Issues dual-booting XP and Vista

Hi there,

This will be my first post, so allow me to just say - thank the heavens you guys are here. :smile:

This problem I am having might be a tired old repetition of issues you have already solved (and if this is true, then by all means, I'm sorry), but I'm a bit unsure of how to proceed and could really use some help. In advance, thanks.

My situation is as follows:

I have a (home-built) PC with a single (SATA) hard-drive upon which a OEM copy of Windows XP Home Edition is currently living. Now, I recently purchased a dying ZT box (for only 25$ too!) with a copy of Vista Home Premium. I purchased this item because the hard drive was still good and it had a copy of vista home premium on it.

So I disconnected the XP drive in my home-built PC and connected the Vista Disk in it's place. Vista booted without complaint, and I did a factory settings restore before also installing all the necessary drivers. Once Vista was settled in, I plugged my XP drive back in and then added the Vista drive on the second SATA port.

Of course, at this point, I hadn't read the EasyBCD documentation yet. Because of my negligence, (I know, I know... RTFM!) I was not aware that Windows XP's bootloader would not load Vista. I tried to add Vista to boot.ini, but msconfig kept rejecting the entry. Giving up on that, I swapped the boot order in the BIOS and went over to Vista to install EasyBCD.

With EasyBCD locked and loaded, I proceeded to add another entry for Windows XP. EasyBCD automatically selected C: drive for it, but as far as Vista is concerned XP is on G: drive. I swapped the drive letters under EasyBCD and rebooted. Upon reboot I was presented with a nice boot menu with both my desired entries in place. However, when I tried to start up Windows XP the computer just rebooted and brought me back to the boot menu.

At this point, I realized I might as well just read the documentation, because hacking away at it wasn't really helping much. I quickly learned that EasyBCD would automatically select the drive with NTLDR on it. Armed with this knowledge I deleted my Windows XP entry and added it again, this time leaving the drive as C:. Sadly, when I try to select this new entry from the boot menu, I am told that the entry NTLDR is 'missing or corrupt'.

I think my situation is somewhat unique because I'm not installing any new operating systems. Both OS's are already installed and set up, each on their own individual drives. I'm coming to the conclusion that this might be the very problem.

So I guess it comes down to one question: Assuming that I have XP and Vista on two seperate drives, and that neither was installed with any knowledge that the other existed or would ever exist, is there any way to get them to dual-boot?

Once again, thanks for your time and patience.

Hoping sincerely you can help,

Mak 2.0

Staff member
Hello RayneMan and welcome to NST!

We can solve this issue. It is not hard. What you will need to do is take the boot information from your XP drive and put it on the Vista drive. Whis will allow the entry you added for XP to work. You want to unhide your files. Go inot the Folder options by opening Computer, click Oragnize and select Folder Options. There you want to click the view tab. There you want to uncheck every there that says to hide known file extensions and to hide system protected files. You also want to change the setting from hide foles to show all files.

Now when you go into the XP Drive you should see 3 files.

NTLDR, NTDETECT, and boot.ini

Take those 3 files and place them in the root of the Vista drive. You can now put the settings back in the folder options if you wish.

Remove the XP Entry and add it again. Now when you restart it should work. It was in the documentation as well.

Troubleshooting Windows XP - NeoSmart Technologies Wiki


Knows where his towel is.
Staff member
Hi Rayneman,
be aware too, if you don't know already, that now you're booting XP and Vista on the same machine, XP will be destroying Vista's system restore points.
If you use system restore, make sure you read the sticky thread about HnS (Vista Hide n' Seek) in "Ideas and Wishes" and download yourself the latest build.
Great! It seems to be working perfectly now... thanks so much!

It took another look at the documentation to remind me to change boot.ini on my vista drive (rather than the xp one, duh!).

Once again, thank you very much. You were all very helpful in getting this to work! :smile:

Mak 2.0

Staff member
Glad it is all sorted now and working. We are here to serve. :grinning:
i have the same problem as the original poster.
i was dual booting by switching the sata cables on the drives.
so my quesiton is how do i change the bootini that gets copied to the vista root?
boot.ini now show:
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\windows="windows xp"

from in vista, the vista boot drive is C, D was the recovery partition, but now hidden,
e and f are the optical drives, and g is my windows xp drive.

do i leave the boot.ini the way it was on the XP drive?
or change it there too?

thanks in advance.


as followup to my last message, i tried various edits of both boot.ini
and i think i finally got it to work!
i had to use
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(2)\windows="windows xp"
in both boot.ini files

hope this is helpful to someone else.
thanks for a nice utility to help make that damn bcdedit program more useful!
and i dont have to change cables any more!
i still hate vista, but i can have both!
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Mostly Harmless
Staff member
glad to hear it worked, jayb :wink: