Dual Boot Windows 7 in 2 Easy Steps

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You’ve heard how great it is, but getting rid of your current operating system is triggering waves of fear up your spine. You know Microsoft likes to move things for no reason, so the thought of spending hours looking for something as simple as My Computer is causing you to balk.

What about a dual boot system? Yeah, that’s the ticket. Can I add Windows 7 to my current Vista or XP setup without completely starting over? The answer in a word is yes. It doesn’t matter what’s already installed. You can have your very own dual boot Windows 7 system in 2 easy steps.

STEP 1.
Partition Hard Drive

Check that there is adequate space on your drive for the addition of a second operating system. The rule of thumb is that you want at least 50% of your drive free in order to get the best performance. Look to be sure you have at least the minimum suggested by Microsoft, 16 gig for Windows 7 32 bit and 20 gig for Windows 7 64 bit. Here’s a link to check your systems specs against Microsoft,s suggested requirements.

To be comfortable, I use double the minimum to allow for storage.

Windows XP is a little tricky because it does not include a partition tool. You will need a partition program to resize your drive. There are several good FREE TRIAL programs available. I like Acronis Disk Director Suite or even the Trial Version of PartitionMagic 8. I also found several people suggesting a program called GParted. Although I’ve never used it, I did download and create the bootable CD for the next time I want to partition an XP system.

Using the partition program of your choice simply select the drive to partition and:

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1. Resize the partition to create free space.

2. Create the new partition from the free space.

Windows Vista makes things a little easier. It has included tools to partition the hard drive. To locate the necessary Disk Management tool, go to: Start> Control Panel> System and Maintenance> Administrative Tools> Computer Management> Disk Management.


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Once you are in Disk Management, shrink the existing partition to create free space and then create the “New Simple Partiton.

STEP 2.
Install Windows 7

Installation is the easy part. Extremely simple and no tricks like previous versions of Windows. Simply slip the Windows 7 DVD into the drive and reboot your system. If it doesn’t boot to the Installation Disk just enter the bios and set the CD/DVD as First Boot Device. To do this, reboot the system while continuously taping the Delete Key. When you see the bios screen, locate the Boot Order tab which is usually under the Boot heading or Advanced heading. Set CD/DVD as First Boot Device, Save and Exit.

For now there’s nothing to do but follow the installation wizard and select Custom/Advanced as the type of setup. Make sure you are choosing the correct partition so you don’t hose your original installation. Sounds obvious but… Now’s a good time to take a break and do the usual break type things.

You’ll see the usual prompts for setting up your User Name, TimeZone, Password and license key. If you don’t want to use a password, just leave it blank.

I’ve found Windows 7’s first boot has all my drivers installed and is ready to go. No searching for Network drivers and or chipset drives as in XP. In fact, I found it boots to a dual monitor set up just exactly as I would have configured it. I do install other drivers but that’s because I want a particular one, not because I can’t see my screen properly or access the internet.

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That’s all there is to it. I’ve installed countless copies of XP and Vista and this is by far the easiest.

By the way, when you’re ready to go to a single operating system, nothing could be easier than using the Windows 7 Easy Transfer to move all of your files, settings, and information to the new installation. You may want to use it just to get going in Windows 7 after the installation. To access this within Windows 7 go to: Start> Help and Support> Type in Easy Transfer and see the screen shown above.

Enjoy!

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HELPFUL LINKS

Disk Director Suite

PartitionMagic 8,
GParted

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15 thoughts on “Dual Boot Windows 7 in 2 Easy Steps

  1. I have a newer laptop with W7 Pro 64bit, but would like to install a second partition for XP Pro. Is there a similar procedure for doing this?

  2. What if I have 32-bit Vista Business on one drive and want to install 64-bit Win7 Pro on a new drive? Will I need a “full” version of Win7 Pro or can this be done from the “upgrade” version? BTW: I’ve used the NeoSmart dual-boot products with great success in the past.

  3. My system has three drives: one for W7, a second for Ubuntu Linux and a third for XP. I don’t know yet if Bootpart.exe will work in W7. If it doesn’t, then I will simply choose the XP drive as the default boot drive and install the other boot partitions in the XP boot menu.

  4. Does this work with an upgrade version of Windows 7 or just the full version? I was under the impression that the upgrade version would invalidate the old version you have on the computer.

  5. Okay, that sounds great. When I finally decide that I like Windows 7 and have everything moved over from my XP installation, how do I get rid of the XP part of the dual boot?

  6. That instruction is a little misleading. Without a good 3rd party boot manager, there is a very good chance that the 1st OS will no longer be bootable if Win 7 is installed to a new partition with an existing XP (legacy) operating system already in place. VistaBootPro is a great boot manager for this scenario, and allowed me to reconfigure the boot.ini in XP to get it working again. I’m an Acronis fan too, but I used their Disk Manager Suite to create the new partition, and that made the XP partition unbootable until installing a boot manager and editing the boot.ini of the XP partition again. Dual boot is a great option, but it works best if installing both Operating systems from scratch, not with an existing OS already there. Make sure you backup your data and preferably do an image backup of your operating system before trying to configure a dual boot system.

  7. All very good to have the Win7 with XP/Vista, but what about publishing a Removal procedure for the Win7 Boot Manager if the user decides to revert back to the original OS only again. The win7 Boot Manager is not removed simply by removing/formatting the Win7 Drive.

  8. I have had problems using Partition Magic 8 with Vista. You will get an disk corruption error…if you allow PM to correct it – it will not boot in to Vista until you run a repair on the Vista drive. If after you tried to correct the error in PM it will not allow to re-partition the drive. I have searched for patches for PM 8 – my conclusion is Symantec isn’t going to do anything about it. Acronis is a great product for Vista drives!!!!

  9. This sounds very interesting and very simple. Not being an expert in these things I have one important question. If I follow this procedure and have WinXP and Win7 as a dual boot system, – how will I be able to choose one or the other when I boot up my PC?

  10. To Answer this YES You can choose which version of Windows although it says in the list “Older version of Windows” or “Windows 7”. But as for your linux, windows will not see that OS at least it didnt on my system.

    @ Jonathan Says:
    September 17th, 2009 at 5:27 am

    I’m used to the grub method of dual booting with linux. With the above method, i.e. two flavours of windows, do you get a menu to choose which one you want to load? And will the above method configure it or is that an extra step?

  11. jonathon, i did the above steps a few months ago on my dads pc, he has windows xp and windows 7 rc1, once windows 7 goes on it uses the windows 7 bcd to give you a basic menu on bootup to choose between the operating systems, if its vista and windows 7 theres no need to do anything, if its xp and windows 7 then xp is entitled “earliuer version of windows” on the boot menu. to change its name simply run the cmd.exe as an administrator from inside windows 7 and type the following command (bcdedit /set {ntldr} description “Windows XP”) obviously without the curly bracket i used to enphasize the command, you can change the words windows xp in the speech marks to whatever you want it to be called.

    i hope this answers your question.

  12. After establishing a dual boot system, if you are happy with Windows 7, what are the steps to remove Vista and return to a single partition?

  13. I’m used to the grub method of dual booting with linux. With the above method, i.e. two flavours of windows, do you get a menu to choose which one you want to load? And will the above method configure it or is that an extra step?

  14. ….have had a dual-boot system for some time now, XP and Ubuntu Linux. It works well. I tried the same scheme with W7 RC1 and it was a painless installation that worked off-the-bat. Bootpart is a very valuable app that simplifies things a lot.

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