Multiple Operating Systems on 2 disks

I have 3 different licensed copies of XP and Vista installed on 3 separate hard disks.

Vista 64bit is installed on disk 1.

XP is installed on Disk 2, Partiition 2. Vista 32bit is installed on Disk 2, Partition 3. Partition 1 on Disk 2 is labeled "System" though it does not contain either operating system.

Upon re-starting, the boot mgr displays the different os' and I can boot into Vista64 and Windows XP easily. However, each attempt at booting into the Vista 32bit brings a Blue Screen and a restart.

I have checked each partition and can confirm that all 3 partitions on Disk 2 contain all 5 necessary boot files, Boot, Bootmgr, ntldr,, and boot.ini.

I notice, however, that the boot.ini is identical on all 3 partitions of Disk 2, pointing in each case to partition 2. This cannot be correct.
The installation of XP is on DIsk #2 partiion #2 making that correct. Somehow however the mbr entries for the 32bit edition of VIsta there are now missing. If you had all three drives plugged in when going to install XP on Drive #3 that knocked the 32bit installation out..

When dual or multibooting different versions as well as different OSs on separate drives apart from the host/boot drive you first leave the host unplugged assuming the last on will effect any prior mbr information. You now have to rebuild the 32bit BCD there and add it into the default boot loader unless you are using a boot device menu to choose which drive will boot.
EasyBCD software correctly lists each of the OS'. It didnt give any error messages when I ran the diagnostics.

Im confused as to why XP would work when, as you say, it is Disk 2, Partition 2, yet the boot.ini lists it as Disk 0, partition 2?

As far as rebuilding the 32bit BCD, isnt that what the software is supposed to do? If not, how do I do that without messing up the existing configuration, i.e.- xp and vista64, which are working fine?

Is there a CMD prompt to rebuild the mbr that will work? Or do I need to unplug the Vista64 system on Disk 1, insert the Vista 32 DVD and try a repair? Or a different way?
There's a few methods including the manual command for seeing the BCD rebuilt at the recovery console. Now why is rdisk(2)partition(2) correct if seen in Vista64? That is due to V64 being on rdisk(0)partition(1). Or since V64 is on a sata like V32 and XP while the 3rd drive is ide the ide drive automatically becomes rdisk(1)partition(x) for anything there while the second sata is seen as rdisk(2).

I ran right into that lately when adding an old ide back in for seeing Linux placed there while XP and Vista each were on separate sata models. XP suddenly wouldn't boot when chosen due that configuration in the copy of the original boot.ini file being changed a second time when the ide drive was added into the existing multi drive configuration. One little quick edit to change from rdisk(1)partition(1) to rdisk(2)partition(1) instantly saw XP boot right up again!

The MS article for manually using the bootrec.exe tool in the recovery environment seen at the link here provides the instructions needed for seeing it done that way.

Not having attempted dual booting two editions of Vista yet it will be a challenge here to offer a working solution besides unplugging the current 64bit host drive and setting the second with XP and V32 as the default in order to use the startup repair tool. Later when replugging the host V64 back in you would simply rework the entries in EasyBCD to see V32 added in and insure the XP installs will work without any new edits.

Note once the V32 disk is booted from and the second drive's mbr is now Vista you would want EasyBCD there to add XP back in. You can later adjust EasyBCD entries on the host drive to compensate.


Knows where his towel is.
Staff member
Which disk are you booting from ?
The "system" "active" partition on the 1st HDD in your BIOS boot sequence is the one in charge of the boot process. All the other boot files are redundant. It won't matter what they say, nothing will read them.
Have a read of this guide if you want to know how multibooting works.
Currently, I am booting from Disk 0, which contains Vista 64. It is my default OS and it works fine. However, it is NOT labeled as a "SYSTEM" Disk. The System Disk is Disk 1, which contains 3 partitions; partition 2 has XP, and partition 3 has Vista32.

In the BIOS, the "System" Disk is at the top of the boot list. Now I realize what you are saying; my "System disk is not Vista64 (the one I'm booted into now, Disk 0). Disk 1, is the "System" disk and that contains the other OS'. Therefore, no matter what I do, its not going to work unless I change the BIOS to make Disk 0 (the Vista64 default) the first disk in the boot order. I should send a picture --this is getting confusing.

Even if I changed the Boot order in the BIOS, is this really at the root of what is preventing my other Vista32 from booting up?

It sounds like the way to fix this either to change the order in the BIOS to make the Disk 0 the system disk and THEN make the changes in the software, which should then work?

This is similar to unplugging the Vista64 disk, although I guess when I plugged it back in, the problem would re-appear, right?


Mostly Harmless
Staff member
Only XP uses Boot.ini, so there's nothing wrong with that file.

At what point in the boot process do you get the blue screen?


Knows where his towel is.
Staff member
Yes you're right. the boot files in the "system" partition are doing the work.
(MS has a weird view of the English Language. "boot" = the OS that's actually running, "system" = where the boot files are that started the system that's running )
Do you have a bootmgr file and a boot folder on the HDD 0 (Vista 64) ?
From the link I gave you, you'll see that a multi-Vista installation should only have one BCD controlling all the systems, but if you install them independently with each one being ignorant of the other's existence, you'll get 2 of everything which can cause confusion.
Possibly, you're booting from the BCD on disk 1 but looking at the BCD on disk 0 with EasyBCD ?
The question now would be which OS do you want as the default when starting the system up? If you want the Vista 64 drive #0 as default you would first repair the 32bit version's mbr on drive #1 with the drive #0 unplugged to avoid any interference with that since you have a working BCD for that edition.

XP would later be added into one of the two Vista BCDs. You can have a dual boot with the 32bit edition with the entry there or add XP into the 64bit version's BCD once drive #1's mbr/BCD is working. Drive #0 can easily be moved to the top of the list of drives in the bios usually by using the numpad plus or minus key.

When seeing the hard drives item in the boot order highlight that and press enter to bring up the list of hard drives installed. Then use one of those keys to move the drives around bringing drive #0 to the top then use the exit and save changes option or press F10 to see that put into effect.

A screenshot of the Disk Management could also help here to see just how the drives are actually layed out. Terry60 is quite correct about which version you are in when looking at the BCD. Vista 64? or XP? since the tool will run on both.
The Vista64 is and should remain the default.

I am a bit confused though--Do I unplug Disk #0 (vista64) and then repair the vista 32 with the dvd? Or change the boot order in the BIOS to make the Disk#0 the "System" disk, and then reboot and repair?
Each disk will see a model number when looking at the list seen in the bios. You can also label disk #0 while in Windows while the manufacturer's model number is what to go by there. The bios will show sata 1 or 2, ide master / slave as it appears there.

The riboon or thin sata data cable is all you have to unplug from the drive by reaching with the system off not running! Never try this or any other work while powered up. In fact many simply turn off the breaker if one is seen on the suppy itself as well unplug the ac cord for the case to prevent any risk of getting a good 12v or less like ac zap!

Once that is off you immediately enter the bios setup to see if drive #1 is at the top and then exit to select cd rom as first in the boot order unless that model board sees the boot device menu. You then press the F key assigned to bring that menu up in order to choose the optical drive the disk is in. That can also save trips into the bios when going to install Windows by leaving the hard drive set as first in the boot order by using the one time boot from the installation disk.

From there you simply boot up until seeing the repair tools link once the initial loading of the Vista dvd completes to use the startup tool. Once V32 loads up EasyBCD can be used there to see XP added in or you can replug the V64 drive back in to see both V32 and XP added into it's own BCD seeing XP there rather then waiting for V32's to come and then choosing XP. EasyBCD also allows you to rename each according to the drive/partition each OS is on! Great Work! CG


Knows where his towel is.
Staff member
Changing which HDD is 1st in the BIOS won't make a partition be flagged "system".
The MBR goes to the "active" partition to look for the boot loader, in that partition's boot sector.
If there isn't a bootloader it will go to the next HDD in the BIOS sequence and look for its "active" partition. If there isn't another HDD the boot will fail.
Repairing the boot will put the boot files there and turn on the "system" flag. (Each HDD can have one "active" partition and possibly more than one "system" partition (only if systems other than Windows also exist in their own partitions - multiple windows with no other OS type will only have one "system" flag which will also be the "active" partition)
There is no problem with having your booot manager where it is (my Vista BCD is on my XP partition).
I just suggested there might be a confusion between the one you're looking at and the one that's in charge as a possible explanation of your problem.
Have you ascertained whether 2 BCDs exist ?
How would you like the boot to be set up ? Disk 0 or disk 1, or doesn't it matter ?
If you've got a spare set of boot files on V64, you could try temporarily renaming them so that there's no possibility that that's what you're looking at with EasyBCD.
Then we can try to diagnose your V32 failure knowing we're looking in the right place.
added confusion

Terry60, I was on board until your last post which just went straight over me. Extra set of boot files on V64?? Extra copies of EasyBCD software installed on other drives?

I did look at my other drives and found a couple of instances where EasyBCD was installed. As for the extra set of boot files, I do not understand. When I open an explorer window, on every drive, I see the 5 critical files and folders present; Boot, Bootmgr, ntldr, boot.ini, and I do not understand what you mean by an extra set of boot files for vista64.

As for what I would like it to look like; Optimally, I would like the Bios disk order and the Windows disk order to be in sync., i.e.- Disk 0 as the 'system' disk, and the default vista 64 os. Disk1, would contain XP and the second partition and Vista32 on the 3rd partition.



The idea of changing which drive is default in the hard drive list is not for making any partition active but to have that drive automatically boot once the V32 information is repaired. You want to see drive #1 bootable and then simply replug the data cable in on the V64 drive for adding the V32 entry.

In fact you can easiy have this setup where you can remove the V64 drive and still see a working dual boot between XP and V32. The BCD there is a separate item from the BCD for the 64bit edition seen on drive #0 where XP would then be seen along with the option for V32. The idea of unplugging drive #0 in the first place is simply to avoid any chances of altering a working copy of Windows while using the startup repair tool or rebuilding V32's own BCD.


Knows where his towel is.
Staff member
I can see you have BCDs all over the place.
Go back to the 1st link I gave you and you'll see Vista is designed to have a single BCD (installed with the 1st system) and all subsequent installs, merely add an entry into that one BCD.
Installing Vistas independently so that they each think they're the only one, creates the situation you have now.
It is possible that though you are booting from the BCD on the 1st HDD in the BIOS, you might be looking at (and editing) a different BCD in the root of the booted system (without effect obviously).
My suggestion of renaming the boot folder and bootmgr temporarily on the V64 system was to make certain that you're looking at the right BCD.
This was for diagnostic purposes, not as a cure, and is no longer appropriate if you've moved that HDD to be the 1st in the boot sequence.
Now you've switched to the V64 system 1st in the BIOS, what are your symptoms ?
Is the V64 system now marked "active" "system" and "boot" ?
Is there an entry for the V32 system in the BCD on that system ?
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Yes, now the V64, Disk #0 is listed as System, Boot, and Active. I do not see anything in there for the V32 system.

I used the BCD software and tried to rebuild the bootmgr's for the other OS'. That failed and the only system that boots perfectly is the Vista64.

I should unplug the Vista64, and boot up with the Vista DVD and try to do a repair? Or use the XP CD for a repair, since they are both installed? And then, re-plug the first drive back in and, hopefully, they will all work? Once in do I need to remove all instances of BCD software on those drives?
First you want to see the V32 install working again. The boot files needed should already be present at the root of the V64 drive #0 there for seeing XP added back in later.

The reason for unplugging the V64 drive is due the automatic tool repairing whatever BCD it sees. You want to isolate it while attempting the repair on the V32 install. This is more of a precaution of not seeing any changes made there too.
So, unplug the vista64, try a restart and see if I cant boot into vista32. If I cannot, then insert the Vista DVD and do a repair? Then plug the other drive back in and I should be able to get the XP going. I will give that a go, appreciate the assistance..