Dual boot XP Pro on ext eSATA HDD with Vista 32 bit preinstalled on internal HDD?


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Hi folks!

My first post here.

Firstly, thank you Computer Guru and your team of experts for a truly fabulous site; just wish I had stumbled on it earlier! You guys simply rock!

Secondly, all I am after at the moment is a confirmation that my proposed dual boot strategy is sound. I have just acquired a new quadcore with Vista 32 bit OEM preinstalled (and Vista 64 bit on installation disk); the PC has two eSATA ports (one of which is in a docking bay). All of my three external eSATA HDDs are capable of being docked to this PC. I wish to leave the Vista 32 bit as is and install XP Pro on one of my external HDDs. Perhaps later on to triple boot with Vista 64 bit on yet another external HDD. I just need to know from the experts here:
  1. Is this a sound strategy? Or am i likely to encounter problems?
  2. Would I always have to leave the HDD with XP Pro connected to the PC at bootup and shutdown? Any problems if I remove it i.e. when i just want to use Vista or when I want to do backups on another external HDD?
  3. I have Acronis TrueImage and DiskDirector - would these applications (as they have their own bootloaders) interfere with EasyBCD's management of the dual boot process?
  4. Are there any issues down the line if I wished to remove dual boot (i.e. revert to Vista 32 bit)?
  5. Is it possible to slipstream EasyBCD in with my XP Pro install using nLite?
As an experiment, I actually successfully tried out dual boot to verify XP Pro loads and boots properly off the ext HDD but obviously had problems booting Vista as I had not used Easy BCD to manage the dual boot process! I had to reset the PC using my OEM Recovery disks (but at least I know this process also works!)

Grateful for any advice.

Regards... Indigo
Vista will not allow for install on a External Device at all. So you wouldn't be able to put Vista 64 Bit on one of your eSATA drives.

That will be the first problem. :wink:

XP Pro shouldnt be to hard. But it will require some work. There are plenty of guides out there on how to get it accomplished.

2. No you shouldnt encounter any problems if you leave the drive off.

3. Not that i know of. If you are booting from them directly then no. But you wont be able to use them and EasyBCD as the boot loader manager.

4. No. Just format the drive and remove the entry. As long as you have the main boot drive still intact you will be able to boot to Vista no problem.

5. No. You will want to use Vista 32 Bit to control your boot as from what i am gathering that is the main OS of the system. That will be the OS you want to use to control EasyBCD.
Thank you for your swift reply.

No problem on the Vista 64 bit as when I am ready to do this I can always opt to install this on the internal HDD (either to multi boot with Vista 32 bit or instead of).

However, on the XP Pro front I may well have problems. Why? Installing EasyBCD on Vista may pose a problem in that when I install XP Pro on my eESATA HDD (as previously already experimented) then I would not be able to boot back into Vista to set up the dual boot process within EasyBCD! Or can I? If so, how would I do this?

Rgds... Indigo
You can't point to XP's partition with EasyBCD because there were too many issues with users pointing to the wrong place so EasyBCD now auto-looks for the boot files. Not to say getting XP to work from Vista's menu ins't possible, but you'll need to copy over boot.ini, ntdetect.com, and ntldr from XP's partition to the root of Vistas and modify boot.ini (the rdisk(x) value) so that it points to the correct disk under default= in [boot loader] and the entry itself under [operating systems] in the copied boot.ini file.
I still would find it to be an unreliable install to some degree on any external drive while eSata is simply an extension cable to the external drive coming off the board to the port and then out to the drive itself. Unlike others using the usb bus you still go through the onboard ide or sata controller simply seeing the longer cables and break at the eSata port itself.

Vista is definitely out for this due to the new methods used by the installer as well as the hardware detection process. To avoid problems with seeing XP as other then C for the drive letter while booted in the older version however you would first unplug the drive with the preinstalled copy of Vista there for a stand alone install on the external drive and set that as default in the bios until WIndows is up and running.

Once XP is going good you replug the host drive back in setting it as default again in the bios for seeing the boot files copied over to it and the edit of the boot.ini plus new entry with EasyBCD. You will have XP added in fast and dual booting it while it still sees itself as C. The rdisk(?)partition(1) question will depend on how the drive is seen as being the second, 3rd hard drive on the system there.
Kairozamorro: Thank you for your response. It initially did puzzle me as I could see no way of accessing my Vista other than perhaps attempting bootload repair (something I am not fully experienced at).

Makaveli213: Thanks again for your response. It clarified the next steps, confirming what I believed I would need to do to reaccess Vista to set up my dual boot config using EasyBCD. The links are also useful for someone with my limited dual boot experience.

PC eye: Thank you for your response. You've raised some very interesting points. I did at one stage think I may well need to temporarily disengage the native Vista HDD whilst setting up the XP Pro on the eSATA HDD. However, as my experiment had succeeded in installing XP on the external drive (although I could not reaccess Vista) I did not think any more about it. Perhaps you are right. In fact if all else fails, I may well have to tread this way. Currently Vista sees my docked eSATA HDD as Drive 1 but you are absolutely right in that this is no guarantee it will always do.

Gents: I am now just a little perplexed. Is my strategy fraught with potential problems?

The actual concept of dual booting with my hardware sounds extremely appealing:
  • Use boot menu to opt between Vista 32 bit or XP Pro
  • disengage the docked XP Pro eSATA HDD to boot into Vista 32 bit

However, given what you folks say would I actually be better off instead in installing a second internal HDD to dual boot with XP Pro and eventually triple boot with Vista 64 bit?

I would value your expert opinion/advice/guidance. As I have said before this forum simply rocks!
I would find it easier personally to install a internal and partitioning that and setting up your multi boot system that way. The problem with External drives is that every time you boot the BIOS can set the device differently than it shows in your boot loader. What i mean by that is 1 time it could be shown ad device 3 at this point. But then you plug in one of your other drives and then it is shown as device 4. So your boot loader would be wrong and have to be adjsuted.

With internal drives it is much easier cause they never change. So your bootloader would only change when you changed it. I find it much more successful to boot this way then to rely on external devices.
Thank you, Makaveli, this does seem to make a whole lot of sense. I still believe my concept was neat, but, alas, there appears no easy way of getting around the drive number issue!

I can still elect to have the XP Pro eSATA HDD to remain permanently docked as I do have another eSATA connector to play with. However, one must concede that adding a second internal HDD just removes the uncertainty with multi-boot.

OK, that's what I'll do.

Grateful to all for enlightening me.
Thank you, Makaveli.

It is a rare pleasure indeed to encounter such a thoroughly professional forum!

I shall certainly do my utmost to recommend your forum to my family, friends and colleagues as most have a need to dual/multi boot and often struggle without proper guidance.

May this forum gain in strength!
If you are going to be dual booting across drives while the eSata wouldn't be as fragile as seeing it on a usb external drive I have to agree with Makaveli213 on how that would still tend to be a fragile setup. With two dedicated internal drives you have a greater degree of stability as well as other options available.

The stand alone install of each version of Windows gets you past seeing XP as D instead of C as well. Plus if something goes wrong with Vista you can still boot into XP by selecting that drive from a boot device menu or quick change in the bios. If one drive should fail you also have a working OS on the other drive keeping you going.
Thank you PC eye. Given the potential pitfalls this does seem to be the right way to go.

Besides, I have just recently decided to use Vista Ultimate (for its integrated Complete PC Backup/Restore utility) to obviate the need to use Acronis True Image which sadly fails to work with my SATA drivers or ?? and am not hopeful their support can resolve quickly (their own forum is full of user woes stretching back a couple of years or more - decidedly not good).

This then raises a question as to whether there will be any software conflicts re one OS wiping out another’s system restore points or perhaps even worse.

The revised multi-boot configuration I have in mind is:
  • leave the preinstalled Vista Home Premium 32 bit on the first internal HDD (which also contains built in recovery in a separate partition). As the PC is under 3 years full warranty I am loath to make additional partitions here for multi-boot in case I inadvertently scupper the recovery partition; in case of problems I would simply remove the additional HDD and the PC can be sent away for any replacement hardware, tested and returned.
  • Add a second internal HDD to hold Vista Ultimate 32 bit and XP Pro 32 bit (effectively triple-boot).
Is this strategy fraught with potential problems? Would running two different Vista versions cause unexpected problems?

Grateful for your thoughts.
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There really isnt any gain going from Vista Home Premium to Vista Ultimate. The Ultimate Extras are not worth it really. There are a couple new sound schemes, A couple of games, BitLocker, Dreamscene and that is really it. Nothing new has been released or even hinted at being released in a while and it just isnt worth the price of paying for Ultimate. Unless you already have it. But the only reason why i have Ultimate is cause i got it free. If it wasnt for that i would be running Home Premium.

But to answer your question, no. There wont be any problems runnign 2 editions of Vista.
Mak, shadow copies are only on Business and Ultimate, so the complete backup and restore Indigo wants wouldn't be available on Home.
(I only have 64 bit Home OEM DVD, so I can't do Faxes, Group Policies, backups etc.)
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Shadow Copies are over rated. I disable them cause if you have them on you can have upwards of 20-30 different copies of the same document stored somewhere. Which each takes up space.

IF you backup regularly your stuff you wont need Shadow Copies. The complete backup and restore can be gotten for free come June of next year once OneCare goes to a free package. It has that built right in.

So there are many options other than the ones built into Windows. Cause i know that they are not perfect from experience.
Thanks Mak. I wholly agree one wouldn’t pay the extortionate price for the Ultimate but I already happen to have it! Had my imaging software not given me hassle I wouldn’t even contemplate triple booting with it. Must say I am relieved there will be no conflicts with running the two Vistas (thanks to EasyBCD and presumably by the two being isolated across different HDDs?).

Terry, thanks for your response. The Ultimate will be installed on the second internal HDD; you are absolutely right that the clone/shadow utility is withheld from the Home Premium and Basic. Else I would not need to consider triple boot!

Chaps, grateful for your swift response.


Shadow Copies are over rated. I disable them cause if you have them on you can have upwards of 20-30 different copies of the same document stored somewhere. Which each takes up space.

IF you backup regularly your stuff you wont need Shadow Copies. The complete backup and restore can be gotten for free come June of next year once OneCare goes to a free package. It has that built right in.

So there are many options other than the ones built into Windows. Cause i know that they are not perfect from experience.

Mak, I only plan to use the complete backup on another drive as DR (Disaster Recovery). This has saved my butt on countless occasions (severe infection, system screw up when installing new software/driver update etc).

Didn't know about the OneCare stuff; good to know esp if it can act as my DR! Presumably this is a Microsoft's solution?
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Yes. OneCare currently is a paid subscription application. But as of June next year or so they are going to end it and release it as a free product with firewall, AV, and backup solution all in one provided by M$.

I can understand the Complete backup. But there are many ways to accomplish it without having to resort to Vista Ultimate. Norton Ghost, Acronis True Image and CloneZilla are just a few of the applications out there that can make a direct image of your hard drive for this purpose as well.
Thanks, Mak.

Have been using AcronisTI for some time now and do really like it; however, it simply fails on my new PC (apparently a known issue with SATA etc yet no fix worked in yet - apparently their solution is to supply a bespoke boot CD - not very elegant). Their support has yet to respond to my problem. Quite frankly I am losing heart with it having trudged through their forum seeing many folks in my kind of predicament left almost high and dry!

I know my solution for the image backup/restore need is not strikingly elegant but as I already have the Ultimate I am prepared to see if this will meet it.

Ghost I had tried in the past but found Acronis much easier. CloneZilla I may have to look at. Funny enough I had helped a pal out using XXClone to migrate to a larger HDD on his laptop and found it also defragments the target drive which proved a real bonus; however, it is too slow.
I know that there is a newer version of CloneZilla to be released in January 2009. So be on the lookout for that.

The only reason why i am saying this is cause it seems kinda disheartening to see you have to go thru this multi boot setup when you really only want/need a dual boot.