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Space Surfer

How to make XP / Vista dual-boot Independently

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Many questions regarding making XP and Vista boot independently of each other arise because users face problems when one partition becomes corrupt or they format their active partition, not knowing they will lose the ability to boot their OS. Having independent boot would avoid this scenario.

The reason they are dependent is because the boot files for both are stored on ONE and the SAME partition, which is your ACTIVE partition. Vista setup determines to put the boot files on the active partition, which is usually the XP partition since it's active at the time of install.

I have come up with a way to boot the two independently with the use of a third "recovery partition." This recovery partition can be multi-purpose if you use BartPE. You can use it to boot XP and Vista, replace system files with patched ones, use disk management services to repartition, etc. (I'm sure you can also use BartPE or VistaPE but this will require adding their boot info to BCD. I do not know the bcdedit commands as of yet. Once I learn or if you know, then I can include it here.

The benefit of this setup is if you hose your third partition, you can boot XP or Vista by making your XP partition active again with a BartPE CD.


  • Three partitions. I recommend 600 - 700 MB for your third partition, in case you add other plugins/programs.
  • Grub4Dos file called grldr.
  • PE builder for making BartPE.

System Setup

There's no recommended system setup, but to give you an idea, here's my system setup. My XP partition on C:\ is the active partition, containing the boot files for Vista (C:\BOOT folder and C:\bootmgr). Vista is on D:\ and was installed from within XP. BartPE on E:\ is my recovery partition. If you haven't installed anything yet, then you may consider this setup.


  1. First, install XP to C:, Vista to D:, then BartPE to E:. Instructions for installing BartPE to a HDD partition can be found here: How to Install BartPE to Another Partition.
    • The order in which you install doesn't matter for now. However, it is recommended to install XP first, then Vista, so you won't have to repair boot.
    • If you are already dual-booting XP and Vista, then just install BartPE and continue.
    • Make note which is your active partition if your setup is different. Check disk management. Remember, I'm assuming C:\ is active.

[*]Boot to your recovery partition.

[*]Copy Vista boot files from active partition to E:\ - Copy C:\BOOT folder to E:\ and C:\bootmgr to E:\.

[*]Rename E:\bootmgr to E:\bootmgrv. (You don't have to do this if you are using BartPE, but doing this allows you to keep this one and C:\bootmgr straight; so when you create your menu.lst you know exactly which one is being used to boot Vista.)

[*]Rename E:\ntldr to E:\bartpe. Note that this ntldr file should already be there and is not the same as the XP's ntldr.

[*]Copy XP boot files to E:\ - Copy C:\boot.ini and C:\ntldr to E:\.

[*]Rename E:\ntldr (the XP one) to E:\ntldrxp.

[*]Create your menu.lst entries. See below for example.

[*]Make E:\ partition the active partition.

Sample menu.lst entries

#Boot Vista using E:\bootmgrv
title Windows Vista (bootmgrv)
find --set-root /bootmgrv
chainloader /bootmgrv

#Boot Vista using C:\bootmgr
title Windows Vista (bootmgr)
find --set-root /bootmgr
chainloader /bootmgr

#Boot XP using E:\ntldrxp
title Windows XP (ntldrxp)
find --set-root /ntldrxp
chainloader /ntldrxp

#Boot XP using C:\ntldr
title Windows XP (ntldr)
find --set-root /ntldr
chainloader /ntldr

#Boot BartPE using E:\bartpe
title BartPE (ntldr)
find --set-root /bartpe
chainloader /bartpe

(NOTE: this is not a complete menu.lst; just the entries for items.)

Reboot and grldr should load with your menu.

The great thing is you can load XP/Vista with the boot files that you copied to E:\ or the ones on C:\. You can have double entries in menu.lst and both will work. If your XP partition becomes corrupt, then you can use boot files on E:\ to load Vista. You probably won't be able to load XP since its corrupt, right?? Haha.

If Vista becomes corrupt, you can still load XP. If your recovery partition (BartPE) becomes corrupt, then you can load BartPE from CD, make C:\ your active and can load XP or Vista. Or you can fix your recovery partition the way it was. There are many possibilities with this. Good luck.

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Nice tut Space Surfer, but listen what I got myself into..

I had Vista Ultimate installed on Disk0 and wanted to install XP on Disk1. Disk0 had two partitions, this will be important later on.

I've run the setup and XP copied files to another disk and it restarted for the first time. After the restart my computer stopped at BIOS logo screen. I though, wtf??

I disconnected the Vista disk and XP setup continued until finished. OK, we have a working XP on the second hard disk (Disk1) and non bootable Vista on the first hard disk (Disk0).

I connected the Vista disk again and removed the XP disk, still nothing happens. It stopped again on the BIOS logo screen.

I tried with every single setup in the BIOS to see what's causing the problem and I have finally found it. I had to disable LBA support in BIOS for the Vista hard disk. After that I could normally boot into Vista.

But LBA feature was bothering me and I reformated C: partition (Vista) on Disk0 'cause I was in thoght that XP setup messed up my disk.

After the full format and putting LBA setting to ON in BIOS I had the same problem again.

Then I was gone berserk and formated the whole disk and guess what, the problem was SOLVED!

Obviously XP setup wrote something to my Vista disk which prevented Vista from booting, but what does LBA have to do with it??

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