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Windows 7 on one Internal Drive and Windows Xp on 2nd internal drive

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January 19, 2011 1:47:13 PM

Windows 7 on one Internal Hard drive and Windows XP on a 2nd hard drive; is that possible ?
I couldn't find answer on web. I know one can partition a hard drive for 2 different O.S's but that is not what I'm looking for.

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a b $ Windows 7
a c 289 G Storage
January 19, 2011 4:22:09 PM

Yes, it's entirely possible. Please be aware that the system will always start the boot process from the SAME drive, then pick one of the two on which you have an OS installed. There is a way around this, if you want the two drives to be independent.

The consensus on installing multiple instances of Microsoft OSes is to install the older OS first. In your case, assuming that your drives are empty in the first place:

1. Install XP on one drive. The Master Boot Record will reside on that drive; when the system starts the second thing it will run (after the BIOS) is whatever that MBR points to.

2. Once XP is booting happily, if you want the drives to be independent, so that Win7 can boot even if you have removed the XP drive, power down and disconnect the XP drive from the motherboard. Trust me on this.

3. Put the Win7 DVD in the DVD caddy and boot your machine. Watch the BIOS for the Press Any Key To Boot From DVD message.

4. Install Win7. Please note that, if you have not disconnected the XP drive in step 2 above, the Win7 drive will not get an MBR and a boot loader, so you will boot through the XP disk. If you did disconnect it, the Win7 drive will also get an MBR and a boot loader.

5. Now you have both OSes ready. If you did the cable-disconnect trick, you have to pick which OS to boot at the BIOS level; which drive to boot off. If you did not, Windows 7 should present you with a lovely choice of Windows 7 or Older OS.

Note that there is a way to make both drives bootable and have the Win7 boot present the choice of the older OS. Look for EasyBCD, which will make the BCD editing process, well, easy.
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January 19, 2011 7:56:09 PM

WyomingKnott said:
Yes, it's entirely possible. Please be aware that the system will always start the boot process from the SAME drive, then pick one of the two on which you have an OS installed. There is a way around this, if you want the two drives to be independent.

The consensus on installing multiple instances of Microsoft OSes is to install the older OS first. In your case, assuming that your drives are empty in the first place:

1. Install XP on one drive. The Master Boot Record will reside on that drive; when the system starts the second thing it will run (after the BIOS) is whatever that MBR points to.

2. Once XP is booting happily, if you want the drives to be independent, so that Win7 can boot even if you have removed the XP drive, power down and disconnect the XP drive from the motherboard. Trust me on this.

3. Put the Win7 DVD in the DVD caddy and boot your machine. Watch the BIOS for the Press Any Key To Boot From DVD message.

4. Install Win7. Please note that, if you have not disconnected the XP drive in step 2 above, the Win7 drive will not get an MBR and a boot loader, so you will boot through the XP disk. If you did disconnect it, the Win7 drive will also get an MBR and a boot loader.

5. Now you have both OSes ready. If you did the cable-disconnect trick, you have to pick which OS to boot at the BIOS level; which drive to boot off. If you did not, Windows 7 should present you with a lovely choice of Windows 7 or Older OS.

Note that there is a way to make both drives bootable and have the Win7 boot present the choice of the older OS. Look for EasyBCD, which will make the BCD editing process, well, easy.


WOW. thank you so much for the detailed instruction. I need clarification of your #5 step:
If you did the cable-disconnect trick, you have to pick which OS to boot at the BIOS level;
Please help me understand the following:... "which drive to boot off. If you did not, Windows 7 should present you with a lovely choice of Windows 7 or Older OS. "
Also, do I hit F2 to get to BIOS and then get to choose the O.S. ?
Sorry to take more of your time.

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a b $ Windows 7
a c 289 G Storage
January 19, 2011 8:02:52 PM

It's OK. The difference between doing the cable trick and not doing it is:
If you did it, the system can start the boot from either disk. You select which OS to boot by selecting which DISK the BIOS will choose as the somewhat confusingly named system disk (in WindowsLand, the BIOS boots from the system disk and loads the system from the boot disk). The BIOS loads the Master Boot program from the selected disk, which then loads the OS on the selected disk.

If you did not do the cable trick, then the BOIS will always start using the MBR on the XP disk, which will in turn bring up the Windows 7 boot menu which will give you a choice of which OS to start. In this scenario, you choose which OS will be started after the BIOS has completed its work and handed off the booting to the System partition.

I hope that that is clearer.

Edit: If it's still not clear, just leave the cable connected when installing Windows 7 and admire the ease with which it offers you the choice of which OS to run. Just don't expect to remove either disk later and have the other boot by itself.
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January 28, 2011 11:03:31 PM

Best answer selected by rustaub.
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