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Easily Set Default OS in a Windows 7 / Vista and XP Dual-boot Setup

If you are running a dual-boot setup with more than one Windows operating system, It’s pretty easy to configure the default boot operating system with the GUI interface. Note that if you are using Windows 7 or Vista as one of the operating systems, you will need to make this change from 7/Vista, not XP.

First, you’ll need to right click on Computer and select Properties:

Next, click Advanced System Settings

Now click on the Settings button under Startup and Recovery

And just select the operating system you want to use:

Easy stuff. You could also use the bcdedit command to do the same thing from the command line, but it’s probably easier this way.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/21/07

Comments (91)

  1. Mohammad Shahriar Alam

    This is very very nice tips. Thanks for this tips.

  2. Double D

    Wow i have been looking for this since i dual booted vista!!!!
    Thank you

  3. Sivanandh Talari

    Hi, I am writing in with this wierd or rather crazy issue that I am facing. The thing is that I had installed and was using VISTA RC1 till some days ago one of my frnds formatted the drive that I was using for VISTA. The system was in safe-mode hence allowed the format. Now the thing is that I am having the VISTA OS while booting which obviously fails and the problem is that it is set as the default choice. I wanted to know if there is a method to remove this without installing VISTA again.
    Any help would be appreciated.
    Thanks in Advance.
    Shiva,

  4. kaly

    try recovery cd, and goto restore options where you find urselves.

  5. Ron

    I’ve installed Windows Vista 4-5 months ago and now before a week I’ve installed windows XP.
    Now the problem is when I start my computer, it does not ask which OS I want to use. It starts with Windows XP everytime. I can not use the Windows Vista installed on the other drive.

    Can anyone solve my problem????????

  6. SiCo

    Copy bootsect.exe from the boot folder of your Windows Vista DVD and paste it into your Windows XP Windows\system32 folder…

    Then press Start and select Run and type:

    bootsect /NT60 ALL

    This pulls all Windows operating systems into the Windows Vista boot menu.

    I hope this works for you, Simon…

  7. Shai-Ran

    I’ve installed Windows Vista 3 months ago and now before 2 day ago I’ve installed windows XP.
    Now the problem is when I start my computer, it does not ask which OS I want to use. It starts with Vista everytime. I can not use the Windows xp installed on the other drive.

    and i dosen’t show the xp on the Startup and Recovery settings… What do i do?

  8. Klaus Gachter

    Hi I have installed both XP and Vista in Dualboot fashion on my HP Tablet. How can I make datafiles, such as “My Document” folders etc accessible to both OSs?

  9. osho

    Hello Geek,
    Your website is great. I have found all kinds of neat ways to customize my new laptop with Vista on it. My question is, what do I do to get the Start up and Recovery Dialog to show my external drive with its winxp set up? I tried to do as you suggest, but the drop down only shows Vista, even though the external drive (two partitions, with a clone of the old winxp C drive on one of them.) is hooked up. Hmmmm…
    I would like to boot the winxp only at certain times, so I can run an old CAD prog that Vista won’t run. I literally have years of work done with this CAD prog, and gotta figure out how to run it through the Toshiba P205-S6237.
    Thanks
    osho
    I would try copying the bootsect.exe as suggested, but OF COURSE I bought this thing with Vista already installed, and don’t have the disk. Can I get this bootsect.exe somewhere else?

  10. Shai-Ran

    try useing EasyBCD, worked for me.

  11. Azim

    Sico i have the same problem now the problem is my laptop came widout da Vista DVD (Preinstalled) now where do i get the bootsect.exe???

  12. Paul Schubert

    Our problem is a little different. For some reason, Vista priority for boot-up has changed has changed so it looks for a system disk. We can change it each time by during start-up, but not clear how this happened or how to change the priority back to the hard drive permanently,

  13. Gill

    I have vista pre-installed and simply hate it to be frank…
    can i install xp,if yes please tell me how.
    thanks.

  14. steve

    I bought a new pc that unfortunately came with Vista Home premium.I would like to run my XPpro on it instead..can that be done? if not how do I do as others here have and set it up to dual boot? am not that techy and have never set up a dual boot..I did download a program called virtual pc, but have yet to understand how to use it for my xp…

  15. Gill

    thanks for your post steve, you actually clearified what i was trying to ask,as i have a similar problem.

  16. Mary

    Thanks so much for that Vista post. I was pulling my hair out trying to fix it!!!!! thanks again

  17. Data

    hi, i’ve got a simular problem that i have dual xp64-vista64 and when the screen to change os come up my keyboard dosn’t work so i can’t change the OS, i have a logitech G15 usb keyboard, if any one can help that would be great.

  18. raj

    HELLO GEEK,

    Well i just bought a laptop 2 months back. It just came with the vista home premium installed in it.i even dint get a recovery cd or i neither got any OP cd’s. well now when i was trying to install the VB programing the OP system never enables it to install.I even bought a printer which is now not getting installed to the laptop b’cos of the operating system.any usb’s getting connected asks plenty of security steps to be followed.i think it is a safe OP system, but then was not happy.like to change to xp,what should i do? should i format vista? how can i install xp on my laptop? could u just plz tell me the procedures for formatting it and installing xp?all i have is an xp cd.no recovery or bootup cds.plz help… raj

  19. Shmuel Essenfeld

    I have two hard disks(Sata),
    I have Xp Pro installd first, and on the second Installd Vista Ultimate.
    If both hard disk conected xp boot, and I can run Vista only if disconect the disk with XP.

    I find the seting but I find Vista alone, can’t find earlier windows.

    How can make dual booting?

  20. dharmendra

    I’ve installed Windows Vista 4-5 months ago and now before a week I’ve installed windows XP.
    Now the problem is when I start my computer, it does not ask which OS I want to use. It starts with Windows XP everytime. I can not use the Windows Vista installed on the other drive.

    Can anyone solve my problem????????

  21. Pavlo Fabri

    I installed Windows Vista on my Hard drive and then I installed XP. Now windows xp boots up automatically and doesn’t giv me a choice. I tried the solution SiCo posted. It doesn’t work.

  22. Rick

    Hi Geek,

    Need your help, my computer is not working the OS, the two fan inside keep working and doesn’t stop, and the light from the hard drive is on, the computer no react .
    I think is a virus … is there something can I do to start on … I use the XP home edition…

    Please help!

  23. Raj Kiran Shesham

    Hi got a laptop recently, but it comes with the bloody Windows Vista Base Edition. I would like to change it to Windows XP. How to change it? I am not able to do this? Is there any one to help me.
    To tell all the steps to change XP from VISTA.

    Raj Kiran

  24. Rich Grihalva

    I have two 500gb drives in my computer, one Vista the other XP pro. How do I setup a dual boot?
    Both are legal and current.

    Can you help?

    Rich Grihalva

  25. Sam T

    From my experience of my system of dual boot on HP machine….as system restarts, hit ESC key….it will show you a choice of which OS system to boot.

  26. Sam T

    …by the way….. I installed the XP and the VISTA in 2 seperate partition.

  27. Charles

    Wow thank you u so much took me hours to find out how and never found it till i found this on google.com took me 1min thank u so much

  28. Drexziel

    Hey i need help on something… i have actually installed Vista an XP and managed to dual boot it… its almost too easy now… but i have a problem which i tried to resolved and only made it worse… I had to reformat the Vista partition due to some probs and too many spyware and such… and now that i reformated Vista i cant dual boot again… so i did the dual boot process using VistaBootPro from Vista to run XP… once i restarted the PC booted a black screen and it said UNABLE TO FIND NTRLD – PRESS CTRL+ALT+DEL TO RESTART… and evrytime i restart it shows the same thing… I had to re-install Vista wasting another 2 hours… Please tell me theres a way to dual boot again and that i don’t have to re-install XP in order to dual boot again…

    Tnx in advance =]

  29. Pavlo Fabri

    Don’t use Vista Boot Pro, use easy BCD from neosmart. It’s open source and it actually works.
    I use it on my PC.

    Note: I am not responsible for any damage to ur PC caused by dual (or even triple) booting. Use at ur own risk.

  30. J

    GOD BLESS YOU
    I’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR THIS A LONG TIME

  31. Ravi

    I have a problem. i have installed XP Professional over Vista and used VistaBootPro to setup dual boot. When i reboot, i see options to select Windows Vista or Earlier Versions of Windows. However, when i select Windows XP, i get an error saying NTLDR missing. I have installed Vista and XP to separate drives. Any help Appretiated!!

  32. Gerry

    I have the same problem as Drexziel up there. I cant boot after installing vista on a new sata hardrive.. I have tried it 6 times now and I get the same message.

    The Story,
    boot loader is messed up and says there are missing files and I can’t boot xp or vista… so I had to run my XP disk and recover the C:\windows boot.ini file and repair it back to normal so I could boot xp…

    It all happened on first boot up, it tried vista and failed and then the fall back to xp and it failed leaving a black screen saying “cannot find file boot/ntlr “(or something) “press tab for help? and then goes to command line saying press “cntrl alt del” or “TAB” for help ….or something like that. I cant remember the exact file at the moment.

    Can anyone shed light on the problem with the boot loader or whats causing this in my case or what can i do as I have now tried to reinstall 6 times and I get the same deal from both x64 and x86.. cheers

    spec
    athlon64 5600×2
    1gb ram
    1 ide harddrive 160gb – with XP on it
    1 sata hardrive 160gb – trying to put vista on it
    GF7600gto
    XPSP2

  33. Gerry

    Sorry I forgot to mention, I can’t get Vista to load so I cant use the GUI interface or EasyBCD in vista.

  34. Kris

    Im having a strange problem with vista. I recently re formatted my hard drive using the recovery disk. when I boot it shows windows vista as being installed twice ?

  35. Gerry

    @Kris…. are you sure you haven’t got the vista dvd in the drive?….

  36. kris

    Nope, I used this tutorial and it skips that step but thanks anyway =]

  37. Shayan

    I have an everex stepnote laptop which came with win vista basic and i want xp can anyone tell me where i can get my drivers plz???????????????

  38. Shayan

    hey the model# for my stepnote is NC1502, if that might help

  39. Shayan

    the model # for my laptop is Everex NC 1502 series do u kno where to get my drivers plz???????

  40. Gerry

    stepnote NC1502 – HERE YOU GO http://drivers.softpedia.com/progSearch

  41. A.shariff

    Hi this is a wonderful site . I would apprciate if u can help me out, i’ve bought a lappy make hp pavillion vista home premium preinstalled. Im not able to install printer, autocad, i dont have the drivers nor the vista cd since its preinstalled i wanna have dual booting for xp , pls help me what to do, im just fedup with vista

  42. oopax

    i don’t know if some body tried this b4…my laptob came with XP home, and i instaled vistapremium,in the D:/ and in the 3rd partition i named F: i just instald xp pro, but in the boot screen ther’s only 2 OS, vista is gone ? ? can you help me plz
    thx in advance

  43. salim ep

    I’ve installed Windows Vista and now before a week I’ve installed windows XP.
    Now the problem is when I start my computer, it does not ask which OS I want to use. It starts with Windows XP everytime. I can not use the Windows Vista installed on the other drive.
    i waiting for your replay

  44. Stu Ho

    Thank you!
    You are the GEEK!
    This tip just made my life sooooo much more pleasant :)

  45. amex

    Hello! I still have some problems, I made my hdd in few partitions, at the first part I installed Vista, in seconds Suse and in third part XP.
    In Vista I can’t see XP and Suse OS. So if one time i lunch Vista I cant change other OS. I tryed to find it on system setting, also used EasyBCD and no results.
    When I lunch XP, also I cant do nothing because XP can’t see Suse partitions, also if i change boot partition to vista, after restarting my PC dont working, uploading just black screen.
    Thnx for help :]]

  46. Sam

    I tried installing xp on a second partition after already running vista for a while. The installation went ok, but now I can’t boot into Vista. It always goes to xp. I tried moving the boot flag to vista using diskpart, computer management and the gparted live cd. It still boots to xp.

  47. oopax

    Sam>>>>>> try to boot from vista DVD you’ll have the chice to instal a fresh copy and repair your computer. click “repair my computer” it should repair the boot file

  48. ray

    oopax that worked for me, and i did the same as Sam thnks!!

  49. Andrew

    HI,, if i change my default operating system to windows XP \, how could i get back to wnidows vista?

    if i change my default operating system from Vista to Xp,, will the Vista be damage?

    tnx

  50. shaun jones

    hey dude, sorry to be bothering you with this because i bet alot of us iiots do it, but i stupdily put winxp sp2 on my sisters laptop because i hate vista. thinking id be able to boot up which ever each of us wanted to use….

    one mistake i made was to put both on ONE partition, i already had 2 so i used C: for both operating systems and D: for storage of my files, i need to figure out how to get into vista as i cant choose… and i dont have a disc the laptop came with it installed. is there anyhting i can do to fix it or even delete xp if i have to

    thanks in advance mate

    shaun

  51. Anonymous

    i have a successful dual boot configuration with fedora 9 and vista. However, Fedora is the default startup operating system. how can i change this so that vista is the default OS? Pls Reply!
    P.S. i dont have the vista installation CD. It came pre-installed

  52. Jack

    I have a new HP computer with vista os. The hdd is sata. I also installed the old ata hdd with xp os. But the computer does not recognize the old hdd. What do I need to make it recognize the old drive?

  53. priya

    how can i see the solutions of the questions asked above
    my problem is same

  54. priya

    I’ve installed Windows Vista and now before a week I’ve installed windows XP.
    Now the problem is when I start my computer, it does not ask which OS I want to use. It starts with Windows XP everytime. I can not use the Windows Vista installed on the other drive.
    i waiting for your replay

  55. Oswald

    Hello, I have an XP which I now Dual-boot with Vista. I have deleted Vista and the partition as well. My problem is that everytime i restart my computer I still get the option to which OS do I want to boot from. How can I put it back the way it was, booting straight to XP and stop it from asking me which OS do I want to boot from since I already unistalled VISTA from my PC and also deleted the partition as well.

    Thank You

  56. Saiful

    I’ve installed Windows Vista and now before a week I’ve installed windows XP.
    Now the problem is when I start my computer, it does not ask which OS I want to use. It starts with Windows XP everytime. I can not use the Windows Vista installed on the other drive.
    i waiting for your replay that how could i use duel boot ..

  57. cris

    Hello, I have an XP which I now Dual-boot with Vista. I have deleted Vista and the partition as well. My problem is that everytime i restart my computer I still get the option to which OS do I want to boot from. How can I put it back the way it was, booting straight to XP and stop it from asking me which OS do I want to boot from since I already unistalled VISTA from my PC and also deleted the partition as well.

    Thank You

  58. GFC

    OMG! THANKS! You have no idea how this helped me, it fixed my problem with blank operating system as primary one, thanks a lot :)

  59. Colin

    Brilliant, I was faffing about with techie solutions to this problem but this is definitely the right way to do it! :)

  60. Rohit

    Thanx a lot !!!

  61. kings

    i install windows vista on ultimate on my computer…..but everytime i boot i saw the quicl flash of a dos looking screen with white text….before reaching the windows boot screen…..how can i stop that??

  62. John

    I changed the settings in the Vista Start up and Recovery settings from booting Vista, to booting to an earlier version of Windows. I assumed that the computer would boot to XP because that is what was on it when I bought it. Now All I get is the HP recovery console. I do not want that , as I do not want to reformat anything and risk losing all my data from Vista. I have no Vista disk, and I have no way to create one. Is there a way find a way back to Vista?

  63. Francois

    thanks this help me out!

  64. prashant

    I’ve installed Windows Vista and now before a week I’ve installed windows XP.
    Now the problem is when I start my computer, it does not ask which OS I want to use. It starts with Windows XP everytime. I can not use the Windows Vista installed on the other drive.
    i waiting for your replay that how could i use duel boot ..

  65. WM

    Here is the deal. If you install 7 or Vista first, and then you install XP, XP’s boot.ini takes over and makes XP the default OS, not letting you access the other operating systems. You could try easyBCD or if you have the installation disks, reinstall XP then reinstall 7 or Vista. XP before 7 or Vista.

    My problem is that i set my windows7 machine to boot from “earlier version of windows” now I can’t access windows7. I have XP, 7 and server 2003 installed. But now it only gives me XP and server as my booting choices. Can anyone help??

  66. mehul

    i am firest instol windows 7 then i am instol XP also but i wont my computer set defolt windows 7 i am un able to do this please healp me

  67. Daedalus

    Thank you!

  68. mohit agarwal

    I’ve installed Windows 7 two days ago and now before a week I’ve installed windows XP.
    Now the problem is when I start my computer, it does not ask which OS I want to use. It starts with Windows XP everytime. I can not use the Windows Vista installed on the other drive.

    Can anyone solve my problem????????

    please help me out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  69. harimohan

    I’ve installed Windows 7 two days ago and now before a week I’ve installed windows XP.
    Now the problem is when I start my computer, it does not ask which OS I want to use. It starts with Windows XP everytime. I can not use the Windows Vista installed on the other drive.

    Can anyone solve my problem????????

  70. ALAN

    I have read all the posts, but don’t seem to see an answer to the most common problem which I am also facing now; I have a 64bit Vista pre-installed sony notebook; naturally some music software I have heavily invested in does not run with it. I want to install WIN XP pro either on a separate partition or totally delete VIsta and install XP; I read lots of recommendations including Microsoft’s own which I find very confusing ( at least to me ) Others recommend running virtual Pc within Vista but warn it will be slow; I assume by now after few years of vista being around there should be a simple solution available out there in net world. I appreciate if you can guide me in solving this problem. Thanks in advance for your time and help. Best regards
    Alan

  71. Robert

    Hi i have a simlar problem to the rest but no clear answers.
    my toshiba lap top has vista pre insralled, i have just loaded xp , now xp is the only os that i can accsess, how can i dual boot to either vista or xp?
    i do not have a vista cd.

  72. avi

    hi i have dual xp and vista installed
    mistakenly i set the timeout for os choice menu to 0 sec in vista can u help how to boot into vista again as no option is present it automatically choose xp

  73. rahil

    thanks for this mate……………………

  74. ASHWANI KUMAR SINGH

    Thanks Bro! It’s working.

  75. karthik

    i have installed xp after installing vista… now i am not able to get bto vista… when i switch on it directs me to xp only… how can i make so that it gives me option to choose it.. elsa how to get to vista… earlier before it getrs me to xp? help me?!!!1

  76. karthik

    i installed vista first and then xp now im not able to get to vista?

  77. faheem

    Download Vista Boot PRO 3.3.0 XP Lost Boot to Windows 7

  78. priya

    sir i have windows7 in my laptop but sum program did not support like pinacal studio 10. so i was del windows 7 and run window xp .
    but i shok that my accer laptop did not support windows xp ?
    what to do?

  79. maoo

    thank you

  80. shekar

    hai im using w7 os may i install total video converter ? And which converter is match for my os

  81. manish

    very nice tips….exactly the info i wanted

  82. Pat

    This tip saved me a lot of time. Thanks for your dedication to geekhood.

  83. Jim

    Thanks bro .. it really works..

  84. isha

    can anyone help me this time

  85. Paul

    I am trying to set up a dual Vista and XP System. I have been using the nasty Vista Home OS on my C drives for two years. It crashed again except for safe mode. have an XP SP3 disk that I want to put on my D: drive that I can and will empty. From other comments this can be done if I have Vista loaded. However, being an inept fossil I hit a stumbling block at the git go. My first step to get to the show desktop button after the right click on Computer did not list a Show Desktop on the window. Any ideas how else to get to the System Startup an Recovery?

    I am in safemode because I hosed the system punching the wrong keys while filling a find file box in an app. It will not boot into normal mode. That cascaded into loading zeros into heck knows where … probably somehere up front. Acts like a virus but two different antiviruses said nada … a third found a removed a worm to no avail. I probably should unloosen the piurse strings and ponyup for a Windows 7 to replace the Vista.

  86. Milind

    Thanks, this was what I was looking for last 15 mins !!!

  87. madhu

    I have change my default booting sequence from window 7 to ubuntu. and wait option to 0 secs.
    but my ubuntu is not working . so i am unable to open my system.
    how to change default boot settings to previous windows 7. from BIOS.
    Pl help any one

  88. Sanders

    Hi,
    I’m running a multiboot sys of xp and vista and i recently installed win7 on the xp partition and now i cant seem to find the vista OS,it does not show on the boot menu when i start my laptop.
    I have a lot of files and programs in vista that i dare not loose please heeeelp!!!

    Thanks in adv.

  89. Greggg

    Hey there, I hope someone can answer a quick question.
    I’m trying to dual-boot Windows 7 and Windows XP. Would I be able to use this technique to switch defaults?

    I don’t know the best way to word this but from what I understand, you guys are saying I can switch from my computer loading Windows 7 by default, to loading XP by default, right?

    So, would I be able to do the exact opposite, such as (being in XP) switch the default from XP to Windows 7?

    I probably sound really noobish and dumb by asking this.
    Any feedback is appreciated!
    –Greg.

  90. Jon

    Thanks! *Performs the “You’re my hero” dance*

  91. Souvik

    Thanks… Bro.

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