Conflicting information and experiences regarding dual-booting Windows XP and 7
November 25, 2009 2:25 PM   Subscribe

How can I install Windows 7 on a machine that already has XP installed? There seems to be some conflciting information and experiences out there on the web.

Assume I know all about partitioning, re-sizing, etc., etc.
A previous question on this exact topic back in January got referred to these Lifehacker instructions. BUT, if you read the Lifehacker comments on these instruction, there seem to be a fair number of problems.
One common suggestion is to use the boot manager EasyBCD (I'm assuming Vista/Windows 7 makes no matter). Would I use this program only to fix a problem, or before I installed Windows 7? Or is Windows 7 a system requirement for EasyBCD?
I've looked at this page from Seven Forums and this one from NeoSmart (the makers of EasyBCD).
By far, the vast majority of answers still seem to point to the Lifehacker instructions, and the Lifehacker people don't seem to have retracted them. Are the small number of problems posted just inevitable?

Subsidiary or alternative question: Could I just install Windows 7 on a USB external drive (assume my BIOS supports booting from that drive). What would happen when I turned the computer on? Just choose which drive I wanted to boot from and proceed?
posted by feelinggood to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Assuming the Windows 7 rc/beta installation functions more or less the same way the actual store version functions, APC guides are usually spot on.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:29 PM on November 25, 2009

I'm on a computer (netbook ackshully) that is triple-booting ubuntu, xp and windows 7. From what I recall, I used the ubuntu live cd (usb stick for this comp) to partition the drive. When it was time to install 7 (also from a usb stick) I just chose one of the partitions I had already made. Worked fine right off the bat. I did have some problems later when I tried to move around the partitions and accidentally deleted the boot sector. That required trying out about four different boot manager/fixers until one was able to restore the ubuntu boot manager thingy.
posted by runcibleshaw at 3:13 PM on November 25, 2009

my home system dual boots xp and windows 7, since windows 7 does not do an upgrade from Xp you just have to make a clean partition install to said partition and off you go, you can then use the windows files and settings wizard to move your files and settings over to your brand new windows 7 partition, Providing you have the HD space to do so.
posted by kanemano at 4:32 PM on November 25, 2009

The lifehacker instructions are pretty much how I would do it, and I've set up such a system many times. It's actually really easy to do - I walked my son through doing it when he was 12. :-)

There are some gotcha's, so make sure your data is backed up. This is a good rule in general, and ***HIGHLY*** recommended any time you do anything with the partition or boot record on a drive.

After backing up, partition the drive (I prefer physically seperate drives, but it makes little difference) and start the install. The main problem is knowing that the install partition is actually the partition you think it is - setting the volume labels to something descriptive will make this easier.

Windows is very good about recognizing other windows partitions and will install it's own (rudimentary, but workable) boot loader. You shouldn't need any other tools. They can be handy, but are not necessary.

You could in theory install windows to an external drive (provided the BIOS could boot from it, and so on) - windows will just modify the MBR of the primary boot drive to use the bootloader and menu, the same as if it was any other installed hard disk. (I say in theory, because some MBs handle booting from external drives differently than others, and this might work better or worse depending on that hardware.)

Hope this helps, and good luck.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:33 PM on November 25, 2009

My hard drive died in between pre-ordering the upgrade an it's eventual delivery, so I had to do the crazy install routine to get it to work. Here it is, condensed for the PC savvy:

  wipe old drive, create mbr and create a whole-disk NTFS partition
  install from DVD
    Custom installation
    don't give product key
    unclick activation thing
  Apply all windows updates
    set MediaBootInstall to 0
    close regedit
  elevated cmd session
    slmgr /rearm
    wait for dialog box
  close everything and reboot
  search start for activate and execute
    product key is on paper inside of the DVD box

Note that the early stuff forces Windows to install without creating the hidden 100 MB utilities partition. That's all on the DVD anyway.
posted by NortonDC at 9:11 PM on November 25, 2009

I installed an upgrade version of Windows 7 on a wiped hdd following the instructions from My Digital Life.
The first method worked fine for me.
Just backup your XP profile/files beforehand.
posted by Duke999R at 2:12 AM on November 26, 2009

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