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Install Windows XP on Your Pre-Installed Windows Vista Computer

The question I am asked most often is “How do I install a dual-boot with Windows XP on my new Windows Vista computer?” The answer is that it’s not that difficult, it’s just very time consuming, and you need to own a copy of Windows XP.

Note that you should not attempt this if you aren’t ready to troubleshoot any problems that might occur.

The first issue we encounter is that computers with pre-installed operating systems take up the entire drive. Luckily Microsoft included the Shrink volume feature in Vista, so we can easily shrink the Vista partition down to make room for XP.

Open the Computer Management panel, which you can find under Administrative tools or by right-clicking the Computer item in the start menu and choosing Manage. Find the Disk Management item in the list and select that.

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Now we’ll shrink our volume down by right-clicking on the main hard drive and choosing Shrink Volume.

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Now you can choose the size that you want to shrink, which really means you are choosing the size that you want your XP partition to be. Whatever you do, don’t just use the default. I chose roughly 10gb by entering 10000 into the amount.

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The next step might be confusing, because we need to change the cd-rom drive that’s invariably taking up D: at the moment, because we want to use D: for the Windows XP partition, but it’s already taken by the cd-rom drive. If you skip this step than XP will install onto the E: drive, which isn’t the end of the world, but it’s not quite as tidy.

Right-click on the cd-rom drive in the list and choose Change Drive Letter and Paths from the menu. 

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Now we’ll change the CD drive to use E: by selecting that in the drop-down. 

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Now we can create a new partition for XP to live on and make sure that the drive letter is set the way we want. If you do not create a partition now the XP install will do so automatically, but it’s easier and cleaner to do it this way.

Right-click on the Unallocated free space area and then select New Simple Volume from the menu.

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Follow through the wizard and select whatever options you’d like, making sure to use D: as the drive letter.

Now you will need to close out of disk management and reboot your computer. This is because we can’t do the next step until we reboot. (you can try, but it won’t work)

So we’ve come back from rebooting… open up Computer from the start menu and then right-click on the D: drive and select properties. Give your partition a meaningful name like “XP”. It would be wise to name the C: drive to “Vista” at this point as well. 

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Now you’ll want to pop your XP cd into the drive and boot off it. You may have to configure your BIOS to enable booting off the CD drive, or if your computer says something like “Hit Esc for boot menu” you might want to use that.

Once you come to the screen where you can choose the partition to install on, then choose either the unpartitioned space or the new partition you created. Whatever you do, don’t try and install onto your Vista partition! See how much cleaner it is now that we’ve labeled each partition distinctly?

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We’ll assume XP is completely installed at this point, and you will have lost your ability to boot into Windows Vista, so we’ll need to use the VistaBootPro utility to restore the Vista boot loader.

Update: VistaBootPro is no longer free, but you can still download the free version.

During the install you’ll be forced to install the .NET 2.0 framework. Open up VistaBootPRO and then click on the System Bootloader tab. Check the “Windows Vista Bootloader” and then “All Drives” radio buttons, and then click on the Install Bootloader button.

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At this point, the Windows Vista bootloader is installed and you’ll only be able to boot into Vista, but we’ll fix that. Instead of manually doing the work, we’ll just click the Diagnostics menu item and then choose Run Diagnostics from the menu.

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This will scan your computer and then automatically fill in the XP version.. click on the “Manage OS Entries” tab and then click in the textbox for Rename OS Entry, and name it something useful like “Windows XP”  or “The Windows That Works” 

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Click the Apply Updates button and then reboot your computer… you should see your shiny new boot manager with both operating systems in the list! 

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If you get an error saying “unable to find ntldr” when trying to boot XP, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Find the hidden files ntldr and ntdetect.com in the root of your Vista drive and copy them to the root of your XP drive.
  • If you can’t find the files there, you can find them in the \i386\ folder on your XP install cd

There’s more information on this forum thread, thanks to nrv1013

This is a critical piece of information: Windows XP will be installed on the D: drive, even in Windows XP… so you’ll need to keep that in mind when tweaking your system.

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You can share information between the drives, but I wouldn’t recommend messing with the other operating system’s partition too much… it might get angry and bite you. Or screw up your files. What I do recommend is that you store most of your files on a third drive shared between the operating systems… you could call that partition “Data”.

I’m going to write a number of followup articles dealing with all of the issues with dual-boot systems, so subscribe to the feed for updates.

If you have issues with your dual-boot system, I’d recommend creating a new topic in our Vista forum, and we’ll try and help you.

If you have issues with using the shrink volume feature, check this article for some tips.

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 08/4/07

Comments (42)

  1. Isidro

    I used to have WinXP as my only OS. A few days ago I bought WinVista and another hard drive to instal it. I disconected the former hard drive and now I am using the new hard drive with the new WinVista, right now I am having problems with some hardware that does not function under Vista so I would like to have both hard drives.
    But after reading this post I have one doubt. Will I have problems if I reconnect the drive with WinXP?
    Thanks a lot

  2. k henderson

    A very impressive how-to guide — I’m a techie and I wasnt aware Vista had a shrink volume option. This website is quite excellent.

  3. Shaun

    Hello…I get to the part of booting off of the xp disc and when I boot it just goes to an a: prompt…so the only thing I know to do here is type in i386\winnt.exe….then I get an error sayint there is no place to put a swap file. I do know what a swap file is but how do I remedy this boot error? I have also been trying to install xp onto a newly formatted laptop drive and get the same error after going through the 6 boot floppies when it gets ready to start copying files to the drive. Help please!

    Thank you!

    Shaun

  4. Linda Laird

    I bought a HP quade computer to handle adobe production studio and it came preloaded with vista
    unfortunately the adobe system are not compatable with vista and after talking to adobe, they don’t plan to be in the future either. There is no patch or planned patches. They run exclusively on xp, what can I do? do I need to buy xp and load it over vista to get my programs to work?

  5. Ijaz

    Dear Sir,
    Indeed your information is unique about how to install 2nd OS on the pre-installed Windows Vista.
    But unfornately i have failed to install another OS (XP) on my laptop which came with pre-installed Windows Vista. I have able to make another partition through your directions, but when i boot my lapto using Windows XP CD it copies the required files but when i press ENTER to install Windows XP the message appears that ” Setup did not find any hard disk drives installed in your computer. Make sure any hard disk drives are powered on and properly connected to your computer and that any disk related hardware configuration is correct. This may involve running a manufacture supplied diagnostic or setup program. Setup cannot continue. To quit setup, press F3.” Please note I have C: drive installed windows vista on it, i have drive D: files are available for recovery disk pre-installed by the windows vista or manufacturer. My lapto is Compac Presario C500. Please advise how to install another operating system on this computer.
    Thanks Ijaz.

  6. David S

    Dear ljaz,

    I have followed these instructions to the letter, with one exception, I had to delete a partition on my hard drive before I was able to install XP to the new partition I created after shriking the volume. After I created the new partition following the instructions above, I booted from my XP disk and it gave me the choice on where to laod the XP operating system. There was a very small (42Mb) partition that I deleted and then assigned a new drive letter to partition I created in Vista. Everything worked like a champ from that point. I hope this helps.

    David

  7. Daniel

    Own Hp a6037c Computer (Vista pre installed)
    Followed all steps to install XP for Dual boot
    When booting from XP CD–it shows “No disks “on this computer
    I can`t choose the partition to install XP because ther are`nt any?????
    Dan

  8. The Geek

    Daniel,

    You need to load the disk drivers for XP during the setup process so that it can see the drives.

  9. Daniel

    Damn — You guys are really GOOD.
    Thank you very much!
    Dan

  10. Shaun

    No one here is even close to solving my problem. I solved it on my own and now it works like a charm. In my bios there was a setting to turn off support for sata drives. Once I turned this off, all my problems went away. I got nothing but bad advice here. Suggestions here were way off base.

    Shaun

  11. The Geek

    Shaun,

    Perhaps if you had left a post on the forum you would have gotten better results. The comments on a single article really aren’t the best place for support questions.

  12. Bob

    This is related to the answer given to Daniel on 8/9. I’m in the same position I set up the formated disk space for XP, boot up whth the XP disk, but the only partioion that shows up is the one with Vista. Where do you find the disk drivers for XP?

  13. nasir

    Hi Dear
    I have tried the above steps inorder to install windows xp in my new labtopn which has windows vista.
    when my computer start up its display the windows boot manger screen.
    and when i select to boot from window xp i got error; and disply mesag to insert windows xp cd and install or repire it.

    could you plese advise me what i should do inoreder to solve this problem.

    thanks
    nasir

  14. Neil

    Hello,
    I like this article ‘Install Windows XP on Your Pre-Installed Windows Vista Computer’
    I try to follow this but I could not shrink volume C at desired size, I want to use XP as main OS for that i would like to have maximum space and minimum for Vista.
    I am stuck, Can you please suggest me..
    Thanks

  15. Clive

    Bought a new HP laptop with Vista pre-loaded. Just found out that I need XP to run Adobe Frame Maker. The laptop has 2 drives, each 100gb. My question is – instead of creating a partition on the C drive, can I just use the D drive to install XP instead?

  16. The Geek

    Clive,

    Yes, that’s probably preferable anyway.

  17. Qamar

    Hi,
    i tried and i am succeded i could make partition but after installation of xp i lost the boot for vista then i went through whole procedure mentioned here but i didnt get any old version operating system i could get only vista boot back, and my xp is still in D: drive and when i start my computer it just runs through vista and nothing,

    any help , when i diagnosed in vista bood loader, it didnt give me any option for previous versian of windows,
    thanks

  18. Ijaz

    This is for all Windows Vista User
    If anybody purchased Desktop or Laptop with pre-installed Windows Vista and wanted to Install another operations system like XP and failed because hard drive cannot find. Just simply go to the bios setting and return off SATA enable (make it SATA disabled). and your computer will recognise all the drives and which you shrinked or created like D or E. Install and enjoy.
    Bye.

  19. Julio

    I have XP Pro installed and want to try Vista. Can I do the reverse and add Vista on my XP install?

  20. Daniel

    I tried to install XP on a 2nd Drive (Vista already Pre installed on C drive)
    It over wrote Vista
    It was something about Vista using NT 60 & XP uses NT58
    The XP on the 2nd drive rendered Vista un bootable
    Dan

  21. jamie

    Hi,
    I successfully installed xp pro to partition and all instructions were great. But when i load up vista boot pro and go to system bootloader, the install bootloader tag at bottom of page does not appear when i have selected the options you mentioned. Any ideas why not?

    Thanks

  22. Porter

    It won’t even let me BEGIN to install Windows XP, and I don’t know why. Here’s a screenshot.
    http://img361.imageshack.us/img361/1636/damndu9.png

  23. The Geek

    Porter,

    You need to boot off the cd…

  24. Porter

    I’m a little confused on how to do that then. When I restart my computer, it says “Press any key to boot off CD”
    And I do, but then it doesn’t actually do anything.

  25. Bob

    I’m not techno savy, and I haven’t found an answer regarding Vista/XP dual booting that I can impliment. (The second partition doesn’t show up when I boot up with XP.)

    So, It comes down to this for me. I like XP. I don’t really need Vista. I’ve burned a backup Vista copy (DVD) in case I ever do want to use it. Can I boot up with XP and download it into the drive that contains Vista?

    Also, The partition marked D: is a Vista Recovery file(?). Are there any operational problems with leaving it in place?

    Thanks.

  26. Richard

    Help!!!!

    I have went into my BIOS settings many times and can’t find anywhere to disable SATA. Any advice?

  27. Daniel

    Someone advised installing XP Drivers “DURING SETUP” on the new partition so the drives & partitions could be seen or recognized

    Found:
    WindowsXP-KB310994 &
    WinXP_EN_PRO_BF

    But I don`t understand how to install them “DURING SETUP”

  28. Richard

    Daniel-

    I believe they mean when you are in Windows Setup, that is when you have booted from the Windows XP CD, at the start of Windows Setup it says, press F6 to install 3rd party drivers. I think it is F6, then you would have your floppy disk in the drive to install the drivers that you need for setup. I think this is correct.

  29. Kapil

    I boot from XP cd after shrinking the volume C But after loading file screen turns in blue and gives error 0x000007e ——————pci.sys Any solution

  30. nasir

    Dear all
    I have followed the above instrctions in order to install xp in my new toshib labtop which already has windows vista.

    I have successfully installed xp .

    i recommondaded this steps
    thanks for the useful and clear information

    Thanks a lot
    Nasir

  31. Daniel

    I just gave my New computer (With Vista pre installed) to the neighbor kid who is entering college shortly.
    He was very appreciative.
    He has no idea the dirty trick I played on him.
    Only in America can a company make Billions on a product that you spend 90% of your time fixing & 10% of your time using.
    Tomorrow I order a Mac Pro.

  32. Phillip

    Hi

    I too am having the same issue as jamie.

    I successfully installed xp pro to partition and all instructions were great. But when i load up vista boot pro and go to system bootloader, the install bootloader tag at bottom of page does not appear when i have selected the options you mentioned. Any ideas why not, I am kinda left hanging.

    Thanks

  33. jamie

    Hi phillip,
    Is your copy of XP pro registered? Mine was a trial version at the time i hadnt entered the key. Thats why it was not working. As soon as I enetered reg key the bootloader tag appeared. Try that mate, let me know how you get on.

    I got past the bootloader part and restarted comp and the dual boot option came on. I tried vista, it worked fine. but when i tried to go into xp pro i got an error message saying the software, or something had changed. I have got xp working again now by repairing it with xp disc but am now back to just having xp boot straight up. Anyone know the cure????????

    Cheers people

  34. Daniel

    The neighbor kid I gave my computer to — Returned it.
    The college instructed students not to bring computers with Vista installed.
    Even the institutions of higher learning don`t want any parts of the Vista mess.
    Is anyone getting the message yet?

  35. jamie

    yeah vista is crap, is that right?

  36. Daley

    need to change win vista home prem. to xp pro, and wat are the drivers do need to change?

  37. George

    Thanks for the dual boot info. Question – once I XP up and running, is it possible to go in and Format C drive, totally getting rid of Vista?

  38. Tom Morrisey

    Vista is so frustrating. Doesn’t support any of my hardware at all, and now I can’t seem to get my PC to boot off of an XP install CD anymore! I’m now trying to recover my old XP install from the Windows.old directory created by the Vista install process… do I have a ghost of a chance?

  39. rodolofox

    hi there,

    i just want to ask if it is possible to dual booth using two “separate” hard drives??

    i have a windows vista installed at my drive c: and i have an extra hardisk that i am planning to install with windows xp.

    is it possible to dual boot both drives using windows vista boot selection?

    thanks!

  40. marcus

    Help! I followed all the steps but for some reason I can’t get it to work. I did the partitions and was able to install windows xp but the only way to load it is if I select in the boot loader tab to uninstall the windows vista loader and install windows legacy ( I have to repeat the same process to go back to vista ). Also when I run the diagnostic tool, only the vista partition shows up along with the recovery partition that my laptop came with.

    BTW my laptop is a HP pavillion dv6000

  41. Malle

    About 3 weeks ago I bought my first laptop-a toshiba satellite A205-S4597 pre-installed with Vista (oh how I came to hate Vista !!!! )
    I’m really interrested in dual booting(thinking that vista might get better with updates overtime) but I am not tech savvy at all but have been reading alot online and am weighing my options.

    I would have now to buy a windows xp copy (almost $300 for a full retail version)Maybe a little less on ebay.
    And I read it will dual boot now easily with a newer intel based Mac .(I never used a mac in my live+can’t afford it right now) Or I could save up for another laptop with xp loaded,if I save fast enough before they’re all gone.
    So I HAVE BEEN LOOKING for options instead of enjoying my new laptop ; ( because I hate vista !!!
    I really would like XP Pro SP2.I want to be able to use my software .
    Even read about linux.I think to complicated for me,but will try sometime,sounds interresting.

    I want to try this guide,sounds easy enough.
    BUT I don’t kow how to get all the required xp drivers for my laptop.I looked on toshiba’s website and I don’t know what I need.Is there a good book you can recommend that teaches me about computers?
    The other idea I had was that if this fails I could buy a new hard drive and just install xp.But then I will have the same problems with the required driver’s.I’m at a loss.I’m really getting exhausted with my new laptop,sometimes I just want to smash it.But at least it works nicely for surfing the web.

    Sorry for the rant,
    any ideas?

    Thanks

  42. The Geek

    ———————-NOTE————————–

    I am closing the comments on this article because of the large amount of support questions.

    You are welcome to leave any computer help questions on the Forum.

    http://www.howtogeek.com/forum/

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