Windows Vista SP1 and Windows XP SP3 Betas Leaked: A Bad Week for Microsoft?

It’s probably very safe to say that Microsoft’s [[MSFT]] two upcoming service packs are the most eagerly-awaited products due to ship out of Microsoft’s camp anytime soon, at least as far as most end-users are concerned..

Windows XP SP3 has been through the (rumor) mill for a couple of years of now, with enough fake leaks and “this-is-what-it’s-going-to-be” downloads plaguing the net for quite a long time. Most people looking forward to Windows XP SP3 are hoping to get that last bit of performance boost and maybe a reliability update or two – and to resolve a couple of outstanding issues that have been patched but never officially released; addressing some software issues, chronic bugs, and hidden nasties. But, for the most part, Windows XP SP3 is intended to wrap those hundreds of patches, hotfixes, and security releases that have been released since Windows XP SP2 first made it’s (much-welcomed) presence known on August 6th, 2004.

Windows Vista SP1, though, is – without a doubt – what’s on everyone’s minds today. Ever since the fiasco (a.k.a. Vista RTM) that was pre-maturely (yet after much delay) released on November 8th, 2006; Windows Vista has been plagued with endless issues from terrible hibernation support, FireWire issues, HD-Audio problems, unexpected crashes and reboots, incredibly slow I/O and LAN activity, buggy UAC, and a lot, lot more.

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How to: Install the Vista Bootloader on Windows XP

Ever since Windows Vista came out, a lot of hype has been going around the new bootloader. That’s the hype that drove us to create EasyBCD, and that’s the same hype that’s been driving people to ask all around the web: “Is it possible to install the new Windows Vista bootloader on a non-Vista machine? Can I get XP to use the new Vista bootloader? How can I install the Vista bootloader on my XP-only machine?”

First, a disclaimer: In order to use the Vista bootloader, you’ll need some licensed Vista files. The only legal way to get these is by already having Windows Vista legally installed on another machine and grabbing the files from there. Kapish? Second, the answer: Of course you can. And here’s how!

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How-To: Hide Vista Partition from XP with NeoGrub!

Editor’s note: This article was modified on Jan. 31, 2009 to reflect the usage of Vista Hide ‘n Seek, NeoSmart Technologies’ new, free product for automating the NeoGrub hiding procedure.

One of the biggest problems that faces dual-booters is data corruption on many different fronts. While using proper dual-boot techniques and going by the book can avoid most forms of data corruption, there are some things that you can’t just work around, especially if it’s considered a “feature” by Microsoft… One such “feature” is that those dual-booting Windows XP and Windows Vista will find that every time they boot into XP, they’ll lose all their Vista system restore points – because XP “intelligently” detects them as being corrupt XP system restore profiles. So much for painless dual-booting. Even Vista’s “Complete Backup” feature is decimated by the very existence of XP on the same computer – and having them on separate hard drives doesn’t help!

Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed solution to this. Microsoft acknowledges the issue – and provides a possible fix in the form of a registry patch for XP ( ) though this isn’t something that works for everybody. The advice has been either not to dual-boot at all, run XP in a virtual machine, or else encrypt the Vista hard drive – a feature that has more bugs than the rest of Vista put together. But don’t worry, we have a couple of (free and easy!) solutions for you!

Method 1: Vista Hide ‘n Seek

The NeoSmart preferred solution, which supercedes the use of NeoGrub (see belwo) for this purpose is our own program, “Vista Hide ‘n Seek ” (HnS). This will not only protect your Vista restore points from corruption by XP, it will automate the whole process without you needing to get involved in the messy business of translating Windows disk and partition information into Linux speak.

Should you have a Vista and an XP system installed on their own disks, each blissfully unaware as yet of the existence of the other, and you are about to embark upon dual-booting them, and have come here because you wisely want to protect Vista from XP from the very start, look no further. HnS will not only do its stated job of hiding Vista from XP, it will automate the entire dual boot process for you, and all with just a couple of clicks in a friendly Graphical User Interface.

All you are required to do, is indentify, in an Explorer-like window, which partition(s) contain Vista restore folders to be protected and which partition(s) have a bootable XP installation. This is done with a simple point and click, and that’s about it. You have your dual boot set up, with Vista restore points protected from XP. Provided you have only one Vista system, this solution will give you a neat, single boot menu even if you have several XP installations.

(Remember in each OS before you start, to turn off system restore on all partitions except the OS itself and any partition on which you have installed 3rd party software for that OS. These are the only drives that need to be monitored by system restore, and in the case of Vista, these are the ones you need to mark as Vista to HnS, so that they are hidden from XP. It follows therefore that you cannot install 3rd party software on a disk shared between Vista and XP. You can however share data between them on a common partition because system restore will be turned off on this drive and it will therefore contain no system restore folder to be corrupted by XP).

Method 2: NeoGrub

If you are still determined to use NeoGrub to do this, despite the advantages of HnS, and you are prepared to live with the fact that your dual-boot will have two (or three) menus, here’s how to do it.

  1. If you don’t already have it, download and install EasyBCD.
  2. Run EasyBCD and go to the “Add/Remove Entries” screen.
  3. Delete any and all “Windows XP” entries in the list you see. Simply select them, and press the delete button.
  4. Click the “NeoGrub” tab, and select “Install NeoGrub” from the screen.
  5. Once NeoGrub is installed, hit the “Configure NeoGrub” button.Notepad will open, and you’ll be presented with the NeoGrub configuration file, called “menu.lst” NeoGrub provides a bunch of very nifty options that will help us hide the Vista drive from Windows XP, in a very safe, simple, and straight-forward manner.

    Copy and paste this code over the existing menu.lst file. Replace everything:

NB: If you have multiple Vista partitions, you will need to duplicate the “hide” and “unhide” lines to point to the other Vista partitions as well in order to hide them too.

Read “Drive Letters and Numbers” to figure out which (hdx,y) sequence you need to use. Hard drive and partition counts start at 0. You can see a full list of drives and partitions by going to the “Linux/BSD” tab of the “Add/Remove Entries” section in EasyBCD.

Save it, and exit notepad.

Optional: Go to the “Configure Boot” screen and rename the entry from “NeoGrub Bootloader” to “XP” or another name of your choice.

Exit EasyBCD & reboot to test.

Now when you reboot your PC, the Vista BCD menu will give you two options: Windows Vista and Windows XP (or NeoGrub if you didn’t rename it). Selecting Windows Vista or allowing the boot to default will boot you right into Windows Vista, while choosing Windows XP will transfer control of the bootloader process to NeoGrub.

NeoGrub will display another boot menu with two options: Hide Vista – boot XP and Unhide Vista – Then boot it.

Selecting the first option will hide Vista’s drive and then call up NTLDR which will read the boot.ini menu. If you only have one XP installed, it will boot right into it . If you have multiple XP installations, you’ll be presented with a third menu of installations to boot to, all of which will no longer see the Vista drive.

Now here’s the tricky part. You’ve just been using XP, You’ve finished with XP. You want to go back to Vista. You boot the PC.

You cannot select Vista from the first menu. Vista is still hidden. You must select XP again from the first menu, but this time, you do not allow the second menu to take the default, you select the “Unhide Vista – then boot it” option. The system will reboot, but NeoGrub will unhide the Vista partition(s) first, and this time, you can select Vista from the first menu.

This technique works perfectly, but as you can see, is extremely clumsy in use, especially with two or more XPs. That was why HnS was developed. Why not do yourself a favour and use it instead.

Please do not under any circumstances post support requests in the comments below – they will go unanswered. If you have any questions or problems, post in the forums!

Special thanks to the Grub4Dos Project, without which none of this would have been possible.

Recovering XP & Windows.Old After a Vista Installation

So you just installed a shiny, new, & legal, copy of Windows Vista. Somewhere along the way, you realized that your XP Partition wasn’t there anymore, and that you’ve lost every single program you’d installed over the past 6 years – gone! All just because you didn’t realize that you were installing Windows Vista to the XP partition.

Don’t worry, NeoSmart is here with the answer yet again. Don’t despair just yet! There’s much in terms of hope, and with this guide, you can get your XP back, with all it’s programs, registry, settings, and more – as if Vista was never there, and no one (*cough* the wife *cough*) needs to know you overwrote your XP – ever!

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