Dual Booting Windows XP with Windows Vista

As you probably already know, windows vista is the latest operating system from Microsoft in the market, and as you also might know many people are reluctant to new products or technologies, which is also understandable. Many products are not that good right off the bat, they need improvements, patches, etc. so most people wait until the product is mature enough and most bugs have been shoveled out.

But, for those of us dying to get our hands dirty in the brand new operating system but also reluctant to leave our beloved windows XP operating system behind, well, why not install Windows Vista along with windows XP? Yes, as a dual-boot.

In that way we can play with windows vista but have the option to go back to windows XP any time we want in case something does not work as expected on windows Vista. Nice uh, you don’t need to be a computer geek to do this stuff. You only need to have motivation, well, and a bit of time too.

Ok. Let’s get started. What will you need to dual-boot windows vista with XP? You will need to have an extra new hard drive or used one, and it will need to be properly setup on your computer as a slave drive to be used by windows vista installation. The other method is to slice your current hard drive to make room for windows vista installation; this is a risky method so if you can get a new hard drive it will be better.

I know some desktops don’t have an option to add a new extra hard drive as do most laptops, so you need to slice the hard drive right? OK. To slice your hard drive you will need to use third party software like PartitionMagic from Norton, which costs around 70 dollars.

There are many free ones that can do the same thing, one of those is GPARTED-Live CD . Please read the instructions on how to resize your hard drive here . Also remember that for windows Vista you need at least 15 GB of free space on the hard drive, so keep this on mind when you resize the hard drive, the unallocated space you should leave for vista must be 15 GB or more.

Please, please, don’t try to install Windows Vista on the same partition Windows XP is currently on, you could get away with this on a dual-boot with windows 2000 and windows XP, but Windows Vista uses a totally different directory structure which could make your windows XP installation unusable.

It does not matter which route you chose above; if you chose to get a new hard drive and set it as a slave drive on your computer, good for you, and if you chose to resize the hard drive with one the tools mentioned above, great, you made it. By this time you should have a dedicated drive for windows vista. We will proceed to install windows vista now.

Boot up from the windows vista setup DVD, this will bring up the normal windows vista installation setup ( check this post on how to install windows vista in 12 steps) follow the procedures on how to install windows vista on the link above. Where you need to pay attention is when setup reaches the screen that asks “which type of installation do you want?” You will need to choose “custom (advanced) check the image below.

Custom install

That should bring “where do you want to install windows?” window, like in the picture below. Disk Drive C: should be the one where windows XP reside, so, you will need to choose the second option, which in my case is Disk Drive D:

disk drives images

After that, the setup should proceed exactly as it does in the “Installing windows vista in 12 steps“ procedure. Now when windows vista gets installed, you will notice one difference: when you reboot the computer a boot menu will show up to let you choose what installation of windows you want to boot from, like in the image below.

dualboot screen

Microsoft’s new dual-boot menu lets you choose between your previous operating systems (which should be your windows XP installation) and windows vista. You should have windows XP and Windows Vista properly running on your system as dual-boot now. Enjoy!

Comments [10]

  1. […] still too uncomfortable to drop XP altogether. HD Geek tells you how to have both on one box with dual booting. It’s a step-by-step […]

  2. Ken says:

    NIce! One problem ;- I have XP on another hard drive and on a laptop. A new PC came with Vista (not my choice) so do not have the software. Suppose I could slave the other drive and entire this drive letter (probaly D) in the boot part of the BIOS as this Vista is only on 60 days free trial. Is this blackmail? The layman would just purchase a licence ….??

  3. Nelson says:

    Hi Ken, thanks for coming to my site.

    Are you trying to dual-boot windows XP on the computer already has windows vista?. is weird that you purchased that computer with windows vista pre-installed and is showing as a trial version, normally when you buy a computer it comes with windows already activated.

  4. dave l says:

    Work in a school with 70 pc's/laptops. Just in the process of dual booting a laptop with xp and Vista. The laptop is Vista Compatible so let's see what happens!!!!!!!!!

  5. Nelson says:

    Hey Dave, I hope the dual-boot installation process goes smooth. windows XP is a mature operating system and windows vista was built with windows XP boot-up process in mind, so as long as you are doing a dual-boot with XP installed first, you should not have any problem. if you have vista already on your computer and want to install XP as a dual-boot, there is a greater chance that things can wrong.

    I have a question for you though, where did you find this article? I'm seeing a lot of visitors coming from UK.

  6. Nick says:

    Hi Nelson,

    Good article, will be trying it with a second hard drive.

    I found you through Windows Server 2003 Bulletin from e-media (www.emedia.co.uk).

  7. Nelson says:

    Thanks for the Info Nick. I was wondering from where all this traffic was coming from, somehow google analytic was not picking it up.

    a second hard drive will be better, that way you don't mess around with windows XP boot partition.

  8. Andrew says:

    Hi duel boot going great on my laptop however I am only using Vista as a learning tool so is it possible to change the computer menu so that it will atomaticly go to XP 1st and then only go to vista if I want it to?

    If so how?

  9. mike says:


    I bought a (this) nice ACER Aspire with a 3G core duo chip in it for $600 at WALMART last year. I usually build my own but I couldn't touch this, especially with the 19 wide screen monitor.

    The downside is VISTA HOME PREMIUM. I took a chance – after going through 95, 98, 2K and basically juggling XP PRO with ease I am more than qualified to say this OS is hosed. I have used Macs, Unix, and DEC OSs as well. I don't know what MS had in mind other than their role towards a one world government.(Bill Gates-Illuminati?)

    ACER put their proprietary crapware onboard as well and the only VISTA disc one gets is the backup prompted for during initial setup. I bought a VISTA license when I bought the OS, I should have a VISTA disc in case I need it. ACER claims the only form in which I get a disc was the backup – which includes the ACER crapware that proves to be a stumbling block between VISTA and myself. How many others are hampered by the "helpful" crapware included on the new machines they bought?

    My real shock was reading the vast sea of literature that warn installation for dual booting of XP is almost impossible, even with two hard drives, when VISTA is installed. Is Vista architecture so far removed from what is WINDOWS?

    I want to remove the HD in this ruination, install another and install/run XP PRO exclusively. What should have been a 60 day free trial with VISTA was over months ago. I should have been given the opportunity to downgrade at MS's expense.

    Any that claim to enjoy VISTA and use it without problems have never owned a computer. Maybe a Mac.

    The real insult from MS? 2K is probably their best OS – XP was just another service patch.

    I have gotten in the neighborhood of 60 updates for VISTA in less than a year and each one makes it worse than it was to begin with.

  10. Nelson says:

    Hi Mike. thanks for your comment about your experience with Windows Vista. I must agree with you that Vista does not work as advertised, as I experienced it myself this weekend upgrading my home computer from XP PRO to vista home premium. I know it was a stupid move,but I did it, and was a mess, I'm totally disappointed with vista.. I rolled back my desktop to XP and is working fine now. never again will try to upgrade the desktop to vista, in fact I'm putting the Vista Home Premium DVD in a contest on this blog.. so if you want to win it, subscribe to this blog to stay tune…..it worth 150 bucks..

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