One of the most common problems encountered in configuring a dual-boot between Windows XP and Windows Vista happens when you try to install Windows XP on a computer with Windows 7/Vista already installed. When you install Windows XP, it’ll remove the bootmgr/BCD used by newer versions of Windows (Vista, 7, & 8) and use its own instead.

Installing Windows XP on a PC already with Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8

If you follow these instructions, you should be able to add Windows XP to a system that already has a newer version of Windows installed – with minimal headache and no loss of data.

Prepping the Machine for an XP Installation

The first thing to do is to get your system ready for installing Windows XP. There are a couple of things you need to do:

Do you already have a free partition or a separate physical disk that you can install Windows XP to? If so, skip on to the next section.

  1. Download the free GParted Live CD or use a commercial partition editor, and boot into it.
  2. Use the partition manager to shrink the partition with Windows Vista/7 to make enough room at the end of the drive for Windows XP.
  3. Add a new partition located after the Windows Vista/7 partition you just shrunk. Make sure it has been formatted as NTFS. It doesn’t need to be primary, and should not be active.
  4. Reboot into the Windows XP setup CD

It’s very important to make sure that this partition was created at the end of the drive, or else you might no longer be able to boot into Windows because your partition numbers and offsets have changed.

Installing Windows XP

If you’re installing Windows XP to a separate physical drive, do not disconnect the Windows Vista or Windows 7 drive, and do not change the drive boot order in the BIOS. This will not help and will make it terribly difficult to get your dual-boot working again!

You cannot install Windows XP by running the installer from within a newer version of Windows, instead, you’ll have to boot from the CD:

  1. Make sure your BIOS is configured to boot from the CD. Some computers also let you press F8 to pick where you want to boot from – you may use that option instead.
  2. Put your Windows XP CD in the drive and press a key when you see the “Press any key to enter Windows Setup…” message.
  3. If you’re installing Windows XP to a SATA drive, make sure you hit F6 to load the SATA drives.
  4. When you’re presented with a screen that has a list of hard drives and partitions, use the arrow keys to select the empty NTFS partition you created in the previous section, then press ‘Enter’ to continue.
  5. Let Windows XP setup finish. It will reboot several times – do not interrupt it.

Setting up the Dual-Boot

Once Windows XP setup has finished, it’ll automatically boot you into the newly installed copy of Windows XP – note that you will not be able to boot into Vista/7 at this point, nor will you see a boot menu option for it. This is because Windows XP has installed its own bootloader on top of the Windows Vista bootloader, and it does not recognize newer versions of Windows.

EasyBCD BCD deployment screen

EasyBCD BCD deployment screen

  • Once that’s done, head on to the “Add New Entry” page and select “Windows NT/2k/XP/2003” from the drop-down list, give it a name, then press “Add Entry” to finish. Leave the checkbox for automatic configuration checked, and do not manually change the drive in EasyBCD thereafter. The settings EasyBCD chooses may look wrong, but it’s complicated.
EasyBCD adding WinXP entry

EasyBCD adding WinXP entry

  • Now reboot.

You won’t be able to select the drive that your Windows XP entry points to. This is because EasyBCD will automatically search for NTLDR, the Windows XP bootloader, and pick the right drive for you. For more information, read the main Windows XP page. Don’t try changing this yourself, your system will not boot if you do!

Finishing Up

  • If all has gone well (assuming you followed the directions here to a tee, there is no reason for it not to have), you should be presented with the EasyBCD boot menu when you restart your machine.
  • You’ll have the old Windows Vista/7 entry and the new Windows XP entry you created in the steps above. Selecting each should get you into the respecting operating system without a problem.
  • Feel free to run EasyBCD in either OS and customize your dual-boot by renaming entries, changing the default OS, and modifying the menu timeout.
  • Grab yourself a copy of iReboot from the “Useful Utilities” page – it’s free and you’ll love it.


Please see the the Troubleshooting XP Boot Issues page for answers to any issues you might have.