How-To Geek

Set XP as the Default OS in a Windows Vista Dual-Boot Setup

When you install Windows Vista as a dual-boot with your regular Windows XP partition, Vista is always set as the default OS. If you want to set XP as the default OS instead, there’s a quick command you can run to change it back.

First you’ll have to open an administrator command prompt. Type cmd into the search box, and then hit Ctrl+Shift + Enter to open it in administrator mode. You should be prompted for the UAC dialog.

Enter in the following command:

bcdedit /default {ntldr}


C:\Windows\system32>bcdedit /default {ntldr}
The operation completed successfully.

Now when you reboot, it will set XP as the default.

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 01/13/07

Comments (22)

  1. Bob

    Howdy How To Geek,
    First time hit on your site and have already read some interesting fixe’s re:Vista 32 bit version.
    I made the mistake od uninstalling my Windows XP Pro and installing Vista Home addition. Big mistake, I do however have a version of Vista Ultimate along with my old version of XP Pro. I have a partition on my C:Drive of 20GB’s , my questions are as follows,

    1.Would it be wise to install the Vista Ultimate on the partition ( note it’s a different license”
    2.SDhould I sue that partition to re-install my original XP Pro Sp 2

    Also I’m running to external HD’S a WD 300 & A Maxtor 350 , so I’m thinking I can move everything over to one my externals if need be to switch OS.

    Any help or direction you could give me would really be appreciated.


  2. S. Stonehill


    I bought a new VAIO notebook running Vista Business. Not happy with this Vista OS at all, am used to XP Pro. Especially unhappy with the fact that, according to SONY, Vista does not allow for simultaneously recording the playback of an audio-track (a feature important to me for my video-editing). So, having first set up a special partition (D:), I installed XP Pro to that new partition, to see if this would permit that audio-function, and also thinking I’d be able to switch between Vista and XP Pro if needed.

    BIG MISTAKE! No audio- or online-capability in XP Pro now, but, WORSE, the machine boots ONLY to XP Pro, and I now have NO way to run Vista (even though I see that all the Vista files are still in place on the C-drive). CAN YOU HELP ME KNOW HOW TO REACTIVATE THIS VISTA OS and then to safely DUMP the XP Pro? (Note: My XP Pro installation-disc lacks the Recovery module; and this new VAIO — which I can only return to the store IF it’s not screwed up — comes with NO Vista-discs.)

  3. Abhi

    Hi Stonehill !

    Well…there’s a turnaround to that problem but for this you need the Vista Installation Disc, since the files needed to restore the Vista Boot Manager are on that disc…you said you don’t have one since its a VAIO with Vista OEM…lets see what i can do here…i’ve uploaded the required file here…

    just download that file…extract it in some folder and then follow these steps carefully but at your own risk…

    1. Use Bootsect.exe to restore the Windows Vista MBR and the boot code that transfers control to the Windows Boot Manager program. To do this, type the following command at a command prompt: Path\bootsect.exe /NT60 All

    In this command, Path is the location where you have put the bootsect.exe file.

    2. Use Bcdedit.exe to manually create an entry in the BCD Boot.ini file for the earlier version of the Windows operating system. To do this, type the following commands at a command prompt.

    Note In these commands, Drive is the drive where Windows Vista is installed.
    Drive:\Windows\system32\Bcdedit /create {ntldr} –d “Description for earlier Windows version”

    Note In this command, Description for earlier Windows version can be any text that you want. For example, Description for earlier Windows version can be “Windows XP” or “Windows Server 2003”.
    • Drive:\Windows\system32\Bcdedit /set {ntldr} device partition=x:

    Note In this command, x: is the drive letter for the active partition.
    • Drive:\Windows\system32\Bcdedit /set {ntldr} path \ntldr
    • Drive:\Windows\system32\Bcdedit /displayorder {ntldr} –addlast

    3. Restart the computer. Now you should see the Vista Boot Manager.

    Hope this resolves your issue.

  4. Abhi

    Here’s the command again in case it is not clear in the previous post…

    Path\Bootsect.exe /NT60 All

    In this command, Path is the location where you have put the bootsect.exe file.

  5. Puddy Suspectz

    i have a new Compaq computer with with windows vista on it. some of my programs dont work good in vista so i put in my xp setup cd and tried to setup XP on my computer as well as vista. it told me it can’t read the file system on my hard drive so i tried putting the Xp files on my external drive…it still said it could’nt read drive c and setup would’nt continue….i took out the xp cd and gave up in that idea but now my Vista wont boot…nothing got setup or changed, why wont my vista start????

  6. new_geek

    I have a BIG problem. I have a brand new Toshiba Laptop, and i can’t get the dual boot to work! If i install XP first, when I install Vista, i can’t go back to boot up XP, and i can’t use the BCDedit command, because Vista says i don’t have permission to do this!!! I am trying all this under an administrator user. The Boot menu shows both OS, but i can’t boot up XP.

    If i install XP AFTER Vista, then i can’t get Vista to boot up either. I tried using the EasyBCD tool but still nothing.

    I have the Toshiba DVD’s with Windows Vista Ultimate (32 bit). Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

  7. Adrian

    Hi, I had just the same problem as Stonehill on a new Acer laptop. I followed the steps described by Abhi and sorted the problem just fine. Now I’m back to my factory default Windows Vista. Thank you Abhi, that was great information you posted here!

  8. Tip

    If anyone wants to, you can set the timeout value by typing bcdedit /timeout x

    where x is the number of seconds you want the os to wait.

  9. Gikungu

    Thanks for the instructions

  10. cogit8

    Thanks – the very same problem happened to me with a new SONY VAIO and I thought “now I’ve gone and killed my new computer”. On another computer, I downloaded your little file to a USB drive and copied it to the WXP drive on the SONY so it would be found. And then typing very carefully, followed your commands (which can also be found on Microsoft website). And I got back my Windows Vista (which after seeing how WXP looked, I was happy to get back). I’ll just have to get used to WVista.

  11. new_geek

    I was able to fix my problem by using the VistaBoot Pro. There are tons of how to’s all over the internet regarding the use of this tool. It is very easy to use, and works like a charm. However y deleted my XP partition, because y rather get used to Vista. Instead I am using a Virtual Machine with Windows XP (using Microsoft Virtual PC 2007) for my programs that won’t run in Vista. Hope this info is helpful!

  12. Michael Grotefend

    How do I uninstall Vista, I lost $250 when I purchased it I just want to install pro XP. Plaese help!
    Thank you for your time,
    Michael Grotefend

  13. me

    Michael, I’m feeling the same way. I am going nuts with this Vista thing. It sucks! I’m about to put my $1400 machine aside and start using my 7 year old computer with XP, because it works. Vista might do a lot of cool things that MAC users might think are nifty… but it doesn’t work!

  14. new_geek

    To uninstall vista all you need is the XP cd. You just have to insert the cd, wait for the installation to boot up. Once you are in the blue screen menu, you should delete the partition containing Windows Vista and later create a new partition from the Un partitioned space. Then install XP on this new partition. This way is the only one I have found to completely remove Vista from my PC. However, if yout computer is a new laptop specially, you should check if you have the drivers for all your components. I tried to change back to XP, but my Toshiba computer only has drivers for Windows Vista. Hope this helps…

  15. edward

    i was able to install my motorola pc tool to my laptop using vista os. but each time i try to make internet connection, it won’t accept it, but on xp it does, how can i make vista accept usb internet connectivity

  16. keiki

    i have a vista home premium and am running xp using virtual box. however, i have a big problem, i want to back up my documents in xp but it won’t read my dvd/disc drive. can someone please help.

  17. kc

    Hmmm. I had a dual boot setup XP Media Edition (drive C) and VISTA Ultimate on Drive D
    Someting went askew. Got XP media Edition back but NO access to VISTA right now
    I understand that the VistaPro bootloader progie can fix it,or a ‘reinstall’ of VISTA fdrom within XP running. install Vista DVD, do thru motions and pick the D drive again. Did something similar with XP and it fixed my problems. IF I had a lot less proggies in the machine Id do a virgin install!
    PLEASE e me back at if U would PLEASE!

  18. Kadkhoda

    There is a hardware alternative to mutli-boot.
    If you boot into DOS via a floppy or a USB memory stick or a bootable CD; (my Toshiba notebook can boot from a memory stick and older notebooks had a floppy); then running GDISK from Norton (like FDISK) you can change the active partition to the OS you want.
    Ctrl Alt Del starts from that partition.

  19. MKH Sabbir

    I have Windows Vista Original installed in my Laptop. I just want to Install another Operating System Win XP with Service Pack 2 without affecting my Vista installed. How best you guys can help me in this regard.
    My planning:
    As far as I know always the earlier should be installed first and later the latest.
    Thanks and regards for all,

  20. Peter

    I have a problem of shrink my hdd in vista, in order to create partition for linux, any help? Thanks

  21. Chris

    Thanks for the tip.

  22. alex

    i have the reverse problem, i have both xp and vista and i want to run vista but i dont know how

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