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Get an Easy Introduction to Windows 7/8 - Dual-Boot with XP


I've been enthusiastic about all new releases of Microsoft Operating Systems as far back as MS DOS 5.
I even had good things to say about Windows ME which first introduced us to System Restore and Movie Maker.
When the video memory in my 4 year-old laptop got fried by the X-ray machine at Melbourne Airport, it was time for me to move up to Windows Vista.
So I got myself a dual-core Toshiba Satellite P100 laptop with a beautiful 17 inch screen, 2gb of RAM, a 150gb Hard Drive and Windows Vista Ultimate.

Within 2 weeks I'd had enough and Vista with XP Pro on the new laptop.
What a relief! Everything worked again and did so considerably faster.
No more endless pop-up warnings. No more changes for changes sake.
Yes, and I'm an IT professional who does this sort of this for a living.

I've come across people who confuse Windows Vista and Office 2007, which were both released around the same time.
Office 2007 is a fantastic product and in no way tainted by problems of Vista.
I can see no difference between Office 2007 on Windows XP and on Vista although Microsoft has built some Vista-only features into Office 2007, hoping perhaps that upgrading to one will encourage you to upgrade to the other.
While it may take you up to a week to get used to the new Ribbon menu system in Office 2007, you will like it, I promise.

Anyway, back to my laptop. After a period of enjoying my new XP laptop and advising others to steer clear of Vista I realised that I didn't want to be stuck forever more in pre-Vista land, appearing to be as weird and sad as I now consider those people who still use Windows 98.
Vista does have a few good things, Service Pack 1 isn't too far away and perhaps I'll eventually get to like it.
I wanted to give Vista another chance, but in a safe way that wouldn't interfere with me getting my normal work done where, if things got too difficult, I could run back to the safety of XP.



Dual Boot Specification

So I setup my laptop so that I get the option, at start-up, to boot into XP or Vista.
Below is a picture of exactly what it looks like.
The asterisk next to Windows XP means that it's the default option so, if I don't do anything for 5 seconds, it will choose that option for me.
These are just my preferences, easily changed by clicking the Maintenance button:-



The Boot Menu - choose XP or Vista


I had some more requirements for my dual-boot system:-

1 - I didn't want XP to be able to see the partition containing the Vista operating system, and vice versa, so that the different operating systems couldn't mess each other up.
Perhaps an antivirus program running on the Vista side might inadvertently change something on the XP partition and so make it unable boot.

2 - I wanted all my same data files accessible from either operating system so, if I was working on a document in Vista and things got too difficult, I could switch to XP and continue with the document where I left off.


Installing a Boot Manager

The answer was to use a Boot Manager called Bootit NG from Terrabyte Unlimited which costs around £18 and is the best Boot Manager I've ever seen.

I won't pretend is was easy to setup.
You start by resizing and then taking a backup or image of the existing partitions to, say, and external USB hard drive.
You then organise your hard disk into the appropriate number and size of partitions.
4 partitions are required in total, a tiny one for the Boot Manager, and, in my case, a 30gb one each for XP and Vista and a 95gb one for shared data.
A boot CD installs Bootit NG into the first partition and you then restore the operating systems from the images you took earlier or install them from scratch using the Installation CD/DVD.
You can use your favourite partition manipulation and imaging tools or you can use the tools  built-in to Boot It NG.

Because the 2 operating systems are completely isolated from each other, you don't have to install them in any particular order as you do in other dual boot setups.
Each BootIt NG start-up option can choose any 4 partitions from up to 255 that may exist on your hard drives so it's capable of the most complicated multi-boot arrangements you can imagine.

You specify which partitions will be visible in each boot option and so, for XP, I hid the Boot Manager and Vista partitions and, for the Vista boot option, I hid the Boot Manager and XP partitions. The Data partition is visible in both options.

When XP boots, Disk Manager and My Computer appear as shown below:-


 
   

Disk Manager - XP

How Disk Manager in XP sees the 4 partitions

My Computer - XP

The hard drives that appear in My Computer in XP


When Vista boots, Disk Manager and My Computer appear as shown below:-


Disk Manager - Vista

How Disk Manager in Vista sees the 4 partitions

Computer - Vista

The hard drives that appear in Computer in Vista

In each case, Disk Manager can see all 4 partitions but it can't make sense of the 2 hidden partitions, and so My Computer/Computer only show the hard disk with a C: and D: drive.


   

Problems During Installation

While Installing XP from scratch, the installation process re-wrote the disk's Master Boot Record (MBR) so, on reboot, the Boot Manager was bypassed and it always booted straight to XP.
Booting from the BootIt NG disk fixed this.

After restoring the Vista partition it wouldn't boot.
Booting from the Vista installation DVD and choosing "Repair" fixed this.


Setting Up the Shared Data Partition

In XP you need to change the properties of My Documents to point to a location on the D: drive such as:-

D:\Documents\<username>

and in Vista it's Documents you need to re-point here.

If you have any files of folders on the Desktop then you need to move these to the D: drive and then make a shortcut to them on the Desktops.
If you've been storing other data files on the operating system partitions these will need to be moved to the D: drive.
With all your important data on the D: drive, it should make backups more convenient.

It's generally a good idea to use the same username and password for both XP and Vista, especially if you change any file access permissions on the Data Partition away from Everyone - Full Control.

Because, of course, I have a fully-synchronised Arrowmail Exchange account, my email looks after itself. Outlook on XP and Vista always show the same thing.



Software Licensing Issues

This dual-boot setup isn't very efficient with software licences as you'll need 2 licences for any programs you use in both XP and Vista.
Any program that you need to activate will see identical hardware from XP and Vista and so you may be able to activate it twice and any program that doesn't make extensive use of the registry you can install to the Data Partition and access the same executable from XP and Vista.



So What's it like living with this Dual Boot Setup?

Great! First thing in the working day or when serious work has to be done I boot to XP but then in a more relaxed part of the day I try to work in Vista.
In fact I wrote one half of this webpage in XP and the other half in Vista and you can't see the join!
There's 2 lots of Windows to keep updated and this sometimes seems like an endless process.

And when will I be leaving XP behind for good and going it alone with Vista?
Not any time soon.

 

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