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Windows XP Fails to Boot Following Windows 7 Install

written by: Lamar Stonecypher•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 4/16/2009

After installing Windows 7 on a newly created partition, you may find that the XP partition is not visible in Windows 7 or is no longer bootable. Here we'll look at both issues and provide solutions.

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    Installing Windows 7 on an existing Windows XP computer involves possibly shrinking the XP partition or creating a new partition on a different drive (Windows 7, like Vista, can be installed on a second or third drive). A rule of thumb is to install the oldest version of Windows first, as subsequent versions maintain backward compatibility.

    This backward compatibility is important because the details of the boot method changed between Windows XP and Vista. Here we will assume that you have Windows 7 in a new partition and it is bootable. The installer really should have found and included the XP partition, but it's not difficult to point Windows 7 to it and get the start-up file section repaired so that it offers both XP and Windows 7.

    First, however, there is an experiment you can try. Some PCs will allow you to select the start-up drive, and your XP partition may be startable this way. This experiment will tell you if the partition is undamaged. Restart your computer, and, when the BIOS start-up screen is showing, press F12. If it says "Building drive list" or similar, try selecting the first drive displayed - it should be your XP installation.

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    If your PC will display the drive list, but start-up fails when you select the XP partition, continue to the next section. It's still worth trying to repair the XP installation, but if that fails, a full wipe of both installs - Windows 7 and Windows XP - may be necessary to get dual boot working. Hopefully, it won't come to that, but it's best to be prepared and informed. If you are in this situation, install XP before installing Windows 7.

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    If Windows XP Does Not Show in Windows 7

    If your problem is that the XP partition and installation is not showing up in Windows Explorer under "Computer," you may simply need to give your XP installation a drive letter.

    To do this, press the Windows key or click the Windows 7 start button/orb and select All Programs → Administrative Tools → Computer Management. In the left-hand pane, click on "Disk Management." After it loads, click your XP partition. If it's not showing a drive letter in parentheses after the drive name, right-click the partition and select "Change Drive Letter and Paths..."

    Windows 7's conceit, as well as Vista's, is that it always considers whatever drive it's running from the C: drive. Do not try to alter this. Instead, give your XP partition a higher drive letter than the partition letters already used. For example, if Windows 7 sees a C: and D: drive, re-letter the XP partition to E: or F: (When XP is running, it will show itself running on the C: drive, and the Windows 7 drive will show up as D: or higher.)

    After giving the XP partition a drive letter, it should become visible in Windows 7 after a reboot.

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    Windows 7 Computer Management Console 

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    If it shows up then in Windows 7, but starting Windows XP is not available in the boot-up start menu, please continue to the next section.

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    After installing Windows 7, you may find that your original Windows XP partition is not showing up in the start-up boot menu. Here we look at using the built-in Windows 7 "bcdedit" command to add the Windows XP partition to the boot manager so that it appears in the boot menu.
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    If Windows XP is Not in the Boot Menu

    If the Windows XP partition does not appear in the start-up boot menu, you'll need to run a utility program in Windows 7 to add it. The program is called "bcedit.exe." To get an idea of its syntax and use, start an elevated command prompt by going to Start → All Programs → Accessories. Right-click "Command prompt" and select "Run as administrator." Into this window, type

    bcdedit /? |more

    BCD, by the way, stands for "Boot Configuration Database." The first screen explains that the tool replaces the XP BIOS-based Boot.ini file. (Press Space to advance in the help screens.) To find out what the boot configuration file currently contains, type in


    by itself.

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    To add the XP partition to the boot menu, it's necessary to type in a series of commands. Start by creating the new entry for XP with

    bcdedit /create {ntldr} /d "Windows XP"

    The /d switch means "description."

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    Then set the partition to active (startable) by entering

    bcdedit /set {ntldr} device partition=D:

    Replace the D: in the command with the drive letter of the XP partition as seen from Windows 7. Remember that Windows 7 thinks it's the C: drive. When Windows XP starts, it'll think the same, but the boot-loader (BCD) sees things from Windows 7's standpoint. In other words, use the same drive letter you assigned in the first section here.

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    To finish up, enter these commands.

    bcdedit /set {ntldr} path \ntldr

    bcdedit /displayorder {ntldr} /addlast

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    If everything is successful, you should be able to run bcdedit by itself and see the XP partition's information added.

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    At this point, you should be done. When you restart the computer, Windows XP will show up in the boot menu, and when you click on "Computer," you should see the Windows XP drive listed.

    There's one more option here. Do you want Windows XP to show up in the boot menu before Windows 7? If so, enter

    bcdedit /set {bootmgr} default "{ntldr}"

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    I hope this clears up any problem you were having with Windows XP showing up in Windows 7 or having Windows XP appearing in the start-up boot menu. Thank you for visiting Bright Hub, and thank you for reading this.

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