011
|Updated for EasyBCD version 2.1. Do not use these instructions with earlier versions of EasyBCD.
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This guide shows how to safely create a natural multi-boot of Windows 7 plus Windows XP and Windows 2000 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 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 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 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.
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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 (new window).
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 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 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).
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. Read Fix Restore Points Problem in XP (below).
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Install Windows XP and 2K 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
- 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)
- Plan your new partitions carefully before you start.
- Download Microsoft's .NET 2.0 Framework (Dotnetfx.exe - free - required by XP to run EasyBCD).
Download Neosmart's EasyBCD 2.1 (free - edit Win7/Vista boot loader).
Optional: Download NeoSmart's free Windows 7 System Recovery Disk if your Win7 DVD is missing!
- Download any essential device drivers for your older Windows.
- If you intend using a second hard disk, make sure that disk is in place before you start.
- 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 (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 wn_7, w_2K, w_XP).
- Restart computer correctly (close all programs before you Restart computer).
- 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.
- 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 2K and XP.
(make sure the 2K 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 Shrink the Windows 7 or Windows Vista Partition for instructions on how to complete this task successfully. Then return here.
- Right-click the Unallocated space and select New Simple Volume.... Click Next.
- In Simple volume size in MB:, enter about 5000 (5 GB for 2K). Click Next.
- In File system, select NTFS in the drop-down.
- In Volume label, enter w_2K.
- 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.
- Restart to Windows 7 two times.
- 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.
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 directly to Windows 7, XP or 2000 when selected.
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EasyBCD 2.1 creates an NST folder on the root of the Windows 7 partition when it adds an operating system to the Windows 7 boot loader. This NST folder contains file(s) vital to booting added OSs. It must not be deleted.
Fix Restore Points Problem in XP
Windows XP does not understand some of the disk management techniques used by Windows 7 and Vista. Every time XP is booted, it destroys Win7's and Vista's Restore Points and all except the most recent backup files from Complete PC Backup - read Microsoft's Knowledge Base article 926185. The problem does not affect Windows 2000.
A small addition to XP's registry avoids this problem by making the Windows 7/Vista partition inaccessible when, and only when, XP is running. You must, however, use extreme care to ensure you enter the correct drive letter in the following corrective procedure. You must never enter the drive letter used by XP - that would prevent XP from starting! This fix is applied when XP is booted and not from any other Windows.
- Download this tiny xp_rstr_fix.reg file, xp_rstr_fix.zip, and unzip it to XP's Desktop.
- Startup to Windows XP. It must be XP and not any other version of Windows.
- Note the drive letters allocated to the Win7 partition in Windows Explorer.
- Right-click xp_rstr_fix.reg on the Desktop and select Edit. Look at this line in xp_rstr_fix:
- Carefully change that Z to the drive letter allocated to the Win7 partition
(make sure you do not remove the \\ before the letter or the : after the letter).
- Save the file back to the Desktop as xp_rstr_fix2.reg
- Right-click xp_rstr_fix2.reg on the Desktop, click Merge, and click OK.
- Reboot to Win7, and create a new Restore Point (right-click Computer > Properties > System Protection).
- Delete the two .reg files on XP's Desktop when you're finished.
When XP is booted, you will be denied access to the Win7 partitions and the partition will appear to be unformatted (RAW) even though the contents have not been changed. It will still be allocated a drive letter in XP. When you boot to Win7 you will have access to all your drives, including the Windows XP partition.
This is the full xp_rstr_fix.reg file: (the blank line is required)
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
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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.
- 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.
- 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:
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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 changes you make to your computer hardware or software.
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