Creating A Dual-Boot For Windows Vista And Windows XP

by on November 6, 2007

Q: I have recently purchased a laptop and it has Windows Vista. My question is can I install Windows XP Home or XP Professional on this laptop to use like a dual system?

A: The answer to your question is yes. Your best option is to do something called dual-boot. Another option is something called virtualization. A good “virtual machine” that I like to use is called VirtualBox. But it does not yet fully support running other operating systems on top of Vista. So for now, I recommend that you configure your computer for dual booting.

Creating a dual-boot of Vista and XP will almost certainly require a Vista installation DVD. Most of the “factory restore utilities” that ship with computers cannot perform the tasks needed to make a dual-boot of Vista and XP. In the past, Dell has sent Windows installation disks to me for my Dell computers. HP has not always been willing to do so for HP machines. Contact the manufacturer of your laptop for more information. If your factory restore utility is capable of preserving partitions and/or partitioning your hard drive, then you might be able to create a dual-boot of Vista and XP. Otherwise, you will need a Vista installation DVD. If your computer manufacturer is unwilling to provide you with such a DVD, you can purchase one online or at a retail store.

It is actually easier to install XP first and Vista second. However, this will destroy all of the data currently on your computer. The website provides a guide called How to dual-boot Vista with XP – step-by-step guide with screenshots. If you need keep you existing Vista installation for some reason, try the companion article entitled How to dual boot Vista and XP (with Vista installed first) — the step-by-step guide. The instructions below assume that you are installing XP first. I’ve modified this slightly from the guides cited above:

  1. Backup all important data currently on your computer.
  2. Optional — I recommend erasing your hard drive using a special technique known as “writing zeros”, which is more thorough than a normal reformatting procedure. You can use a program called GWSCAN to do this optional step. Otherwise, proceed to step 3.
  3. Use your Windows XP installation disk to partition your hard drive into two sections. This is fairly easy to do. However, you can read Microsoft’s article How to partition and format a hard disk in Windows XP for more information if you run into problems. Consult the subsection entitled “How to partition and format your hard disk by using the Windows XP Setup program”. One of these partitions will be for XP. The other for Vista. Vista requires a minimum of 40GB on your hard drive. Size the partitions accordingly.
  4. Install Windows XP. Do not bother activating XP with Microsoft, as you would probably have to repeat that procedure again in XP after installing Vista.
  5. Do a Custom installation of Vista using the Vista installation DVD. If you are attempting to use the factory restore utility that came with your computer and you do not see the Custom installation option, stop now and acquire a Vista installation DVD before continuing.
  6. Install Vista onto the empty partition.
  7. You can stop here or modify the “bootloader” as described in the tutorial.

Congratulations! You now have XP running as a dual-boot with Windows Vista.