Hide XP partition from Vista

Posted on 2009-04-14
Last Modified: 2012-05-06
I've set my system up to dual boot WinXP Pro 32 and Vista Ultimate 64. XP has been installed for some time, I just installed Vista.

When I'm running Vista, my XP partition appears as a lettered drive in Windows Explorer. I'd like to set things up so I cannot see the XP partition when I'm running Vista and vice-versa. I want this to happen automatically when I select which OS to boot - in other words, I don't want to have to run a utility to hide/unhide the OS partitions.

Suggestions, please...
Question by:casterle
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Accepted Solution

torimar earned 200 total points
ID: 24143033
With due respect: I don't understand at all why you wish to hide your partitions from the other operating system. One of the biggest advantages of a multi-boot system is exactly this: if something goes wrong with one of the OS's and it stops working, even booting, you can easily and quickly use the other OS for repairs. No fiddling with consoles or bootable disks....

The only way of achieving what you wish to achieve possibly is running Bootit-NG ( as a boot manager. You may have to reinstall at least one of your systems, and you certainly will have to buy BootIt.
Here's a link to its manual:
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Expert Comment

ID: 24143059
You can also use a utility like TweakUI to hide the drive letter, i think this is rather what you want to do. If you do it with TweakUI it will only be hidden in the windows version where you have set to hide the drive letter, not in other installations.
LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 24143158
What you've described isn't really "hiding XP from Vista" (or vice-versa) ==> you simply indicated you don't want the other OS to be visible as a drive letter.

That's simple to do ...  just to go Disk Management [Right-click on My Computer (Computer in Vista);  select Manage; then click on Disk Management; now right-click from within the partition you want to remove the drive letter from; select "Change Drive Letter and Paths"; then click on Remove.

... that partition will no longer have a drive letter assigned within that OS => and you won't see it in My Computer or Windows Explorer.

If you ever need to access it (to help repair the other OS), just repeat the process and assign a drive letter to it.

Note you'll have to do this from each of the OS's - but just one time.
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Assisted Solution

garycase earned 300 total points
ID: 24143283
... if your real objective is to totally hide the OS's from each other (so you can't even see the other partition in Disk Management), you can do this with Boot-It NG (mentioned above).   I use this to multi-boot to many OS's with all of them installed to their own C: drive, and none visible to the other => but for just two OS's and simply not wanting to see each other as drive letters, you can just do what I described above.

Note that if you use Boot-It, you have a lot more flexibility in terms of what OS can "see" what -- but you also need to be sure not to make partitiion modifications from Disk Management if Boot-It is managing the partition structure.   It's still easy to use a 2nd OS to repair issues if needed -- you just change the boot item in Boot-It so the other OS is "seen" by the OS you want to use to do the repairs (a 10 second process) ... but in this case you really don't need Boot-It.

Author Comment

ID: 24143482
I should have described my situation more fully.
I have 2 1TB drives mirrored as a 1TB physical drive. That drive is partitioned into 5 logical drives:
Three 70GB partitions for OS's. One of these contains XP Pro and one contains Vista. The 3rd is reserved for a future OS. These 'OS' partitions contain nothing but the OS and files that must be installed on the OS partitions.
The remainder of the physical drive is divided into 2 partitions which contain my programs and data.
When I boot into XP, my boot partition is C:, and my program and data drives are D: and E:.
This is exactly what I want to see when I boot into Vista; as it is, the Vista partition appears as C: as expected, but the XP partition appears as drive D:.
Vista does not allow the XP drive to be hidden, nor does it allow the drive letter to be changed because it is marked as a system partition.
Thus, when I am running Vista, not only does the XP partition prevent me from lettering my program/data drives as I do under XP, but the XP partition is needlessly exposed to accidental modification.
Someone suggested something like TweakUI, as far as I can tell, TweakUI has never been ported to Vista.
BootIt may do the trick, but it seems like overkill for the one function I need.
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Assisted Solution

garycase earned 300 total points
ID: 24143679
TweakUI doesn't do anything that Disk Management doesn't => it simply provides a simple GUI to make those changes.   But if you can't do them in Disk Management, it wouldn't help to have TweakUI (which, as you noted, isn't available for Vista anyway -- although there's a freeware utility that's very similar: ].

Since Vista won't allow the drive letter to be removed, there's nothing you can do short of using a good 3rd party utility.   As I noted above, I really like Boot-It ... it's a great utility for managing partitions; imaging (and restoring those images); and a great boot manager.   If you install it, you can easily do what you want => both XP and Vista (and any subsequent OS's you choose to install) will all be on C:;  they will only "see" the partitions you want them to; all of your partitions can be Primary Partitions; etc.   As an example of its power, here's my boot menu.  Note that all of these OS's are on the same hard drive; and all the Windows versions can "see" my data partition ... and are set to keep their data there; so no matter which OS I boot to, My Documents (Documents in Vista) is the same set of data; and my e-mail is consistent across all OS's (I use Thunderbird, so it's the same in both XP & Vista).


Author Closing Comment

ID: 31570174
Extra credit to garycase for the screen-shot!

Author Comment

ID: 24153012
I had a bit of trouble with BootIt, perhaps because I use ShadowProtect Desktop, perhaps because it doesn't play nicely with my Adaptec 5405 RAID controller, or my Intel RAID controller - I'm not sure what when wrong.
Before reading further, please know that I am not writing this to blame BootIt or those who recommended it. I checked other places before I decided to use it, and it got good reviews. I write only in hopes of finding a way out of this unlikely situation...
Here's a rather long description of what happened.
In addition to the mirrored RAID array I described above (running on the Adaptec controller), I also have:
1) Another mirrored 1TB RAID array, also running on the Adaptec controller (R: Drive)
2) Another mirrored 1TB RAID array running on the Intel RAID controller on my motherboard (F: Drive)
3) A 160 GB non-RAID drive used for swap space and as temporary storage (G: Drive)
4) 2 1TB external USB drives, which are backups for the R: drive, (S: and T: drives).
The other drive letters in my system are used for mapped network drives, flash card slots & DVD/BluRay drives.
Every half hour between 6AM and 8PM, ShadowProtect Desktop runs what they term a 'continuous' incremental backup in the background. This backup saves everything that's changed on my C: and D: drives in the last half hour in compressed files.
Every night, a process mirrors the R: drive to the external S: and T: drives. Another process copies all of my data files to a duplicate workstation over the network.
Thus, the S: and T: drives contain incremental backups from the previous day back to mid-January when I implemented this system. The R: drive contains the same thing, plus the incrementals from today.
Using this system, I can mount or restore a snapshot of my C: or D: drive at any (half-hourly) point in time for the last 7 days (or daily snapshots for the previous month; or weekly snapshots for the previous 6 months).
So I've got a belt and two sets of suspenders, so to speak. This gives me the freedom to try what might be considered dangerous things, knowing I can restore my system to any of these snapshots in a matter of minutes.
So I installed BootIt, and it seemed to work OK, except that when I tried to boot into my Vista partition, it launched the Windows Boot Manager rather than booting directly into Vista.
I looked around for solutions and tried a few things, and somehow ended up with both my XP and Vista partitions broken. I tried to use the XP install disk to repair the issue, but it kept blue-screening part way through the boot process. I had better luck with the Vista boot disk - it said that it had fixed the issue. Unfortunately, it hadn't. I uninstalled BootIt and tried again with the same result.
I then booted into ShadowProtect to do a restore. To my surprise, it reported that,  with the exception of my main RAID array (containing my boot partitions and C: and D: drives), all of my drives contain unallocated space. Including my external S: and T: drives. I moved both of my external drives to my backup workstation and it, too, reported the drives as unallocated.
It seems a bit strange that the drive I was working on survived (albeit in an unbootable state) while every other drive connected to my system lost its partitions.
Thus I have apparently lost my belt and both sets of suspenders! I haven't lost anything important as my C: and D: drives appear to be intact and I've got another copy of all my data files on another workstation as well, but if I can't figure out a way to recover at least one of these partitions I'm going to have to spend a lot of time reinstalling and configuring dozens of applications.
ShadowProtect has a very low-level partition editor, so if I can figure out what the values should be I can perhaps recover my backup images. All three of the backup drives contained only a single partition sized to fill the entire TB of space, which I hope will help. A bit of good news - I have 3 drives to experiment on.
Of course, I have no idea how to find the magic partition configuration values. I hope you do!
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Expert Comment

ID: 24154255
If your RAID arrays are all enumerated through the BIOS (i.e. "hardware" arrays and not Windows software RAID) Boot-It should work just fine with the system as you've described it.

The issue is that you had installed Vista in a way that caused it to use its boot manager ... so when you boot to that partition, it still boots to the boot manager.   There are ways to resolve that (and let Boot-It do its magic) ... but first you should CAREFULLY reset your other drives.

The #1 rule of any situation like this is to STOP until you know just what to do.   Uninstalling Boot-It MAY have been a mistake ... but I think you're okay.   What's most likely happened is that you configured the boot items in a way that caused EMBR's to be written to the other drives ... and those simply need to be removed (then all will be well).   I THINK those structures are maintained on the individual disks -- not in Boot-Its partition on your boot drive => as long as that's true, all is well.

Do the following -- and NOTHING else:   Boot to the Boot-It disk; select CANCEL, then OK.   Then go to Partition Work -- and then select your disks one-at-a-time [HD-0, HD-1, etc.] and for each disk note whether or not the "Undo EMBR" button is active (or greeked out).   If it's active, click on it and let it do that.   When you're done, remove the Boot-It disk and reboot the system & see if that helped.

I wouldn't do anything else until you report the status of that => I may need some more details on the current structures shown by Boot-It on the disks.

Author Comment

ID: 24154513
Thanks for the help, much appreciated!
Both RAID controllers are hardware so that shouldn't be an issue.
When I boot on the BootIt CD I created, I see a dialog box with the following controls:
Radio Buttons:
  •  Reactivate BootIt NG
  •  Capture MBR
  •  Capture LVM Data (grayed out)
  •  Access BootIt NG Partition (grayed out)
  •  Upgrade BootIt NG
And these buttons:
  •  OK
  •  Maintenance
  •  Help
As noted, only 3 of the radio buttons are enabled. What should I do next?
I noticed when I booted this time that I got an error message to the effect that FDDRAM initialization failed. I may have gotten it on every boot - my computer takes a long time (minutes) to POST/initialize (I think this has something to do with initializing the Adaptec RAID controller) so I often do something else while it's booting.
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Expert Comment

ID: 24154529
This indicates that Boot-It was not actually uninstalled ... but has had its boot code in the MBR overwritten.   Click on Reactivate Boot-It => assuming this works okay, then (after it indicates it's done ... just a couple seconds) remove the CD and reboot.   Assuming this works as expected, you'll get your Boot-It screen -- but don't select an OS ... just click on Maintenance Mode;  then click on Partition Work.   Then do as I noted before r.e. the "Undo EMBR" button.

Author Comment

ID: 24157257
Reactivating seemed to go OK, was prompted to remove CD and reboot, but  when I reboot, I get (white text on black background):
Bootit EMBRI 2.01
Bootit EMBRL 2.04
Unable to fnd BootIt in the EMBRM partition!

Author Comment

ID: 24157516
I booted on the BootIt CD again and, when I got to the dialog box I described above, I clicked on Maintenance, then went into Partition Work. As you suspected, all of the partitons had the "Undo EMBR" button enabled. I clicked on each partition in turn (I had both of my external USB drives down-powered so they would not be affected).
The system still is not bootable (as expected). I ran ShadowProtect and it still reports all of the partitions as unallocated.
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Author Comment

ID: 24157651
A bit more information. Using the StorageCraft partition editor, I can see that all of the fields in all 4 partition table entries in the partitions indicated as unallocated are 0's. This was the case before I did the "Undo EMBR" bit as well.

Author Comment

ID: 24159404
I figured out the magic partition field values for my internal backup image drive, set them, rebooted and can now see all of my backup images and access them in ShadowProtect.
I restored the most recent backup, but was unable to boot. That backup may have been made after I installed BootIt, so I restored an image made before I installed BootIt or Vista and I'm booting into XP fine.
So it appears that the backup images drive is healthy, and so are my main volumes. Whew!
I'd still like to be able to use BootIt to do what I set out to do. Now that I know how to recover if I have the issue again, I'm willing to give it a try. Do you think I can make it work?
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Expert Comment

ID: 24161455
Glad you're recovered :-)

Not sure what state you had the system in ... but somehow Boot-It didn't get uninstalled correctly.

Do the following:  Boot to the Boot-It CD, select CANCEL, then OK.   Go to Settings and enable USB v2.0 support (so it will work correctly with your external drives as well as your internal ones).   Then click on Partition Work and see what drives it shows [HD-0, HD-1, etc.].   If it shows your arrays correctly (i.e. as single drives -- not as the component drives), then it will work fine.   If it doesn't "see" the arrays correctly (which would mean they're not enumerated in the BIOS), then it's not going to work for you.

Try that first ... then post back.

Author Comment

ID: 24168777
After booting on the CD, I get this dialog:
An EMBR was found on HD4 with partitions that are different than the partitions in the MBR. You MUST choose to delete the EMBR if this is a new installation of BootIT NG or the MBR is out of data.
Do you with to delete the EMBR?
[Yes]  [No]
One of the problems I have with utilities of this nature is that I'm not sure how an HD numer (etc) relates to my drives. If the message told me the Controller the drives was on or, better yet, listed the names of the volumes on the drive I woud have some idea.
ShadowProtect does the same thing - it numbers the drives differently between the 'disk map', which includes information I can use to identify the volumes, and the 'partition editor'. Both tools include different information, none of which is common between the two. Frustrating!
I'm almost positive I was seeing the drive arrays correctly from Partition Work - I know enough to check for that and would have noticed if I was seeing component drives.  So in theory I should be able to get BootIt working.
I was unable to recover the information on the USB drives via the partition table, so I copied the information from my internal image drive to the two USB drives. I've now got 3 copies of my backup images again. At this point, I'm going to reformat the drive conting my working (C and D) drives and restore everything from the backup images.
After that, I'll boot into BootIt and verify that the drives are listed as they should be. If they are, do you have any specific advice regarding getting it working?
I've learned one thing in this process - disconnect the external backup drives first!
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Expert Comment

ID: 24170692
I THINK that if you say No to that question you can still get to the Partition Work screen and then look at the structure of the drives ... which should help you identify the correlation between drive numbers and what's on them.   In any event, if you say NO to that prompt, it won't modify the drive -- so you can at least try it.

I agree it's a good idea to disconnect unnecessary drives while you get the OS configurations set up.   Boot-It won't create EMBR's on "newly added" drives after its set up unless you do something in Partition Work or the boot editor that requires an EMBR on the drive (e.g. add a 5th primary partition; remove a partition's entry from the MBR; etc.).

The basic process to set up Boot-It is very simple:  Just install it; then create boot entries for your current OS's (it will do this automatically for those it finds).   On those entries, you can set the MBR to "see" only those partitions you want that boot entry to see.  For example, here's a boot edit menu for one of my spare systems.   There are actually 16 primary partitions on HD-0 in this system ... but the "XP Pro - Current System" entry only "sees" one of those.   The 2nd hard drive has 4 partitions; but "XP Pro - Current System" just sees one of those as well.   The 3rd hard drive has 2 partitions -- and I let every OS see both of them.   You can select how the MBR will look for each boot item by simply using the Fill & Clear buttons on this screen [The Hide button will make a partition "hidden" in the classic sense -- it will still be in the MBR (you use this if you have set the "Limit Primaries" option, which greatly reduces the power of Boot-It but will leave a standard MBR on the drives at all times).

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Expert Comment

ID: 24170811
... Note that your current setup is complicated a bit by the modifications Vista made and the boot editor it installed.   I'd be sure to have backups (clearly you do); but I believe you could resolve that by setting up a boot entry for the Vista partition in Boot-It that saw ONLY the Vista partition; then, when it fails to boot (as it will), do the following:   [Note: It is IMPORTANT that the LAST thing you did before doing the following was boot to Boot-It's boot menu; select Vista; and attempt the boot -- this will ensure the current MBR is set up for Vista.]

=>  Boot to the Vista DVD and select "Repair your computer" (you may have to choose your language first).

=>  If the Vista installer recognizes the issue, it may prompt you to "Repair and restart" -- if so, just do that and Vista may boot okay.   If not ...

   ==>  Select "Repair your computer"
   ==>  Click on Command Prompt
   ==>  Run the following command:   BootRec /fixboot

Now reboot the system and it should boot to Vista.   Note that it MAY have wiped out the boot record for Boot-It (this is fairly common with many OS's) ==> if the system boots directly to Vista without the Boot-It boot screen, just reboot to the Boot-It CD and select "ReActivate Boot-It".   Then it'll boot fine to both of your OS's ... and you can then (carefully) start using its features to select which OS "sees" which partitions, etc.

Author Comment

ID: 24176544
Answerign 'No' to the "Do you with to delete the EMBR?" question leads to more questions about installing BootIt. Since I don't want to install it until I've verified that the drives are visitble RAID volumes rather than as individual drives, I've created a 2nd BootIt CD with Partition Work installed for stand along ues.
Booting on this CD puts me directly into Partition Work, where I can see that the drives appear correctly - I see one drive for each mirrored RAID pair, and see the individual volumes I've created.
I have the drive configured with 3 70GB primary boot partitions and one extended partition which holds my D and E working drives.
One of the boot partitioins holds Vista 64, which I installed from CD (the Vista install problem I had earlier turned out to the with the Intel RAID F6 drivers - I grabbed the latest version and all went well).
The other boot partition holds XP Pro 32, which I restored from ShadowProtect. I also restored my D drive contents (compilers, Office, utilities, etc) using ShadowProtect.
Booting the system takes me directly to Vista 64 since I installed it before there were any other OS's installed - it had no knowledge of the XP boot volume. I can't boot into XP because there is no multi-boot manaer on the system.  
All 4 partitions are used on the drive, and I really have no use for more than 3 OS's so 4 partitions work fine for me.
How should I preoceed to get the system dual-booting with BootIt?

Author Comment

ID: 24176558
Forgot to ask - is there a way to set up BootIt so it automatically boots into my preferred OS after X seconds? I don't receall seeing an option to do that.
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Expert Comment

ID: 24176745
Yes, Boot-It has a timeout value (on the settings page), which will automatically boot to the last-selected OS.

Deleting the EMBR will not have any impact on the currently visible partitions on that drive -- so if they are correct it's okay to answer Yes to that question.   It won't change the MBR -- just get rid of the EMBR that Boot-It uses to do its "magic" with the partition structures.   (If needed, it will create another one after it's installed if you try to do something that requires an EMBR)

At this point I'd install Boot-It and see what it shows for the default boot choices -- and test each of those to see which work.   Don't do ANYTHING else -- just install it;  boot; select the 1st OS it lists; see if it boots;  reboot;  select the next OS; etc.

... by the way, does this system have a floppy drive?  (Easy to get screen shots of the Boot-It menus if so)

Author Comment

ID: 24198487
Sorry to take so long to reply. I was taking a break from the dual-boot issue and installing Vista 64, when my system blue-screened.
I down-powered the system, and when I rebooted I got a 'kernel panic' from my Adaptec RAID controller. On the advice of Adaptec tech support, I updated the firmware in my Seagate 1TB drives to the latest version, and this seems to have fixed the problem.
Of course the Adaptec controller had to rebuild my RAID arrays. Then on rebooting, XP decided it needed to run checkdisk, which reported errors. I've since recreated both RAID arrayss and am in the midst of the long process of restoring the backup drive images from my USB backup, then restoring my working drive partiions from that image.
Anyway, I wonder if the problem I had with Boot-It was somhow related to my then-pending drive problem...we'll probably never know.
Once I get everything restored and stabilized, I'm going to pick up where I left off re: dual-booting.
Oh, and yes, I've got a floppy, but it's USB - don't know if that makes a difference. My motherboard has no floppy controller and no mouse/keyboard ports, an idea a bot ahead of its time IMHO.

Author Comment

ID: 24257305
So, I've got everything running, and am ready to try Boot-It again.
I have 3 primary partitions: XP, Vista 64 & Windows Server 2008 x64. I have one extended partition.
When I try to install Boot-It, it can't find a place to install itself; I've tried telling it to share a partition, but it can't find one it likes. Can't I install it to the same place that the Windows boot manager installs itself? I don't need more that 4 partitions - I just want to be able to select between XP, Vista 64 & Windows Server at boot time (and of course hide the boot volumes from each other).

Author Comment

ID: 24262214
To follow up, when I try to install Boot-It, the EMBR button says 'Undo' rather than 'Create'. If I undo the EMBR, the button is still enabled when I restart the Boot-It installer. The Boot-It partition manager shows only my 'normal' partitions: XP, Vista, WinServer & the extended partition - it does not list EMBR.
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Expert Comment

ID: 24288613
A couple of thoughts ...

First, simply resize one of the partitions a bit smaller so Boot-It can install itself in its own partition.

How tricky this may be depends on how the current boot manager works.   Personally, I'd have installed Boot-It FIRST (with just one OS on the drive); and then installed the other OS's to their own partitions managed by Boot-It.   This way you wouldn't have any Windows boot managers interfering with the "magic" of Boot-It, which may be the case now.

As for the EMBR issue ("Undo" vs. "Create") ... this may be some residual structure left from your previous attempts -- I'm simply not sure.

I'd (a) resize one partition ~ 8MB smaller (just enough for Boot-It);  install Boot-It to its own partition; and see what it shows for bootable OS's at that point => and test them (they may very well not work due to the current boot manager).   You MAY be able to resolve this by setting each Boot-It boot item to only see its own partition; then attempting to boot to each OS ... and for any that don't work use a Repair Install/FixMBR with the OS CD.   After you do that, you'll probably have to boot to Boot-It's CD and "re-activate Boot-It".   Boot-It is VERY powerful ... but I've always used it from "scratch" on my systems ... so haven't got any experience "undoing" the links another boot manager creates (as you're trying to do).

The "clean" way to do this would be to uninstall Vista (since this is your latest addition and probably easy to reinstall from scratch) so your system simply boots to XP;  THEN install Boot-It;  set up your partitions the way you want [e.g. 3 or 4 OS partitions - all primary partitions -- and a data partition (I'd also make this primary)]; and THEN install Vista x64 to its own boot item (which you set to not see any of the other partitions).   Then it will install as the "only" OS on the system with no bootloader issues (since it won't "know" about the other OS).   You can repeat this as many times as you want to add other OS's => I just added Windows 7 and Windows 7 x64 to my main system -- so my boot menu now has twelve OS's available !!  [I removed "XP for Browsing" and added the two Windows 7 options]

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