Vista/XP dual boot off seperate hard drives

I'm getting ready to take the Vista plunge but I'd still like to keep XP around as a safety net. Seeing how hard drives are dirt cheap these days I figured it would be best to install Vista on a new HDD as opposed to formating my old one. Is it possible to set up a dual boot off two separate hard drives so I can just select the one I want on startup? What BIOS settings do I need to use? My XP system is installed on the PATA drive from my old computer, I'd like to install Vista on a SATA drive, any complications there?

Thanks for any help.

PS: Any suggestions for my new HDD, I'm looking at around the 250gb range.
14 answers Last reply
More about vista dual boot seperate hard drives
  1. Since you are planning on mixing PATA and SATA, it gets complicated. The simplest in concept is to just physically disconnect whichever drive you aren't using. That means opening the case and pulling off a power line from one and connecting the power to the other. Its a time consuming pain, but it works.

    I heard of a toggle switch that essentially does the same thing. I have never had occasion to use one so can't say how well such would work. Essentially, its just a double throw switch that disconnects one drive which connecting the other. That's done, of course, while the computer is off.

    I don't know for sure if this could be done in the BIOS, but if it could, you would have to enter the BIOS each time you started the computer and specify which was the boot drive. I suppose this depends a bit on the BIOS of your particular motherboard. It would still be time consuming at best.

    Someone else may have a better idea about how to accomplish what you want, but this is what I can think of at the moment.
  2. Why does it always have to be complicated...?

    Would things be easier if I went with a second PATA drive as the slave on the same bus cable? I'd prefer SATA, but sacrifices can be made. What's the real world speed difference between SATA and PATA anyway? I could always partition the drive I've already got, but I'd like a little redundancy.
  3. SATA is faster than PATA (also known as IDE), and with newer technology coming into play, SATA 300 will eventually be faster than SATA 150. Using a second PATA drive would only complicate things, as the drives have to be manually set as Master and Slave drives, which then would require swithing jumpers on both drives every time you wanted to switch the OS, or go back to pulling power from one drive and disconnecting it from the other.

    Using Partition Magic would probably be easiest if your present drive is large enough. I've done this in the past when I wanted to use two operating systems. You can set it so that on startup, it asks you which OS/partition you want to use and then it goes to the indicated partition and loads the OS on that partition. It takes a bit of time setting it up the first time, but after that its relatively painless.

    As far as redundancy goes, you can either remember to backup all important data to CDs (you should be doing that anyway), or you can buy a second hard disc and ghost the complete partition/OS to that hard drive. Of course, this would really mean buying two hard drives as you would ghost each partition separately. Of course, that gets complicated too.
  4. Quote:
    Since you are planning on mixing PATA and SATA, it gets complicated. The simplest in concept is to just physically disconnect whichever drive you aren't using. That means opening the case and pulling off a power line from one and connecting the power to the other. Its a time consuming pain, but it works.

    I heard of a toggle switch that essentially does the same thing. I have never had occasion to use one so can't say how well such would work. Essentially, its just a double throw switch that disconnects one drive which connecting the other. That's done, of course, while the computer is off.

    I don't know for sure if this could be done in the BIOS, but if it could, you would have to enter the BIOS each time you started the computer and specify which was the boot drive. I suppose this depends a bit on the BIOS of your particular motherboard. It would still be time consuming at best.

    Someone else may have a better idea about how to accomplish what you want, but this is what I can think of at the moment.


    Well... I installed the Vista Beta on a SATA and had XP on a PATA with no complicaitons whatsoever, changed the boot up confguration to give me the option of choosing XP or Vista... worked without a hitch.
  5. It is working great for me.I installed Vista on my Seagate raid setup and XP stayed on my raptor raid setup.It setup the boot config like yours on it's own without me even asking.You might have a BSOD from time to time when switching OS.Let us know how it holds up.
  6. Ok, perhaps that better idea I said might be out there. How did you accomplish it? I'm always interested in learning new things
  7. Also as of now almost all motherboards have a boot setup configuration tool that let you choose from which device to boot built directly into the BIOS, often you will see "press F8 to go to boot menu"...you should try this since in the cases I've seen you can choose from any device thats connected to your computer (and when i say "Boot menu" I'm not talking about the Windows boot menu where you can choose safe mode and all)...just try it..press F8 repeatedly when your PC boots and you should see what I'm talking about..hope it helps.
  8. Just hook it up and install it to the 2nd drive. As long as both are recognized by the BIOS it shouldn't be any problem whatsoever. Vista should recognize XP being on the PATA drive and ask you where you want to install. Just tell it you want to put it on the SATA drive and it will auto configure a boot menu for you. That simple. Done it myself many times with many OS's.
  9. I've got the same configuration as well.

    Winxp installed on sata drive (have also done it with pata) which windows actually says is disk1 as opposed to disk0.

    Ran Vista install from the bootable vista dvd and installed it to what is listed as disk0.

    Vista replaces the boot.ini bootloader config with a new app, can't remember the name right now, sorry.

    After vista is done installing, when you reboot the computer you will get a pretty ugly looking screen with the options for Vista and Previous Windows Version, with Vista being the default. If you want XP to be the default you have the run the config util in Vista...quick google search will give you the command you need.
  10. I'm doing what it is that your questioning. Sailor is right, you do have to change the boot drive on startup to change drives, but its not THAT painful. I do take the power from my IDE XP drive for my SATA Vista drive prior to starting my PC, and hit the delete button (my bios, anyway) during boot to get in to the bios.. 3 or 4 mouse clicks, my selected drive is booting.

    Be careful during Vista install, if it can see any drive other than the one that you want to use, it uses that drive as well for some temporary files. And it doesn't seem too neat about it, just leaves them. Maybe that's just an RC2 thing...
  11. Thanks, good to know. I've got a few other questions that maybe you guys can help me out with. First, will I be able to just copy and paste files between drives? What I mean is, when I'm booted in to the SATA/Vista drive will the PATA/XP drive be recognized as mass storage? Also, I've heard that to install a SATA drive onto an Asus (P5LD2-VM) motherboard I need to make some kind of boot disk off the driver CD. Anyone heard anything about that?
  12. Quote:
    I'm doing what it is that your questioning. Sailor is right, you do have to change the boot drive on startup to change drives, but its not THAT painful. I do take the power from my IDE XP drive for my SATA Vista drive prior to starting my PC, and hit the delete button (my bios, anyway) during boot to get in to the bios.. 3 or 4 mouse clicks, my selected drive is booting.

    Be careful during Vista install, if it can see any drive other than the one that you want to use, it uses that drive as well for some temporary files. And it doesn't seem too neat about it, just leaves them. Maybe that's just an RC2 thing...

    The problem is my room-mate uses my PC sometimes and I'll be damned if I'm letting her near my BIOS. So are you telling me that it isn't possible to do it any other way?
  13. Quote:
    I'm doing what it is that your questioning. Sailor is right, you do have to change the boot drive on startup to change drives, but its not THAT painful. I do take the power from my IDE XP drive for my SATA Vista drive prior to starting my PC, and hit the delete button (my bios, anyway) during boot to get in to the bios.. 3 or 4 mouse clicks, my selected drive is booting.

    Be careful during Vista install, if it can see any drive other than the one that you want to use, it uses that drive as well for some temporary files. And it doesn't seem too neat about it, just leaves them. Maybe that's just an RC2 thing...

    The problem is my room-mate uses my PC sometimes and I'll be damned if I'm letting her near my BIOS. So are you telling me that it isn't possible to do it any other way?

    I have a Gigabyte Motherboard and in the BIOS you can select which drive you want to boot from. You would need to set the boot drive to the drive which Vista installs the bootloader onto in order to be able to just select which OS you want to load. The BIOS usually prefers to boot to PATA before SATA, but that just may be the case with my older mobo.

    Vista will recognize the other HDD with XP on it as a normal HDD. It will list it in My Computer with all the rest of your drives, if you leave it connected and powered up.

    Seriously guys, it's not that difficult to set this up. Simpler than Linux/XP or Mac OS X/XP.
  14. Quote:
    I'm doing what it is that your questioning. Sailor is right, you do have to change the boot drive on startup to change drives, but its not THAT painful. I do take the power from my IDE XP drive for my SATA Vista drive prior to starting my PC, and hit the delete button (my bios, anyway) during boot to get in to the bios.. 3 or 4 mouse clicks, my selected drive is booting.

    Be careful during Vista install, if it can see any drive other than the one that you want to use, it uses that drive as well for some temporary files. And it doesn't seem too neat about it, just leaves them. Maybe that's just an RC2 thing...

    The problem is my room-mate uses my PC sometimes and I'll be damned if I'm letting her near my BIOS. So are you telling me that it isn't possible to do it any other way?

    Partition Magic includes a pretty good boot manager utility. You may want to consider that. PM is an awesome tool that should be in everyone's tool kit anyway. There are some pretty good freeware boot managers out there as well. Most Linux distros include something called GRUB, which is an excellent boot manager, and should be able to run without Linux installed on your system.
Ask a new question

Read More

Hard Drives Windows Vista Windows XP Storage