Dual boot XP after Vista on separate hard drives


I hate to open up another thread, but I think my situation is unique enough, and I haven't found the same issue on the forum.
I used to have Vista Ultimate 32 and XP x64 installed on separate HDs with a working dual boot setup (Vista installed first). This was done without EasyBCD--don't remember how I did it, but it worked right away. I wanted to switch back to XP 32 on yet another HD while keeping the XP x64 HD bootable in case I needed it (triple-boot configuration). After no success there (first without, then with using EasyBCD), I removed the x64 HD and left the XP 32 HD in the slot I had it in to begin with. The order, according to the markings in my case:

Vista HD 0
XP x64 HD 1
XP 32 HD 2 added without changing the other two

Vista HD 0
XP 32 HD 2

These are all SATA HDs and my computer only has SATA cables available that I can see (PC is a Dell XPS 710). There are four available HD slots numbered 0-3 inside the case. I put the XP 32 HD in slot 2 away from slot 0 to avoid heat issues.
My BIOS doesn't allow my to specify the boot order of each individual HD, so that's one less complication. The problem I keep having (which I never had setting up XP x64) is that I am able to start the XP installation up until it restarts the first time. After that, rather than going directly to the XP setup, I get the error

"Windows could not start because of a computer disk hardware configuration problem. Could not read from the selected boot disk."

This happened from the very beginning. After trying to install XP 32 the first time, I still got my original boot choice menu, but got the above error. After removing the XP x64 entry and HD entirely, I got no boot choice menu and instead just the above error. I then had to use the Vista install DVD to do setup repair for Vista. Vista then loads correctly. No matter what I do in EasyBCD I get the same result. I've tried adding an XP entry both in EasyBCD and by editing boot.ini, I've reinstalled and uninstalled the Vista bootloader, but I always end up either:

1. getting no boot choice and just booting directly to Vista with no error, or
2. having to do startup repair with the Vista DVD because I get the above error and can't boot to anything.

Why won't XP's installation continue past the reboot? What am I doing wrong?
I've attached my boot.ini (renamed to upload) and msinfo32 storage info for reference.


  • msinfo32_storage.txt
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  • boot_ini.txt
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The Vista HD came with a recovery partition "D" in addition to the main Windows partition "C" and also an unnamed (no letter) 55MB "partition" (I think) described as "Healthy, EISA configuration" in Computer Management->Storage. I also have an external HD "H".
Hi rlipoff, welcome to NST.
Have a read of the wiki in regard to XP boot problems and boot.ini syntax.
put your disk() back to 0 and make the appropriate changes to rdisk().
NTLDR gets the information about rdisk and partition from the BIOS, with the 1st disk in the BIOS boot sequence as rdisk(0) and the next as (1) (not the channel number you've connected to, but the sequence)
Thanks for the quick response. I had already tried setting disk(x) to 0 and rdisk(x) to zero also, because I thought the path needed to point to the Vista drive (for me, C:smile:. The boot.ini wiki page only says "physical disk number to load Windows from," without specifying XP or Vista. I thought it meant Vista. If I understand correctly now, the boot.ini file's path refers to the Windows XP installation drive, not the Vista drive, even though the file itself resides on the Vista (C:smile: drive. So, I should use multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(1). In EasyBCD, I have a second entry for Windows XP already:

Entry #2

Name: Microsoft Windows XP
BCD ID: {fc3652d4-5ea8-11dc-af64-0019b945fb01}
Drive: C:\
Bootloader Path:

From what I can tell from the "Windows XP" instructions, this should be correct. What I still don't understand is why, on my first try at installing XP 32 with XP x64 still in place, the XP 32 installation didn't "take over" the whole boot process and continue installing after rebooting. That was where all my troubles began, before using EasyBCD at all. Is it still possible to reinsert my XP x64 drive and do a successful "triple boot" setup like I wanted in the first place?
When you dual boot Vista and XP(s), the Vista bootmgr/BCD will load Vista directly by calling winload.exe from the Vista partition, but it doesn't load XP. It chains to XP's NTLDR (which it finds by the fact that you must put it in the same root as the Vista bootloader) and then NTLDR will load the NT systems (in your case 2 XPs) NTLDR locates the XP systems by reading the copy of boot.ini which also resides in the same "system" partition root as all the other boot files, and you must edit boot.ini to contain two entries for your two XP systems. When those systems are on different HDDs to the boot files, as opposed to different partitions on the same HDD, you must change the rdisk value.
0= the HDD with the boot files, and the other 2 systems will be 1 and 2 (assuming no other non-system disks).
Have a read of this nicely illustrated guide which explains it all far better than I do.

You don't need EasyBCD to get a dual-boot working btw. Installing Vista last, or running Vista's automatic "repair startup" if XP is installed on top of the Vista bootloader (XP is not fwd compatible so won't recognize Vista and just overwrites the boot leaving Vista in limbo), should mean that Vista sees XP and automatically includes it in a dual-boot.
EasyBCD will make it a lot easier to edit the information in the BCD though, to tailor system names, timeout etc, as well as the host of other useful features which enable you to use the BCD to boot linux OSX etc.
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Thanks for all the info - now I think I know how it's all supposed to work, but the problem still seems to be that the Windows XP installation is not correctly rewriting/overwriting the MBR on C: (as Vista sees it or D: as XP sees it). After rebooting, Windows XP setup should continue and finish, after which Vista's startup repair can restore the Vista-style MBR and enable booting to either OS. I can never get that far.
For me, after the first CD-based phase of the XP installation completes successfully, the computer reboots to the same error message as before. If I press F8 repeatedly after POST, I can get to the Windows XP boot options menu with Safe Mode, Last Good Configuration, etc. The menu shows only Windows XP Professional (as expected), but choosing this only results in the error message. Should I try one of the commands in Windows XP recovery console like FIXMBR, FIXBOOT, or BOOTCFG?

For now, I'll stick with just one OS, then maybe put x64 back in once that's working correctly.
Do you have CD before HDD in your boot sequence in the BIOS ?
If you use a Function Key to force a boot from CD, but don't have it before the HDD in the BIOS, when the setup.exe tries to reboot during the install, it will fail to find the CD because it goes to the first boot device it finds i.e. the existing HDD system, leaving the install partially completed.
I had already tried booting from the CD immediately after the XP installation restarted the computer, and I tried your suggestion of changing the BIOS boot order, but either way the XP installation just starts over from the beginning. The second half of the installation definitely runs off the HD, not the install CD.
You must have CD before HDD in the BIOS, and only "hit any key to boot from CD" once to start the install.
When it reboots, don't "hit any key" again, that'll just start from the beginning again.
If the CD is first in the BIOS it will find the files to continue the install. It won't boot the HDD or start again.
I followed your instructions exactly, and after the XP install rebooted, I was briefly (~1 sec) presented with a boot choice menu before getting the same original "Windows could not start because of a computer disk hardware configuration problem. Could not read from the selected boot disk" error. There was no time to select an OS choice. Restarting again and pressing F8 when this menu appeared, the choices were "Microsoft Windows XP Professional" and "Windows XP Professional." Choosing the first resulted in the same error message. Rebooting and choosing the second one resulted in the "ntoskrnl.exe missing" error.

I used Vista's startup restore to get back to Vista, deleted boot.ini ntldr, and ntdetect.com, and deleted the XP entry in EasyBCD to start from scratch. I restarted (with CD/DVD first in the BIOS boot order) and started the XP install. It went along fine but rebooted to the "Windows could not start because of a computer disk hardware configuration problem. Could not read from the selected boot disk" error.

Since the problem might to be related to getting the correct ARC path, I discovered the XP recovery console's "map arc" command to see how XP sees my HDs' ARC paths. It gave me:

The 55mb FAT partition on C: multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)
The 10 GB Recovery partition on C: multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)
The main Vista partition on C: multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)
The HD I want to put XP on (D to XP, G to Vista): scsi(2)disk(2)rdisk(0)partition(1)

To add to the confusion, boot.ini now reads:

[boot loader]
[operating systems]
signature(1fb4bac8)disk(2)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Professional" /noexecute=optin /fastdetect

and ntdetect.com and ntldr are back in place, I assume because Vista's startup restore put them there.

Sorry if I'm being long-winded, but I don't want to leave anything out.
Try temporarily disconnecting your Vista system, and doing a clean install of XP to your new HDD, alone in the system, where there will be no HDD boot to intervene, as if you were starting the install from scratch on a brand-new empty machine.
It's not an option available when dual-booting on a single HDD, but one you can try.
It'll be easy enough to copy the boot files across and manually add the XP entry with EasyBCD when you reconnect Vista after the successful XP install.
For future viewers of this thread: after much frustration, I changed the boot.ini ARC path to what it should have been all along (0,0,0,1) for the umpteenth time, and it suddenly worked. I don't know what of the many steps I took in between made a difference.
dual boot xp/vista
i'm currently dual booting
xp, vista32,vista64 all on the same 156g maxtor.
to do this you must install xp first, then vista
i use the maxtor maxblast 5 to backup my partitions.