Triple Boot? really...V32, V64 & XP32..HELP!


So I scoped out this thread, hoping I'd find an answer to my question. My issue is exactly similar to jpaquette's, except I am not driven by an application, whether it be 32 or 64 bit. I must have all three OSes (XP Pro 32, Vista Bus. 32, and Vista Ult. 64) for all the classes I so confidently registered for this fall.

I have all three OSes already installed and configured in their own partitions. Vista 64 is the only OS on Drive 0, Vista 32 & Xp are both already setup for dual-boot on Drive 1.

Here's what I have done, so far:

Drive 0 split into three equal partitions with Vista 64 installed on Part. 1.
Imaged off the two 32bit OSes using Macrium Reflect.
Unloaded those images onto Partitions 2 & 3 on Drive 0.
Booted Vista 64, Ran EasyBCD and added Vista 32 and XP 32 OS options.
Re-booted, presented w/ Menu for all three OSes. For each:

Vista 64 : Ok - boots to OS.
Vista 32 : Error screen requesting a reboot/repair install w/ Vista media
XP 32 : Restarts computer.

I know this is a boot order / boot manager issue. I imagine I have to put in a Windows boot disk and fix an mbr / re-write some boot code, but which one? I have a feeling it's the XP. Maybe it's both the XP & V32?

So yeah, I wouldn't be doing this for fun, believe me. If I was in the fun business, you all could come for a weekend and visit me in Jamaica.

Maybe someone can tip me up on what I'm doing wrong/right/close-to-right.

(No, I don't live in Jamaica, I live where there's lots of cows...)


The issue is this. The BCD for Vista 32 shows the incorrect information. Since you imaged that drive/partition and put it on a different drive/partition the boot information stored for it is wrong. You have to edit that entry and point it to the right one.

The stuff for XP is that you are missing the NTDETECT, NTLDR adn boot.ini files from the boot drive. As explained in our Wiki.

Troubleshooting Windows XP - NeoSmart Technologies Wiki
I would think you would have to edit the menu.lst for EasyBCD to get the 32 Bit one workign correctly. Since you cant boot into it you cant edit it directly from within the OS anymore. So that might be what you have to do. Guru might have to give you a answer on that.
I remember the first time I did this (just long enough ago to forget how), there was an order to installing the OSes. Right now I have three discrete, full, all-drivers-installed-and-updated, stable OSes. I hope like poo I don't have to start from scratch, again. It's easily a whole day, per OS, to get it where I want it. I don't have three days, heh... I have assignments due. I was wondering if the Guru was still around. The last posts I saw from him were circa 2007....

Let's conjure...


(hope he heard it -I used every ounce of the force I could muster)


Hey quick question, whaddaya think?:

On the wiki, it says:
"Make sure EasyBCD's Windows XP entry points to the boot drive and that the boot drive has NTLDR, NTDETECT.COM, BOOT.INI in the root directory. You can grab those files here."

Does this indicate, to you, that XP has to be on the (first) physical hard disk that boots (according to BIOS), or the boot Partition/Volume on whatever disk? -Know what I mean?

My volume, that is on drive 0 (first, boot drive from BIOS), that has XP, does have ntldr, ntdetect, boot.ini, & bootmgr on it, but, it is not the boot partition. Vista 64 is, and it boots fine.
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No, it means that the Vista bootloader needs to have copies of XP's boot files in the same root as Vista's, because the XP boot files locate XP, not Vista's. (that partition is the "system" "active" partition on the 1st HDD in the BIOS boot sequence)
If you want a quick tutorial on dual booting, read this.
Can you post your disk management screenshot.
You say Vista64 is the boot partition, do you mean it's marked "boot" in dsk mgmt ? That just means it's the system that's running. "system" means "this is where the boot files are"
The problem with installing separate independent systems, is that they each will install their own independent boot files, and as you'll see from the above link, Vista is designed to use one BCD/bootmgr for multiple Vista installs.
You are probably booting from one, and editing the other, hence unexpected results.
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Alright. I'm not on that machine at this moment, so I can't post a screenshot of Disk Mgmt. -But I think I gotcha. If I put Ntldr, Ntdetect, & boot.ini in the root of C:\ (currently my boot/system/active/primary partition), along with the current BCD that works w/ Vista 64 & Vista 32 (on partitions 1 & 2 respectively), with boot.ini pointing to the partition XP is on (...disk(0),rdisk(0),partition(3); Windows Prof...), I'm moving in the right direction... (invisible question mark)
Don't go moving or copying BCDs around. We just need to identify exactly what's what, and then we'll see what should be done.
We get a number of examples on here of what started as simple problems with a 10 second fix, but take days to unravel because of the 17 different things that were "tried" since then in an attempt to sort things out.
(apart from that, you're gettting the idea of how it all chains together)
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According to your disk management screenshot, your boot partition is E: (rdisk(0)partition(3)).

XP's boot files (ntldr,, boot.ini) should already be there, but if not copy them to the root of the partition from wherever they can be found or to the "system" partition like Terry states. Modify boot.ini under [boot loader]'s default entry to read ...disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(3)... and do the same for the entry under [operating systems]. In order to view boot.ini in Explorer, you'll need to enable show protected OS files and unhide hidden files in folder options.

After that is done and the file has been saved, adding a new XP entry to point to E: or C: (whichever one you chose) should work just fine.
Can we see a Vista screenshot please Jay.
We need to know what Vista calls all the partitions, before messing with BCD.
I note you've got your XP booting now though. What's the current status ? What boots and what doesn't ?
How come you're in XP when there's no XP entry in the BCD ?
Is it only XP booting ? (ie have you reverted to NTLDR booting and no Vista's available ?)
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Thanks guys.


I can't guarantee anymore that I can even get into a Vista load. The reason XP is the current OS, but not in the BCD, is because I gleaned from the multiboot tutorial that the XP bootloader needs to be in the same place as the Vista bootloader. So, I did a repair install of XP, assuming that this would put it's loader into the system partition (where Vista64 is located), which it did. Then, expectedly, upon reboot, it went straight into XP. Now, unfortunately, XP behaves poorly. It seems like drive mappings and pointers for Office and Win Update Cache are all messed up in XP--I see pointers to C:\ but XP is on E:\. -My whole registry could be corrupt--the OS is pretty unstable.

I know, Terry, I'm a victim of the 17 thousand different things I've tried, just trying repair crap.

At this point, I am completely sick of trying to tweak a disabled install environment. So screw it. Let's start from scratch. I'm sorry. This crap makes me, a guy with over a doxen years IT experience, an A in my A+, Net+ and Vista MCST classes, feel like an idiot.

So, if I was going to start from scratch, to triple boot XP 32, Vista 32 & Vista 64, how would I do it..? I bet from scratch is a helluva lot easier than repairing what's already there? All of my data is backed up on another drive. (Even the OSes are backed up w/ Macrium Reflect, but I don't think I want to use those anymore--I'm willing to start from scratch if it's the last time I have to touch this crap!)


Here's the Vista Disk Management screenshot, for what it's worth.
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Installing XP after Vista (or doing a repair install) will overwrite Vista's bootmgr and BCD, with XP's NTLDR (which cannot be made to boot Vista).
This isn't a particular problem, (though MS advise that you install new after old to avoid such forward compatibility problems), because all you need to do is boot the Vista DVD and let it do an automatic "repair startup", which puts Vista bootmgr back in control (and auto-detects XP).
Your XP behaviour is another matter.
There's always a potential problem with using a cloned OS image, because the clone includes in its registry, a "mental" picture of how the system used to look (number of disks, number of partitions on each disk, letters used to address those partitions, where the 3rd party apps are installed etc etc) as we discussed back here, and if the current system doesn't match that exactly, you're in trouble.
If you're going to start again from scratch, and you want the system to look like your screenshot, then I'd ignore MS advice to start with XP, because that will make XP the C:\ disk with potential problems as discussed here.
Start by using a partition manager to set up your 3 primary partitions for the OSs of the appropriate size for each, and a 4th extended partition, with logical disks inside if you want user apps / data stored separately from the OSs.
Install your preferred Vista as C: in the 1st partition, then use disk management to assign the desired letters for your other partitions, optical drive(s), flash drives, ext HDDs etc, to fix them in stone.
Install your second Vista in the second partition, bearing in mind the advice from Vista Help discussed here, if you want it to be D: (or if you want them each to be C: when booted).
When it's installed (as your chosen letter), there will be just the one BCD on the 1st partition, but it will have 2 Vista entries in a dual boot menu. Finish the installation by replicating all the device lettering you did after Vista1, so that both systems call your other partitions/devices by the same names. (this will save you from lots of future confusion and possible error).
Install your XP system last (you won't have the option to do it from within Vista from an "upgrade" CD, it assumes that a downgrade upgrade must be a mistake. I'm not sure if the same "greying" of the install option in setup applies from a full retail CD).
Regardless, when I installed XP after Vista by booting the XP CD, it still saw the Vista partition, and called itself D:\ in my case, so I'm assuming that yours will call itself E:\.
Do all of the device lettering again for XP (it will be the only bootable system at this stage, having overwritten the Vista bootmgr)
Now repair the Vista boot by booting the Vista DVD ,selecting "repair my computer" / "repair startup" (probably 2 or 3 times, till Vista boots unaided), and you should have a 3 way boot menu which you can edit with EasyBCD to give sensible names to each system.
At this stage, before you've done anything to customize any of the systems, do something to protect your Vista restore points, which will otherwise be corrupted every time you boot XP.
There is a MS registry zap, which didn't work on my system, but which you could try. NST however has provided a solution to this problem.
Good luck
Question: If I start w/ XP install first on Partition 1, XP will see itself as C:\ drive, and that will be the system drive, correct?

Then, if I subsequently install Vista 64 on Partition 2 (let's call it V:\), Will Vista 64 put it's bootloader on Partition 1 (overwriting XP MBR), but Vista 64 will see itself as on C:\ (when I'm actually in Vista 64)?

-At this point I would load & launch EasyBCD from V64 & Add the XP back in as C:\NTLDR & confirm Vista64 is @ V: & \Windows\System32\Winload.exe?

Then, if I subsequently install Vista 32 on Partition 3 (let's call it W:\), Will Vista 32 put it's bootloader on Partition 1 (overwriting Vista 64's IPL), but Vista 32 will see itself as on C:\ (when I'm actually in Vista 32)?

-At this point I would load & launch EasyBCD in Vista 32 & Add the XP & Vista 64 back in as C:\NTLDR & V:\Windows\System32\Winload.exe & confirm Vista32 is @ W: & \Windows\System32\Winload.exe?

Grr, I cannot think of a very logical way to express to you my question. Each scenario creates other scenarios/questions, I feel like I need an array/table to explain this! I'm hopeful you gather exactly what I mean by this.

What I want is all OSes on one drive, w/ a boot menu (BCD) to control which I go into at boot; I want each drive to see itself as C:\; and I'd like to be able to preserve the System restore points for each OS.

I thought I read somewhere that Vista always makes itself the C:\ drive when it's running, regardless of what the drive letter it is actually loaded on, and conversely, if XP is installed firsat, naturally it will (should) be the C:\ drive (first partition, 1st Drive).

Are you following me? This is crazy. IF you can even halfway follow me on this I seriously commend you. This stuff is making me insane. I'm thinking of giving up computers and taking on horticulture.

If you start with XP, it will call itself C:\.
Installing V64 will overwrite NTLDR with bootmgr and should auto-detect XP - No need to add it.
Installing V32 will add an entry to the BCD, not overwrite it - No need to add or confirm anything with EasyBCD.
If you do installs 2 and 3 from the DVD, all the systems will see themselves as C:\
What they see the other systems as, is more in the lap of the gods.
V64, will probably see XP as D:, and you will not be able to alter it because anything with a "boot" "system" or "page" flag has the "change letter" option greyed out.
After you add V32, V64 can be altered to see V32 as whatever you want, as long as you move pagefile.sys off its partition (Computer/Properties/Advanced/Performance).
Use the same pagefile.sys for all 3 systems, it will save a lot of wasted space, and it's only a dynamic swap space used by whichever system is booted at that moment. Nothing is kept on it, and having it on a different drive from the booted system improves performance.
When you boot V32 it will probably see XP as D: (unchangeable again), and V64 as E\: which can again be changed as long as it doesn't contain a pagefile.sys.
When all of the systems are booting, from XP apply the MS zap to hide the Vista partitions.
If it works for you, that will be your neatest solution.
If it doesn't work, HnS will do the hiding for you, but with 2 Vistas you'll have a 2 stage boot.
HnS chains to bootmgr for Vista, and you'll have to choose which Vista from the 2nd menu.
On each system, turn off system restore for all partitions except the booted system and any other drive on which you install 3rd party apps for that OS. Make sure that XP can't see a partition which Vista uses for 3rd party apps (if you have such a thing).
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Thanks, Terry.

Like I said, answers often pose new questions, but this is one I've had all along:

"Use the same pagefile.sys for all 3 systems, it will save a lot of wasted space, and it's only a dynamic swap space used by whichever system is booted at that moment. Nothing is kept on it, and having it on a different drive from the booted system improves performance."

I have not for the life of me figured out how to point an OS to anything other than \ for the pagefile. Care to enlighten me?

"When all of the systems are booting, from XP apply the MS zap to hide the Vista partitions."

If XP sees itself as on C:\ when it is running (and it will, it will have been the first OS installed - part. 1), and Vista 64 sees itself as on C:\ when it is running (it should, having been installed from DVD), and Vista 32 sees itself as on C:\ when it is running (also should, having been installed from DVD, will I still have to worry about System Restores? Am I missing something here about the System Restore process? (oh Lord I hope I'm not having to go to another thread)

I seriously owe you a nickel when I have one! If it's any consolation, I can spend some time here in other threads and possibly help someone else, by the time I'm through w/ all this.
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System restore uses the same name of hidden folder in Vista as it does in XP, but is a completely different format. (Why they didn't just change the name I don't know !). If XP sees a Vista format folder, it will say "that looks horribly corrupt" and "fix" it for you. It doesn't matter at all what the disk letters are.
Right click on the "Computer" icon on you desktop and follow the path I gave you (Computer/Properties/Advanced/Performance). Allocate more page swap space on the XP disk (the same size that XP uses) from Vista (you'll need to boot again to make it active), then unallocate the original space on Vista and boot again. That should remove the "page" flag which will otherwise prevent the disk from being relettered when it's not the booted system.
"System restore uses the same name of hidden folder in Vista as it does in XP ..."

Now I'm sure someone before me has asked "is there a registry tweak for that?"...Can one rename that folder in the reg?

"...Allocate more page swap space on the XP disk..."

I actually want all the swaps on a seperate disk; so, (Disk 1 / Partition [#]) or [drive:]\Pagefile.sys.


FYI, I am up and running, now.

What I did:
  1. Made sure I had good backups, then started from scratch w/ XP Pro CD
  2. Wiped Drive 0 completely, created three partitions:
Part. 1 - XP32
Part. 2 - V64
Part. 3 - V32
  1. Installed XP on Part. 1. Left auto updates off, just a plain, clean CD install, no drivers or nothing.
  2. Replaced XP media w/ Vista DVD, rebooted
  3. Installed Vista Ultimate 64 bit on next partition (#2). Left updates off, no drivers
  4. Rebooted, confirmed I got the Vista or Previous Versions... boot menu.
  5. Booted into Vista, loaded & ran EasyBCD, changed names of boot options (after I install Vista 32, the boot menu will show "Previous" (XP) and two identical Vistas, I need to discern which is which so I change to XP 32, and Vista 64, accordingly, now).
  6. Reboot to test changes.
  7. Reboot again to DVD, install Vista 32 bit on next partition (#3), no updates, no drivers.
  8. Reboot to test update to BCD - three menu items exist: XP32, Vista 64, & Microsoft Windows(TM) Vista (something-or-other). Boot into the something-or-other (Vista 32), load & run EasyBCD and change name for the Vista 32 boot menu item (to Vista 32!).
I ran a backup of the whole drive in this condition, and am now installing drivers / applying updates, etc, one-by-one.


What a crazy process...

If I could give one piece of advice for ANYONE undertaking setting up a multi boot, or cloning disks/partitions, it would be to document your entire process BEFORE YOU TAKE THE FIRST STEP. Make a written plan. A checklist. "What do I do on this OS, and what do I do on this one?" "How am I going to handle partitions?" "what's the install order?" Run through your process on paper and look for potential holes. Write it down! If there's even the potential for a problem, plan on having it. What will you do then? Have that in the plan.

I had a great plan to image off my three working OSes, then bring them back down on a re-partitioned drive and do a couple repair installs. But it was all in my head. Between booting into and out of the three OSes, switching repair disks, changing bootloaders, head was spinning! -And a project that should have taken me a day or two has taken me a week!

So go do ALL your research. There's everything you need to know here, but don't assume you'll remember everything. Write down your plan and look at it. If you have a question, assume nothing, come back here and search for the answer, or ask the question yourself. When you're as sure as you can get that it's a good plan, fire it up! Remember to always do backups before starting anything like this. You can and most likely will destroy your original data & setups.

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You can't rename the folder via the registry, but you can modify XP's registry so that the Vista partition is offline when you boot it. Apparently it is not 100% guaranteed to work on all systems, but it has worked for me and many others. Keep in mind though that the contents of a Vista partition well not be accessible in XP though (it'll just appear as an empty drive in my computer). You'll want to keep the letter assignment though as that is how this hack works. Check out this MS article to learn how it is done. You'll need to add two entries instead of one since you are using two Vista systems.

After tweaking the registry, reboot into XP to verify that it worked by assuring the contents of the drive are not visible in my computer. Reboot into Vista and create a test restore point, reboot into XP, and then back to Vista and run system restore to verify that the hack worked.

If not, NST offers Vista HnS, a program that replaces the Vista bootloader and protects Vista partitions by hiding them as it passes control to XP's boot proccess.


As to your advice, the best way to prevent or reduce the proccess of a new install is to create an image of the disk after you have installed your drivers, updates, and software. Then when you need to re-install, just use this image, apply the latested changes, and re-image.
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If you can use the registry zap Justin linked and it works as he described, then that will be your neatest solution with the single boot menu you see now, but Vista invisible to XP.
If it doesn't work for you (like it didn't for me), then HnS will do the job for you dynamically during boot-up, but because of your 2 Vistas, the boot will be 2 stage. (Stage 1 Vista or XP. Stage 2 choose between the Vistas)
Ironically HnS was written to reduce the previous 2 stage boot for hiding Vista to a single stage, and was designed to reduce the 2 stage boot for multiple XPs to a single stage too, but multiple Vistas is the only scenario where a second stage is unavoidable. (Unless CG comes up with a new design of course)