James Bannan14 January 2009, 10:00 AM
Page 5 - Step 4 - Managing the Bootloader
Got your hands on the Windows 7 beta and want to dual boot it alongside Windows XP? Here's our step-by-step tutorial to get you up and running with Microsoft's latest OS.
Once Windows 7 is installed and the system reboots, you’ll be presented with a boot menu with two options: “Windows 7” and "Earlier Version of Windows”, which is Windows XP.
At this stage, the dualbooting is working perfectly, but if you want to make any changes to the bootloader then you'll start to encounter some differences between the way in which Vista and Windows 7 handle operating systems on different partitions. If you boot into windows 7 and open Windows Explorer, you'll see that there's only one disk partition - the Windows XP partition isn't there. This has the advantage that changes made to the Windows 7 OS have almost no chance of modifying Windows XP, but it does make things tricker if you want to change anything in the bootloader as we will see.
In previous dualbooting tutorials we make use of a utility called EasyBCD by NeoSmart Technologies, which is a very useful frontend GUI for BCDEDIT - the application which lets you view and modify the bootloader in Windows Vista. It also works fine for modifying the Windows 7 bootloader.
Once Windows 7 is installed, call up the browser and navigate to the EasyBCD download page - download the latest version (1.7.2 at the time of writing), install and launch the application.
On the "View Settings" window you can see the entries already present in the bootloader. The main difference between the two entries is the drive which they are loaded from. Windows 7 is loaded from C:, whereas Windows XP is loaded from \Device\Harddisk\Volume1. Now go into "Change Settings". Under "Entry-B ased Settings" you get the option to modify the "Earlier version of Windows" entry, but in the "Drive" drop-down menu you only have the option of C:\ or Boot. Neither of these correspond to where Windows XP is installed, so if you make any changes and click "Save Settings" you'll break the bootloader entry for Windows XP and it won't boot.
There are a few options to get around this. Firstly, leave the boot entry alone - it works fine with the default settings.
Secondly, if you really do feel the need to change the entries, you can assign a drive letter to the Windows XP partition via Windows 7 Disk Management. Right-click on Computer and select "Manage", then click on "Disk Management" in the left-hand window.
On the primary drive there will be two partitions - one defined as C:\ and the other without a drive letter. Right-click on the other partition (this is where Windows XP is installed) and select "Change drive letter or path". Choose a drive letter from the drop-down list and click OK. You'll now have a drive visible within Windows Explorer.
Go back into EasyBCD and into the "Change Settings" window. Change the "Earlier version of Windows" entry to something else, make sure that you select the correct drive letter in the "Drive" drop-down list and click "Save Settings". Reboot the machine and the boot menu will reflect the changes you've made.
The third option is to use BCDEDIT to change the "Earlier version of Windows" entry so that you don't have to assign a drive letter and can keep the original bootloader entry.
To do this, launch a Command Window with elevated access - go to Start, All Programs, Accessories, right-click on Command Prompt and select "Run as administrator". Accept the UAC prompt.
Type in BCDEDIT and press Enter. This will display a list of the currently-configured bootloader. You'll see that "Earlier Version of Windows" is handled by the Legacy OS Loader, which has an identifier of [ntldr]. To change the description (which is what you see in the boot menu), type in the following command:
bcdedit /set [ntldr] Description "Windows XP"
Press Enter and the changes are committed. Obviously the description can be anything, but you have to include the quotation marks. Type in BCDEDIT again to make sure that the changes have taken hold, and then reboot. The boot menu will be updated with the modified entry.
If you decide that dual-booting Windows 7 and XP is not for you, then it's fairly easy to wind back the clock using EasyBCD.
All you have to do is remove the Windows 7 boot manager – in EasyBCD go to “Manage Bootloader”, select “Uninstall the Vista Bootloader” and then “Write MBR”. At the moment EasyBCD isn't aware of a distinction between Vista and Windows 7, but using this option still works fine.
Restart the machine and that’s it – the XP boot loader is the only one left on the system and XP loads. You can then delete the Windows 7 partition and use GPartEd to re-extend the partition to take up the entire disk, or the EXTEND command in Vista DISKPART.