Dual boot windows 8.1 and XP Please help

Hi Guys, I've windows 8.1 already installed and i want to install XP and dual boot them, Please tell me the best way to do this, i know i should install XP first but my windows 8.1 installation is currently has a lot of installed softwares and important tools so i don't want to delete all that and start all over again.

Can i install XP on another partition and of course windows 8.1 won't boot so i use EastBCD on windows XP to detect the win 8.1 again? is this the right thing to do?

Thanks in advance,,


Knows where his towel is.
Staff member
Do you want to install XP on the same HDD as W8.1 ?
If you're putting it on a different HD things are simple. Just make sure W8.1 is not accessible (unplug it) and carry on with a stand-alone XP install.
After it's up and running successfully, reconnect W8.1, change the BIOS boot sequence to boot from W8.1 and then use EasyBCD to add an XP entry to W8's BCD
Let EasyBCD auto-configure and it will seek out XP for you and do everything necessary (copying and creating files in the correct place) to dual boot XP.

If you're putting XP on the same HDD as W8.1, things are a little more problematic.
Just installing XP with W8 visible will cause XP to use the "system" "active" partition for its boot files (which will either be W8 or its dedicated boot partition, depending on how you originally installed W8) This will regress the MBR and make W8 unbootable.
That situation is fixable if you have a W8 Installation DVD or repair disk
or using EasyBCD to put the W8 boot files back in control

I personally, prefer to avoid the certainty of back-levelling the boot by replicating the situation described in the first paragraph.

Understanding that Windows Setup will always use the "active" partition on the target HDD to locate its boot files is the key. (It does this so that chronological upgrades of Windows OSs (XP>Vista>7>8>8.1>10) will automatically dual boot without user intervention- It's also the reason why installing OSs in non-chronological order causes boot failure and is not recommended by MS)
You can use this behaviour to "fool" Setup though.

If you create a partition for XP (give it a unique easily identifiable volume label like "XP system" as you format it, don't rely on being able to spot it by its size or disk letter - disk letters don't exist in the real world (they're not on the HDD), they're virtual labels existing only in the mind of the running OS (and that includes the booted installation CD).
Many an unhappy soul has turned up here in the past with tales of woe about having accidentally overwritten their main OS when installing another. Disk letters are dynamically assigned and should never be used to indentify space during an install)

Before you boot the XP CD to install the OS, use Disk Management in W8 to set the new "XP system" partition "active"
The XP install will then create a stand-alone XP boot in the new partition exactly as if you were using a separate HDD (para one)
When it has finished, booting the PC will always go into XP, but the W8 boot sits undamaged in its original location.
All you need to do to restore W8's boot is flip the "active" bit back from XP to its original location and W8 will resume booting (again as a stand-alone OS)

You can continue to operate a virtual dual-boot in this way by flip-flopping the active bit between partitions, but more conveniently, in W8 you can simply use EasyBCD to add XP to the BCD as already described.
wow!,, thank you very much Terry for the help this will benefit me a lot! :smiley:
just one more question, if i installed XP first and then windows 8 or windows 10 after it on another partition will it automatically detect the previous XP installation and dual boot normally? i saw this on a youtube video


Knows where his towel is.
Staff member
Yes, later versions will automatically dual boot with an earlier "active" version of Windows, though the boot menu will probably say something like "Earlier Version of Windows", which you can tidy up with EasyBCD. (Provided you're talking about all MBR/BIOS installations. Things get a bit more restricted on UEFI/GPT PCs)