Vista/XP Dual Boot: No Boot Manager Menu


I have been struggling for three days to create a dual boot system w/ Vista Home Prem. 64 and XP Home. My system is HP laptop w/250gb drive that came with local C-partition and a separate D-partition that contains the HP system restore files (FYI: I have made restore disks which work fine, but there is no access to a recovery console using them).

Using Acronis Disk Director to partition, I sent up the drive leaving intact the C local containing Vista and the D recovery drive, and ADDED an F partition for Windows XP (the optical was using E) and then an S partition for Data (logical partition). I loaded XP on the F drive and rebooted using Acronis OS Selector. I got access to XP but not Vista in the selector. Oddly, the drives came up in XP with the following letters: C as Vista, D as Data, E as Recovery, F as XP, G as optical (I wonder if this is causing some of the problems I have had?) I then restored Vista to the C drive and got Vista to boot, but no sign of XP in OS Selector although the files are still present on F.

I finally abandoned OS Selector. I read that the best method is to install XP first, then Vista, and when the computer reboots you should receive Vista's Boot Manager Menu allowing a choice of Vista or XP, which would be great. Desiring this to occur (and quickly!) I wiped out Vista and XP and did a clean install of XP to partition F and it booted fine. Then I did a clean restore of Vista to partition C and it booted fine, but I did not receive the Boot Manager Menu as I had expected. It just booted directly into Vista with no way to access XP.

Lastly, hoping to fix this situation, I downloaded EasyBCD 1.7.2, but under View settings it only shows one entry, Vista on C. I tried to add XP as a second entry, but when I chose the Type pull-down menu and selected Windows NT/2k/XP/2k3, the drive letter selector pull-down is grayed out so I can't go to XP's F location. The XP files are still on the F partition so XP didn't get removed by the Vista install, but for some reason, it is not being recognized as an operating system.

Any idea what is happening? I am not a highly-technical person, so I am out of ideas.
Geez, I guess I misinterpreted how that worked. I thought I had to show EasyBCD where the OS was located and since the partition letters were grayed out, I couldn't. I did what you said and got an error that it could not locate NTLDR on my HD and to download NTLDR and NTDETECT.COM for the entry to work. I'll give that a try and hopefully report an end to this!
Yeah, it's a bit confusing since we need to load NTLDR and not Windows XP itself during the first step - we used to leave that box as a free-for-all and let the user choose whatever they wanted, but that gave us a lot of trouble as users would invariably wind up pointing it to the drive that XP was installed on and not the boot drive.

You can download a copy of NTLDR and NTDETECT from here: Windows XP - NeoSmart Technologies Wiki
I'm making progress! I downloaded NTLDR and NTDETECT to the partition (F) where XP is and restarted. This time I was greeted with the elusive Windows Boot Manager Menu. The only problem now is if I choose to boot XP from there, I get an error screen that "Windows Failed to Start" then below it says File: NTLDR and Status: 0xc000000f. It wants me to insert the XP disk and use it to repair this issue, but my suspicion is that if I do that, it will break Vista. Vista seems to boot great, and because I have an HP laptop with a Recovery Partition, I don't get a Vista disk to use to access the Recovery Console. If I break Vista (again), I have to wipe it out, wipe out XP and start this whole thing again...for the fourth time. I think I'm getting close. Is there some tweak short of repairing XP (which will doom Vista) to fix this?


Oh, I forgot to add that below status it says the selected entry could not be loaded because the application is missing or corrupt.
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This means that NTLDR was not found.
You're not supposed to copy NTLDR to the partition where XP is installed - rather to the partition that the EasyBCD entry points to (your boot drive).
I put both of the boot files onto the C drive where Vista is and now when I select XP, in the upper left corner of the screen it flashes "invalid boot.ini" and then I believe it says it is booting Windows from the C drive. This whole thing apparently hosed my Vista because it would start up and the automatic recovery mode kicked in and wound my configuration back to an earlier start point. The NTLDR file is now still on the Vista C drive but the NTDETECT.COM is not there anymore. There is a file msdia80.dll there that I don't recall seeing before, but it may have always been there.


Now Vista boots okay, but when I try to boot XP, it says in the upper left corner "Invalid BOOT.INI file, booting from C:\windows\, NTDETECT failed (I guess because it is gone now). I don't know if I have screwed up Vista and or XP at this point. Do you think this is a lost cause? I would be willing to wipe out everything one more time to start from scratch if I knew the steps that would really work, but it seems to be a black art.
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I managed to create a Boot.ini file and put it on the C Drive and it WORKED!! I can now boot into Vista and XP. I don't understand the drive lettering scheme because it seems to have changed now, but I guess I don't care. Is this dual-boot system pretty stable in general? I worry that maybe there is a danger of changes being made to the wrong OS. I sure am happy though and can't thank you enough. You are the Guru, truly.
It's about as stable as they come, slicksmith.

Glad to be of help, and congrats on getting it to work.
The drive lettering is an internal construct of the OS, and in legacy windows (pre XP), was dynamically generated on each boot, with letters being assigned in sequence as each disk was encountered, then additional partitions on each disk.
Managing the failure of one disk (when suddenly all your partitions changed letters and your system likely failed to function properly) was an art as much as a science.
With XP onwards it became possible to assign a letter to your partitions (other than boot, system or page) which is remembered in the registry and will be applied even if you change the cabling of the disks, but if you don't specifically assign them, the OS will still allocate them in sequence and they won't retain their identity if you change the channel cabling.
Anyway, the letters assigned when you boot one OS will bear only a coincidental resemblance to those in any other system you boot unless you take steps to arrange that they will mirror each other when you are planning and installing your systems in the 1st place.