Windows XP Wont Boot After Windows 7 Install - Fixing the Issue

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Overview of Windows Dual Boot for Windows 7

If you already have Windows XP installed and you install Windows 7 on a different partition on even on a different HDD, chances are that Windows XP wont boot after Windows 7 install. This is because the Windows 7 boot loader or boot manager replaces the Windows XP boot loader and fails to include XP as an active operating system on the computer.

The boot manager asks you about the operating system to use when you boot the computer. Normally, the information about the different operating systems is stored in a file called boot.ini. This file informs the Windows Boot Manager about the operating systems installed on the computer based on which, the boot manager prompts you for the operating system to load. If the information about the Windows XP installation is missing in the Windows Boot Manager, Windows XP won’t load.


  1. Windows 7 does not use the boot.ini file for Windows Dual Boot. Therefore, you cannot edit the preferences manually as in the case of dual boot in Windows XP with some other operating system. The problems arising due to the fact are detailed in the later section (Correcting the Windows Boot Manager) on troubleshooting Windows 7.

Windows XP wont Boot if Installation of Either Operating System Was Not Done Properly

While installing more than one operating system on a computer, you should install each operating system on a different partition of the same hard disk or on two different hard disks so that each one functions properly. However, with the Windows 7, you may face problems even if you install it on a different partition or different hard disk.

Installing the Operating Systems - The proper method is to install the older operating system first. This means that you should first install Windows XP on the boot partition. The boot partition or boot drive is denoted by the letter C. Once you have Windows XP on your boot partition, you need to create a fresh partition or add a secondary hard disk to the computer for installing Windows 7. If you use this sequence, the Windows Boot Manager will show both Windows XP and Windows 7.

If Windows XP won’t boot after you install Windows 7 even after installing using the above method, something went wrong. It may be either your boot manager or some hardware configuration problem.

Correcting the Boot Manager

Assuming that the hardware is all set, the first method here is to check out the boot manager. However, as the Windows 7 does not use the boot.ini file, there is no use even if you edit it manually. Still, there are two ways to notify the boot manager about Windows XP installation.

The first method is to correct the boot manager by booting into Windows 7. You need to follow the following steps:

  1. Turn on the computer and let the Windows 7 load completely.
  2. Once you get the desktop, open the command prompt (Start Menu –> All Programs –> Accessories).
  3. In the command prompt, type cd\ and press the Return key.
  4. Then type each of the following commands in the given sequence, followed by the Return key.
    1. bcdedit -set {ntldr} device partition=C:
    2. bcdedit -set {ntldr} path \ntldr
    3. bcdedit -displayorder {ntldr} –addlast
    4. bcdedit -set {ntldr} description “Microsoft Windows XP”

The command cd\ takes you to the root of the C Drive. Each of the following commands makes changes to the boot manager, also known as boot loader. They add or overwrite the details indicating that the system contains a second operating system, that is, Windows XP.

NOTE: Please do NOT change the letter C: in the first command (step a) as it refers to the boot partition. It does not matter where you installed the Windows XP installation because Windows 7 will also automatically attribute itself to C Drive whenever you boot so there will not be any problem.

The second method can be used if you reboot and still find that you are not able to get to Windows XP. The method involves using a third party boot manager. You can download EasyBCD to make changes to the boot manager. EasyBCD is freeware and is effective in configuring the boot manager for multiple operating systems. The interface of EasyBCD, is simple and even a newbie can use it easily. However, it is better to backup your files before you use the EasyBCD.

If EasyBCD also fails, chances are that there is some hardware fault that we will discuss in the next section.

Diagnosing and Correcting Hardware Faults for Windows Boot Manager

Problems may occur even if you have installed Windows 7 on a separate partition on the same Hard Disk having Windows XP installation or if you have installed both on different hard disks. The Windows Boot Manager troubleshooting becomes slightly difficult in case of multiple hard disks.

Multiple Hard Disks: If you have installed both Windows XP and Windows 7 on separate hard disks, you can check if the BIOS is reflecting all the hard disks on your computer. While booting your computer, press the key that takes you to the BIOS. Normally, it is either the DEL key or the ESC key. It differs from system to system. The key to be pressed for BIOS access is displayed on your monitor as your computer prepares itself to load the operating system.

Once you access the BIOS, check to see if the BIOS is showing all the hard disks on your computer. If any of them is missing, you may have to call the hardware engineer or technician. If you know how to use the SCSI cables and jumpers to set up primary and secondary hard disks, you can do it yourself. This should solve the problem. If you still face the problem, you will have to follow the steps given in the following paragraphs.

Single Hard Disk: In case all the operating systems are on different partitions of a single hard disk, you can use the Disk Manager to fix the problem. Right-click on the Computer icon and click Manage. You will get a window that has two panes. In the left pane, select Disk Management. Depending upon your computer’s speed, the Disk Management Service takes some time to display each disk attached to your computer, but the drive information will appear in the right pane. Please note that each row symbolizes a different storage device and shows the different partitions on that particular drive.

Once you locate the partition where you installed Windows XP, all you need to change the drive letter associated with the partition. Please do not make any changes to the partitions containing Windows 7, as that will create further problems. Right-click on the partition where you installed Windows XP and select Change Drive Letter. In the dialog box that appears, click on change. This will give you a list of available drive letters. You can select any one of them.

However, it is recommended that you choose a minimum of two letters above the current one. For example, if the list shows the drive letters starting from H, you can select K as the drive letter for Windows XP. This is to avoid future problems as you may be using other plug and play devices that require a drive letter. Selecting a higher Drive letter helps avoid possible conflicts with those external devices. Once you are done with the Drive letter selection, click on OK to close the window. Click on Start, Turn Off, Restart, and you are good to go.

Multi Boot Windows 7 - Appended on Feb 27, 2010

The above helps you with the problem where Windows XP wont boot after Windows 7 install. You may also want to check out Multi boot Windows 7 where we discuss clean installations of multiple operating systems.

This post is part of the series: Multi Boot Windows 7 and other Types of Multi Boot - Problems with Multi Boot

This series aims to cover types of multi boot, including Windows 7 multi boot, dual boot Windows XP 32 bit and XP 64 bit. It also covers Dual boot Home Server. Often, multi boots also create problems. This series will cover how to fix multi boot problems under different scenarios.

  1. How to Multi Boot Windows 7
  2. How to Set up Dual Boot for XP 32 Bit and XP 64 Bit
  3. Is it Possible to Dual Boot Windows Home Server?
  4. Windows XP Wont Boot After Windows 7 Install: Troubleshooting Windows Dual Boot Problem
  5. Where is Windows XP? I Cannot Find My Windows XP Operating System after Setting up Dual Boot Windows 7