Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dual Boot Vista + XP How-To

Soooo, you installed Vista. It's not bad, it's not great, but you have that one nagging piece of software or hardware that just doesn't want to run. Or, you want to play your favorite game and it either doesn't run in Vista or you hate that obnoxious frickin whatever the fuck it is that Vista needs to do with your hard drive the brings the whole system to a crawl just as you see the enemy and even though you tried to track it back to single process there's nothing you can do about it (like fucking SearchIndexer - OMG I will kill you). Okay, I feel better now. Anyhow, your options?

A) Reinstall your whole system as XP. Ugh. What a PAIN.
B) Find an alternative piece of software, buy alternative piece of hardware. Expensive/annoying!
C) Add a partition or whole drive with XP. Best alternative.

It is NOT that bad. I just did it, and it took about an hour. Here's how.

Software you will need:
- EasyBCD - Download and install in Vista.
- Acronis Disk Director - Best partition resizing program I've found. You can use the built in partition resizer, but the pagefile generally makes the available size very minimal (in my case, it was 200MB for the maxsize of the new partition). Note that some people recommend Partition Magic. If this was 2 years ago, I would have given an emphatic YES, but since Symantec bought it and let it die, there have been issues with Vista that have cropped up
- Your Vista and XP CDs - yes, you need both.

Step 0: Backup you system. You do run the risk of fuXoring up the whole system, so do a full disk image. I highly recommend Acronis True Image Home (this is starting to sound like an ad, but I swear I get no kickbacks... yet!)

Step 0.5: If you want to install on a separate drive, skip Step 1.

Step 1: Create the new XP partition.
In Vista, use your chosen software, in this case ADD, to shrink the Vista partition. I would suggest at least 100GB, but more if you think you will be swapping large files - remember to have space for any temporary files that might be generated. Next, create a new partition using all the unallocated space. Make it a primary partition, NTFS format. Apply/Finalize the changes, and you will be asked to reboot.

Reboot, and you will either see a text-y prehistoric looking screen giving you a rundown of the partition creation process or a completely black screen with disk activity (my case). Don't worry, just wait for the reboot to go through. In my case ADD rebooted the system again and Windows thought the reboot was in error. Just start up normally. The partition will be formatted once in Vista, and you may need to boot again (I did, though subsequent reformatting didn't require it).

Step 2: Check My Computer, and make sure the new partition/disk appears. Hooray!

Step 3: Install XP
Insert your XP CD, and reboot. If your BIOS settings are not set up to boot from CD first, remember to set that (if you never messed with your BIOS settings, this should be how things were set up at the factory). You will be presented with a list of disks*, along with the available space. Select your newly created partition and hit Enter.

*If your disk is not shown, you probably have an older copy of XP and a newer motherboard with SATA hard drive controllers. You may have to load your driver floppy at the beginning of the XP install boot - when it asked for Third Party SCSI or RAID Drivers. (I had to do this with a 4 year old PC installing XP no-Service Packs)

Step 4: Tweak and protect XP
The average Windows PC directly connected to the internet is compromised within 15 minutes. Install all your Windows Updates, restarting as necessary. Don't forget the antivirus software and firewall. I recommend Kaspersky Internet Security 7 for both. Universities generally offer AV software for free, and you can always grab ZoneAlarm's free edition.

Step 5: Give me back my Vista!
Reboot with the Vista DVD in the drive, and select the option to repair a Vista installation. The program will scan the drives and find your Vista installation, select it. Choose the first option, which is for Boot Time Problems (prevents Windows from booting properly blahblahblah). Let it do its work, click finish and you will reboot.

Tada! Yay Vista!
(If you are not saying Yay Vista here, you may have borked your computer. Try repairing more options from the previous step, but at this point something is seriously wrong.)

Step 6: Choose, don't lose
Time for the magic. Open EasyBCD. Select Add/Remove entries, type NT/2000/XP/2003, name it something with 'XP' in it, click Add. Click Change Settings, select the XP item and select the correct drive letter. Save settings. (UPDATE: Oops! Select the drive letter that Vista is installed on, not that XP is installed on. This is because the Vista bootloader is on the Vista Parition, and will handle booting XP)

Shazzam! You win! Reboot and you should have the option to choose either XP or Vista. Niiiice. As a side note, you can also install Ubuntu using the same procedure (partition, install, Vista CD reboot, repair, and EasyBCD), and use the NeoGrub option in EasyBCD. Haven't tried adding MacOS X... yet. Then again, I have no reason to.

Slightly more technical explanation (if you WANT to know, not that you NEED to know). The issue here is that the Master Boot Record (MBR) gets overwritten by Windows with that version of Windows bootloader. So Installing XP means the bootloader for XP only is installed. The Vista bootloader plays nice with XP, with the right settings (XP's does NOT play nice with Vista), but not Linux. NeoGrub, based on the GRUB bootloader lets you select between a Linux distro and the Vista bootloader. Depending on how you configure it, you may end up with Selecting between Linux and Windows on the first screen, and then XP or Vista on a second one (first screen is NeoGrub, second is the Vista bootloader).

All in all, the whole thing is not that bad. The hiccups are if you have to use a floppy with SATA drivers (who has a floppy drive anymore? and flash drives won't work for it), and user error, so take your time. You may be forced to call Microsoft to reactivate your old copy of XP. Just call them and speak to the nice Indian woman for the authorization code. I know people that have used crazy pirated XP serial numbers from Chinese hacking sites, and they were just given their activation code.

8 comments:

RemyWahnoun said...

First comment on your website,
i love the posts, thanks a lot.
Ive been using vista 64bit for a while and got my share of softs that i couldn't use.
My turnaround was to install XP in a virtual machine, and install those in this one.
PS: M$ has a free virtual machine soft.

Brandon King said...

Thanks! Glad you like the site.

That's another option. MS has Virtual PC 2007 for free (there's some limit on virtual machine numbers or something advanced like server OSes that would require paying). There's also VMWare which is pretty decent, too. VMWare can run MacOSX, but VPC will not).

The one downside is that you are always loading the other OS under virtualization, which is noticeably slower, especially for analysis and RAM intensive work. The Core 2 Duo processors have the ability to boost this (if you turn it on in the BIOS, which many manufacturers don't do by default) but you still have the issue of requiring enough RAM for the main OS, the VM app, and the virtual OS.

But for small day to day things you have the added advantage of not needing to reboot, which is nice.

Thanks for pointing out the oversight!

Jamie said...

Excellent tutorial. You should become a teacher :-). One question if I may? Will this work with a Raid 0 setup on my new Dell XPS 720HC? If not do you have a solutions for this please?

Brandon King said...

As long as the RAID is setup in hardware and not software, which is the case 99% of the time. You can tell by checking the BIOS or chipset settings at startup. It should say something like "SATA OnChip RAID [Enabled]".

In this case, the two drives are seen as a single drive by any OS, so yes, it should work without any modification. I don't think that there are any issues with the MBR, as the controller will point to the correct location, or it will be mirrored/RAIDed between both drives.

JUST IN CASE, definitely make a backup before doing something big like this. I mention Acronis True Image because I have used it many times, and it has never failed me (and saved me in a couple cases)!

Sweet rig btw! Post if you run into any problems, but having re-read my guide, I think it covers all the bases. One final thing to note. Some companies just give you "System Restore" CDs which install the OS plus any drivers automatically. These can be a mixed bag. Sometimes they do a low level reformat of the whole drive (to map out any possible bad sectors), which is why you always back up first. This guide is for using plain, old Windows install CDs/DVDs.

Also, for you, Dell sometimes has a hidden recovery partition that, in case you really mess up your Windows install, can be tapped to recover the system to factory settings. Just be aware that thee may be a partition that you don't recognize when you do the repartitioning, and don't delete it.

Anonymous said...

I get to the point where i put in the xp cd and it says no drive detected. in your instructions you say, "You may have to load your driver floppy at the beginning of the XP install boot", can you explain that a little more as my laptop dont have a floppy drive (if that is what you meant), and where do i get the drivers? thanks in advance.

Brandon King said...

That is exactly why I mentioned the driver disk stuff. XP does not recognize SATA drives by default. So, motherboard manufacturers included disks with the drivers for the SATA interface that Windows could load at install time.

You will need to either:
A) Get ahold of a Windows XP SP2 install disk (not just the original XP). This should have SATA drivers on it (that's what I used, and all my drives are SATA).
B) Get an external floppy drive and the correct drivers (may or may not work - I haven't tried it and the install will only look at drive A:\)

There are some more elaborate ways of getting this to work, as well, but I haven't tried them. Google WinPE, Windows PE, and BartPE. These are essentially ways to integrate drivers into a Windows installer.

B. Thomas said...

AWESOME!!! I've read and tried a few methods out there but whever I got to the EasyBCD part I always changed the partition for Windows XP to the drive it was installed on instead of leaving it on the Vista drive because that's what the guides said to do. It left me stuck in the endless cycle of reinstalling XP and Repairing my computer via Vista boot CD. (Okay not quite endless cause I only did it three times but still...)

Anonymous said...

I have Vista Home premium installed from factory. I need to get XP on my spare 300gig drive for TAFE. I have Win XP SP2 2002.My computer is 2005 HP model running sata and IDL . Running both main and spare drivessata drives as well as 1 dvd burner and other dvd burner on IDL . Everytime I try and install XP I get to [Windows is starting] then big blue screen with error message, and I can't install from desktop either. When you say [A] floppy drive do you mean just attache one or do you mean install drivers from one (in this case what drivers do you install).Also do you give the formatted drive a letter or let XP do that for you and do you set the new drive to active or not. 1/2 NOOBY.Regards Shamdrag Please help asap.

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