Starting from scratch: Triple boot XP, Vista and Win7

#1
I've been having a hard time installing a Win7, Vista and XP triple boot machine. I've got to the point where I want to just start over from the beginning but want to know what the best way to proceed is. I've got a blank 1Tb drive I plan on deviding into three partitions of approx equal size.

First question: How should the drive be partitioned? Anything special?
Second Question: It seems I should install XP first, then vista, then 7, correct?

Seems like the install of XP on the first partition, then Vista on the second partition is pretty straight forward, which will give me the standard Windows dual boot. What do I need to do to install 7 on the third partition and be able to boot select from all three os's?

Thanks,

Greg
 

Terry60

Knows where his towel is.
Staff member
#2
When you install XP, as the only OS it will be "system" (the location of the boot files).
When you add Vista, it sees XP on the first partition and will place the Vista boot files there, unless you switch the "active" flag to the Vista partition before you start the install, in which case the Vista boot files will stay with Vista.
Similarly, when you add W7, it will look at the "active" partition and if that's either of the other two, it will add itself to the existing set-up automatically.
If you switch "active" to W7's partition before you start the install, and you did the same with Vista, you will end up with three completely independent OSs, all with their own set of boot files, and all individually bootable by a simple switch of the active flag.
Using EasyBCD in W7 to add entries for the other two OSs will give you a triple-boot via W7's boot menu.
So it's up to you how you want it to work.
If you leave XP active throughout, you'll get an automatic triple-boot, but all of the Vista/7 boot files will reside with XP.
This is the easy option, and should give you no problems, but the other way will leave you with two alternate systems which will still boot if your "system" partition should suffer a catastrophic crash, by a simple "active" flag switch.
If you choose to keep each OS with its own boot files, remember to set the OS "active" whenever you install a Service Pack. SPs tend to update the boot files, and they'll do so on whichever partition is active, so you need to make sure that's correct for the system in question.
 
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#4
@ Terry60

Hi Terry,

Thanks for your informative reply. I took the "easy way out" when I started the multi-boot setups,
but I'm curious about the following:
If you leave XP active throughout, you'll get an automatic triple-boot, but all of the Vista/7 boot files will reside with XP.
How do you set an active partition to Inactive ?

The only choice that shows in this regard is a grayed out "Set partition as active", obviously, because
the partition is already active.

Thanks,
Pete.
 

Terry60

Knows where his towel is.
Staff member
#5
There's only one active partition (per HDD), so to make one inactive, you must set another active (from Disk Management).
If you don't have an active partition, then the HDD isn't bootable, so Windows doesn't let you switch it off, only move the bit to another place. It's your responsibility to make sure that other place is bootable (or about to become so).

You can use 3rd party partition managers to flip the bit off (in Linux "active" is referred to as "boot" or "bootable", but why would you want to ?
Even if your HDD is 100% user data, there's no harm done in having the active bit set, unless the HDD previously contained an OS and the MBR is still intact, in which case you'll get a "no OS" type message and a boot failure, but that's more easily fixed by just sorting out the BIOS boot sequence.
 
#6
There's only one active partition (per HDD), so to make one inactive, you must set another active (from Disk Management).
If you don't have an active partition, then the HDD isn't bootable, so Windows doesn't let you switch it off, only move the bit to another place. It's your responsibility to make sure that other place is bootable (or about to become so).
OK ,yes ,now it makes sense. It also means that you may have to change the BIOS setting ,depending on the order of which drive is the default one you want to boot into automatically.

So far I've managed to create 7 partitions on 2 HDDs with various OSs ,
but that was in no small way due to the help I got by using EasyBCD :smile:
Yes ,I made a couple of slips ,but knew how to get out of it.,

Thanks again,
Pete.