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Install Windows 2000 on XP system, or on (XP + XP/2K/NT/Win9x/DOS)

Last reviewed: June 2005

How to dual-boot, or multi-boot, Windows 2000 (2K) when Windows XP is already installed on your PC. The procedure is identical if XP is already dual-booted with a Win9x/DOS, or with any combination of XP/2K/NT.

No third-party boot utility is used here.

This is reliable and safe, easy and usually painless. It causes no loss of data, and even Microsoft should not object!

The core principle of this dual-boot is that a couple of 2K boot files will not boot a later version of Windows (XP). However, the XP version of these boot files will boot any earlier version of Windows (2K or NT). Therefore, we can backup the two XP files, then install 2K (overwriting the XP boot files), and finally restore the XP files (overwriting the 2K boot files). All Windows will now boot from the Boot Loader Menu.

It's as simple as that! However, there are a few items users need to consider before starting.

System Partition:

The C: drive (first partition, first hard disk) is always the system partition in a natural Windows installation, and nearly always in a natural dual-boot. With XP installed, look in the root of C: for NTLDR and (Hidden files). If found, then C: is the system partition. This page will assume that your C: drive contains the XP boot files, thus making C: the system partition.

2K Partition:

You need to install 2K on a partition that does not have an OS already installed on it. Sharing a partition with another OS will lead to problems and can never be recommended. MS-DOS is the only exception to this.

The partition should be 0.6 - 1.5 GB in size for the 2K installation. Allow plenty of extra space for your own needs.
You can also install 2K on a second hard disk. If adding a second disk, and if you have multiple partitions on the first hard disk, you should read Add a new Hard Disk without changing drive letters.

If you have a single hard disk with a single partition (a C: drive, but no D: except for a CD or DVD drive), you will have to:
1. Create a new partition on unallocated space on the disk (if there's any free).
2. Add another hard disk (and then return here).
3. Use a third-party partition utility to create a new partition without loss of data (and then return here)
4. Use Fdisk & Format (with total loss of all data!), create an extra partition. Now install 2K first, and then install XP as a new installation. This order of installation creates the dual-boot automatically (without any user effort).

File System:

If you currently use only FAT32 on your system, then there's no problem. Just install 2K on an appropriate FAT32 partition that does not contain any OS. Or you can convert a FAT32 partition to NTFS for 2K, but try to make it the final partition (so drive letters will not change under FAT32).

If your current system partition (C:) uses NTFS, then you must install 2K on an NTFS partition.

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Procedure: Install Windows 2000 on a Windows XP PC or on XP + XP/2K/NT/Win9x

Already installed: Windows XP, or XP already multi-booted with any combination of XP, 2K, NT, Win9x or MS-DOS.
You want to add: Windows 2000.
No Boot Manager: No third-party boot utility must be in use.

Summary of procedure: (Advanced users)

  • Prepare a partition for 2K. If it needs formatting, format before installing 2K.
  • Bootup from 2K's CD, and install 2K as a new installation on its own partition.
  • Copy NTLDR and from i386 folder on XP's CD to root of C:, overwriting the 2K versions.
  • [Optional/non-essential: Run Fixboot from XP's Recovery Console.]
  • Finished. The Boot Loader Menu will allow you to boot 2K or any previously bootable OS.
Detailed procedure:
  1. Prepare a partition for 2K. If it needs formatting, format before installing 2K.
  2. Create a temporary Rescue Boot Disk for the installed XP
        or backup C:\NTLDR and C:\ to an accessable location.
  3. Cold boot from the 2K CD
        (read Boot from a bootable CD if you need help with this).
  4. From Setup, install 2K as a new installation.
    Install 2K on its own partition
    If you Format during installation, reboot immediately after the Format, and start Setup again.
    Do not interfere with the installation reboot(s).
    When finished, 2K will be the default OS (30 second delay).
        A previously installed Win9x will also boot if selected from the Boot Loader Menu.
        XP will not boot (yet) if selected - ignore the 2K error if you try it (do NOT attempt a Repair!)
  5. With 2K booted, copy the XP versions of NTLDR and back to C:
        (allow them to overwrite the 2K versions).
        It's best to copy them from the i386 folder on XP's CD (use Drag & Drop in Windows Explorer)
        (or copy from the Rescue Boot Disk, or from your own 'accessable location').
  6. Optionally, run Fixboot from XP's Recovery Console - read below to learn how -
         THPC's experience is that Fixboot is not necessary, but still prefers to use it - for completeness.
  7. Reboot, and select any Windows from the Boot Loader Menu.
        All Windows will now boot.
  8. Create a new Rescue Boot Disk to reflect your new situation when all is well.


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The Fixboot command writes a new OS Boot Sector on to the system partition. Fixboot is run from the Recovery Console which is accessed by booting from XP's installation CD.

When you installed 2K, it created a 2K Boot Sector on the system partition. The OS Boot Sector created by the 2K installation will work just fine with XP (it's the boot files that must be the XP versions). However, many users, including THPC, prefer to complete the picture by having a Boot Sector created by XP - just in case!

  1. Cold boot from the XP installation CD (or read Boot from a bootable CD),
  2. Press R to enter the Recovery Console
  3. Log on to the XP installation
        Press the XP number for Which Windows installation
        Press [Enter] for Administrators Password (it's usually blank in home PCs)
  4. Type these two commands at the prompt, and press [Enter] after each line
        press Y to confirm
  5. Reboot.

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Specifying the Default OS to Boot, and the Boot Menu delay (the Timeout)

When you have established Dual-Booting, you will want to set which OS boots by default.

You can set the default OS (and the timeout) that you want via Control Panel.

1. Boot to the Windows XP.

2. Go to Start > Control Panel > System > Advanced tab

3. Under Startup and Recovery, click Settings.

4. Under System startup, in the Default operating system list, click the OS that you want to start when you turn on, or restart, your computer.

5. Also select the Display list of operating systems for check box, and then type the number of seconds for which you want the list displayed before the default OS starts automatically.

You can also edit the boot options file (click Edit). Be careful of typing errors if modifying the boot options file (Boot.ini), because doing so may make your computer unusable.

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NEVER dual-boot without your personal safety net - a BOOT DISK for XP/2K/NT.
If stuck, use a Win9x Startup Disk (CD support), and run WINNT.EXE from I386 folder on CD.

RESCUE BOOT DISK for when XP, 2K, NT will not boot - ESSENTIAL, 1 floppy
   Create a bootable floppy to get XP/2K/NT running even if the boot record,
   or boot files, are ever a problem. Write-protect and keep it safe.
      Format a floppy with that XP, 2K, or NT. It must be a full XP/2K/NT format.
      Alter file Attributes (Attrib -r -s -h) of these files in root of C: (PC system partition)
      Boot.ini, NTLDR,, and Bootsect.dos & Ntbootdd.sys (if present)
      (plus Arcldr.exe & Arcsetup.exe - for Windows 2K) and copy them to the floppy.
      Write-protect the floppy. Then restore original Attributes to the files on C:.
      Read the Rescue Boot Disk page for fuller details, plus a much improved Rescue disk.
Use the CD: If you have a Bootable installation CD you should check if your BIOS
   supports booting from it. This is hugely convenient, but still make the floppy.
ERD XP, 2K, NT: Emergency Repair Disk - repair key Registry entries and partition geometry
2K/NT Setup Boot Disks: (4 floppies for 2K, or 3 for NT)
   Use WINNT32 and MAKEBT32 from 2K/NT (Boot disk folder on CD).
   Use WINNT and MAKEBOOT from a non-2K/NT system (such as Win9x).
XP Setup Boot Disks: (6 floppies)
   Read the Microsoft page How to obtain Windows XP Setup boot disks.
   It provides free downloads that create setup boot floppies for all versions of Windows XP.
   Each download is specific to each XP version (Home/Pro; original/SP1/SP2).
Win9x/Me Startup Disk:
   (95+) From a Windows: Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs > Startup Disk tab.
   (98+) From true MS-DOS: Go to the Command folder in Windows, and type Bootdisk.
   Windows 95 Startup Disks do not have CD support (add your CD-ROM driver).
   You can download free Win9x/Me boot disks from (IDE CDrom Drivers Included).

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