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One Computer Using 2 Different Operating Systems On 2 Different Drives

How does one setup one (1) PC computer to use two (2) different operating systems on two (2) different hard drives?

Each of the two hard drives are connected to the motherboard via a typical SATA connection. In this specific case, partitioning a hard drive (i.e., 1 drive with 2 operating systems) is not desired.

The goal is to be able to boot from either of the two operating systems (i.e. either of the 2 drives) without mechanical switches.
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  1. You have one hard drive plugged in, and you install an OS to it, running all updates.

    Then you unplug that hard drive and plug in the other one, and install an OS to it, running all updates.

    Then plug them both in, and go into the BIOS. There will be an option to select boot disk order - put the one you use primarily as your first, then whenever you want to switch, reboot, go into the BIOS, and flip 'em.
  2. Which two OSes do you want to install?

    You have to install one on one hard disk and the other on the second. You can select where to install during the installation.

    UPDATE: When you install two OSes, they will come up in the boot manager and you can select which one you want to boot into.
  3. Regarding "Which two OSes do you want to install?"

    The computer already has Windows XP Pro being used on one drive. Windows 7 Pro will be installed on the new hard drive - the new drive has not yet been installed. The full retail version of Windows 7 Pro has been purchased but the box has not yet been opened.
  4. It will depend on what OS you want to install. That is because OS other that Windows will create a new bootloader that allows you to select the OS to run. Typically you always install Windows first and then the other OS, typically Linux.

    If you don't want to have to mess up with bootloader there is a more generic way:
    1- Turn off computer, plug in drive 1 only. Install OS1. After completion turn off computer and unplug drive 1.
    2. Plug in drive 2 only. Install OS2. After completion turn off computer and plug drive 1 back in.
    3. Turn computer on, press whatever Function Key (Fn) that your motherboard uses to manually select which drive you want to boot from. For example, for my motherboard BIOS is F11.
  5. So run the Win7 install and choose to install it on the second drive when you put it in the machine. If all goes to plan, when you reboot your computer, in the Boot Manager you should see two options to boot into. One XP and one 7.
  6. The Stealthinator said:
    Which two OSes do you want to install?

    You have to install one on one hard disk and the other on the second. You can select where to install during the installation.

    UPDATE: When you install two OSes, they will come up in the boot manager and you can select which one you want to boot into.

    VERY helpful. Thanks so much! I joined Tom's just so I could vote UP your answer. (I have used this site for years but never joined, it is about time!) I have a dead MOBO on my Vista (Yikes!!) computer and I don't want to replace the MOBO, it's a 2009 computer. However, I don't want to reinstall all the programs on another HDD let alone another OS. I'm going to purchase a Windows 7 Refurb (love W7!) and want to access both Operating Systems/sets of programs.

    UPDATE: This isn't going to work for me from what some geek friends have told me -- the HDD is forever linked to the MOBO and I don't want to reformat and start from scratch. Great info though!
  7. The Stealthinator said:
    So run the Win7 install and choose to install it on the second drive when you put it in the machine. If all goes to plan, when you reboot your computer, in the Boot Manager you should see two options to boot into. One XP and one 7.


    I have two 500GB SSD drives both with 8.1Pro x64 on them running on an older stock Asus Rampage Extreme III mobo. When i go to BIOS to set the priority it always boots the LAST SSD's system that i used and shut down with. Even when i put one of the SSDs last in the list in the BIOS Boot priority order!? I've restarted a dozen times with different BIOS orders and it'll always boot to the same HD which is always the last one i used (i've tried it with both and i know the difference because the games I installed on them are different). they are slightly different SSDs ones an Evo840 and the other is an Evo850 Pro so i can tell them apart in the BIOS as well. The only thing that does work is unplugging one SATA cable from one of the SSDs when the computer is off, then restarting. This completes the startup to that SSD system and then it behaves as it should (minus the SSD i want it to load up as an external drive). BUT i don't want to keep opening up my tower and unplugging and plugging stuff all the time. Usually after system start up is complete to the Desktop, i'll add in the missing SSD with the 'Computer Management' system tool and then "refreshing" the list of drives to that i can have access to all the media items i have on each.

    Anyone tried to do this with "hot swap" dual hard drive systems and had similar problems? (I'd also love it to boot to BIOS Setup automatically without me holding DEL key for an ASUS board. I've missed it too many times and had to wait for wrong system to start up too many times) is there a way to do that?
    Ideally Is there something i could setup so that the BIOS would ask me every time i start up which System i want to Boot to with both systems HD's plugged in at the same time no matter what the order? Kinda like Windows does when theres a problem and it asks you if you want to do Safe mode or install Windows normally...
    Sounds like a custom BIOS update? Why do i feel like i'm asking a lot?

    why: If your curious i've filled up one SSDs to the max and i can't install some games without putting them on the "C:" drive through Steam, UPlay or Origin. so i needed another C drive that i can switch between. I've already thought about getting a larger SSD; thank you but no thank you right now $$.

    Thanks
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  8. The Stealthinator said:

    UPDATE: When you install two OSes, they will come up in the boot manager and you can select which one you want to boot into.


    That is just it the Boot Manager does not allow me to select (either or) which i want to boot into. It doesn't know what drives have systems on them before if goes through the order you set up? (or so i thought)
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