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Setting up a machine to dual boot two installations of XP Pro

>I am setting up a laptop to dual boot seperate installations of XP Pro.
I> have installed XP Pro to the first partition, which half of the total hard drive space
>I am installing all the basic, common stuff to this windows installation, java, adobe, adobe reader, shockwave and all windows updates.

My plan is to then make an image of this partition with acronis and then restore it back to the unformatted partition, giving me two installations of XP Pro, saving me the trouble of doing all the updates, and other comnon software installations.

There are a couple of things I'm not sure of:
1. How to get a menu, asking which installation to boot to?
is it a simple matter of editing the boot.ini on the c drive?
2.Do I need to get the MBR and another boot.ini to the second logical drive?
3. Will duplicating the initial installation of the first partition to the second partition allow  Windows to work properly on the second partition?

One thing I've considered to take care of #1 above is to start an istallation of Windows just to let it take care of the dual boot menu thing. Then just taking my image and overwriting that partition with a copy of the first partition.
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Most Valuable Expert 2013
Top Expert 2009
First, forget about doing this with Acronis. Yes, it will work, but the total isolation between OS's that is provided by Boot-It NG is worth the modest cost -- so I'd buy a copy of Boot-It and install it on the laptop. http://www.terabyteunlimited.com/bootit-next-generation.htm

With your current XP install (using ~ 1/2 the disk space) and the rest of the disk unallocated, do the following ...

(a) Make a bootable CD for Boot-It with the included MakeDisk utility; then boot to the CD and let it install on the hard drive. You DO want to allow more than 4 partitions (this enables Boot-It's EMBR structure ... which is what lets it do its real "magic" that allows total isolation of the OSs).

(b) Remove the CD and boot -- selecting Maintenance mode and then Partition Work. Look at the size of your current XP partition vs. the amount of unallocated space. If necessary, resize the XP partition so it's smaller than the free space (just highlight it and click on ReSize to do this).

(c) Attach an external drive to the system; go to Boot-It's Settings menu and click on USB 2.0 support; then click on Partition Work; highlight the current OS partition; click on Image - Create Image; now select the external drive (Note the HD0, HD1, etc. choices); and click on Paste. Give the image a name (old DOS 8-letter, no space, restriction) and wait for it to finish.

(d) Now click on Partition Work; select the external drive; click on Image - Restore Image; select the image you just created; then select the internal drive (HD0); highlight the unallocated space; and click on Paste.

(e) When that's done, all you have to do is create a Boot Item for the 2nd copy.

Note that both copies will be on "C:" (not the same partition -- but each will "think" it's on the first partition thanks to the magic of the EMBR); and they will be totally isolated from each other. Works perfectly. If there's enough space on the drive, I'd make the two OS partitions somewhat smaller and keep a 3rd partition for your data, and expose it to BOTH of the OS's (your choose this in the Boot Edit screen where you fill in the MBR that the OS "sees".   That way your data can be available no matter which OS your boot to.

As an example of the power of Boot-It, here's my current main system's boot menu. I also have an older system with 17 boot choices ... DOS, '95, '98 original, '98 2nd edition; ME; NT; 2000, several versions of XP; etc. Note that EVERY OS boots to "C:", they ALL have access to a common data partition; and they're all on the SAME hard drive (1 1TB Caviar Black) ...



that is an excellent recommendation and thanks for the post. I know the client isn't up for spending the money on this software so I think I'm still going to do it the old fashioned way.

I am however, going to purchase this software for myself, since I am going to redo my personal machine and this looks like the perfect solution for some issues I've been trying to resolve, especially the seperate partition for data.

Thanks for the post.
Gary CaseRetired
Most Valuable Expert 2013
Top Expert 2009

It's a bit "geeky" ... but it's a rock-solid partition manager, boot manger, image and restore utility.   I've used virtually all of them (Ghost, Acronis, etc.) and now ONLY use Boot-It (or the imaging-only "Image for DOS" on systems that have USB v1 ports, which Boot-It doesn't support) for virtually all partition restructuring, boot management, image and restore functions.     A very well spent $35.

ALL of the OS's in my boot menu "see" the same set of data;  and I've got my e-mail client set to keep its data on that partition;  so no matter which OS I boot to I can do my e-mail; access any of my data; etc.
I don't see why you can't do it the way you described - with a number of tools that include Acronis.
But, I must say I've never done it that way.
It won't take long to find out!

Yes, edit boot.ini for this.

No, not another boot.ini.
On the computer I'm writing this on there is:
C:\ which is a partition for MSDOS.
E:\ which is the "main" XP partition.
G:\ which iss a "mini-XP" partition.
all of them are bootable and listed in boot.ini which resides at C:\

I have another dual boot system which is Vista and Win7.  In that one, the dual boot is controlled in the BCD file which resides in  the second-installed Win7 which comes up as C: and Vista is on D: - each are on separate hard drives.  These were regular installs - so not quite the same thing as your approach.

Gary CaseRetired
Most Valuable Expert 2013
Top Expert 2009

It's very simple to set up a dual boot using BOOT.INI -- but with a typical dual boot the two OS's are on different drive letters;  and they can "see" each other ... so it's possible for one instance to cause errors in the other.    I like the total isolation that the approach I detailed above provides ... I've used it for years and wouldn't think of doing it any other way for a multiple boot system.    Of course I tend to set up far more than just two OS's on my systems.
I recently completed this process on my Dell Latitude C840 laptop two months ago.  

The process I followed was:
1) Create an image of your original partition which I assume that you want to preserve.  To do this I used Partition Magic 8 (Symantec bought the Power Quest product) to create a "work" partition separate from the boot system.  I moved "My Documents" files and changed the properties to point to the correct folder on the WORK partition.  I did this for all user accounts on the C drive.  I also created a 2GB "swap" partition and set a fixed size paging file to that drive (I used drive letter S:).  This kept the image file and boot partitions a bit smaller.

2) I used the MagicJellyBean keyfinder to look up and verify my XP and MS Office license codes.

3) I used both CCleaner and EasyCleaner 2.0 to cleanup files on the drive; I then used both Diskeeper Lite and Piriform's defraggler to defragment the system.

4) I used the floppy boot version of Norton Ghost to make a compressed image of my original partition (copy partition to image, high compression).  I saved this image to the WORK partition.

5)  I used Partition Magic again to resize the WORK and primary boot partitions to create a second bootable partition.  I chose 10GB partition sizes.  I made it the same size as my original partition as a contingency plan so that I had the option of restoring the original image to either partition..  After the partition was created I again used Partition Magic to set that partition to be the "active" partition and hid my original boot partition.

6) I booted from my XP install CD and installed XP to the now only visible boot partition.

7) Once the install was complete I used Norton Ghost again to take a "snapshot" of the new installation drive.  I also used Partition Magic to unhide both boot partitions.  XP magically recognized both boot partitions and created entries in my boot.ini file.  I needed to edit them to make them have different descriptions.

8) I changed the desktop wallpaper so that I could easily distinguish between the two different XP installs.

Your questions:
1. How to get a menu, asking which installation to boot to?  Is it a simple matter of editing the boot.ini on the c drive?  Yes, As mentioned you can customize what the menu says by editing the text in boot.ini.  XP created the multiple entries automatically (I don't know how it knew, but it did!).

2.Do I need to get the MBR and another boot.ini to the second logical drive?  XP took care of this automatically for me.- I took no special precautions, but refer to the earlier comments.

3. Will duplicating the initial installation of the first partition to the second partition allow  Windows to work properly on the second partition?

What do you mean "duplicating"?  Do you mean to take the image of  your original boot partition and install it in the second boot partition?  If you do this make absolutely sure that the partitions are the same size, especially if you use Norton Ghost; Ghost expects to restore the image to a partition of the original size.  (That's implied in the term "image").

After installing software on the new XP installation, I made periodic Norton Ghost "snapshots" of the installations.  I did end up using several of these snapshots to completely back out of some bogus installs that seemed to degrade performance.  So to answer your question, I had no trouble restoring partition images of my second XP installation - the boot selection found the installation and booted with no difficulties.


Ok, I had previously installed xpPro to the first partition. I did all the updates. I then did an install of xp Pro on the second partition and it's dual booting
I then did an acronis image of the entire drive so I could go back if necessary.
Now I'm ready to copy the partition of the first installation, with all the drivers and updates to the second partition. I'm unsure of a couple of the options. I've included a jpg of that screen in acronis, but basically it gives me the impression that I need to make the second partition active to boot, when currently it is an logical partition. It also says it will make registry changes necessary.
I'm wondering if i should restore it as a primary partition, or as an logical partition.


Oop, forgot the attachment
If it's currently a logical partition and is doing what you want, then leave that setting alone.


ok, i tried it both ways, primary and logical.
With it being primary, it booted, but when I right-clicked start and went into explore, the drive it was pulling the profiles files from was  the c drive, when it should have been under docs and settings on the E drive.
When I cloned it as active the system wouldn't boot.
I have since cloned it back to where I was with one os, then manually loaded the second os and everything is fine.
Interesting side effects!  Thanks for posting an update!


I think I'll try it again as a primary just to verify that the profile it put me in was the wrong one. I've finished the machine but I still have it because the owner wants me to move everything to a larger drive. After I do that I will play with the image to verify. It's possible I booted to the wrong profile. After that I'll post the results and then split the point between you lfbilancia and garycase. I can't wait to setup my machine with Boot-it Gary.


Ok, I took the image I made of the windows installation i put on the first partition (c drive) and put it on the second partition (e drive) I was able to boot, but when booting tothe windows installation on the e drive, then right clicking, select explore, I was put into the user profile on the c drive.. This didn't happen when I did a fresh install to both partitions. Anyway, thanks for the help guys.
Epilog - the registry (and other places too) still point to the C: drive for the path to certain programs.   You can use Start | Setup | Computer management | disk management to change the drive letters on the partitions.   Also, if you use Partition Magic to change drive letters, it will prompt you to let it search for references to drive letters and change them.  Either route travel with caution!

I'll bet this whole endeavor was a learning experience for you!  Pass the lessons along to others!

Gary CaseRetired
Most Valuable Expert 2013
Top Expert 2009

The beauty of using Boot-It is the complete isolation between the different OS boots  ==> there is NO interplay between the OS's;  they all think they've on "C:"  (and they are -- it's just a different "C:" than the others use);  and you can have as many OS's as you have disk space to put them.


I like the boot-it idea. I have purchased a 2TB drive and am going to set my existing pc up so that it boots xp, 7 and vista