Building a Windows 2000-Windows XP Dual-Boot System

Friday, September 07, 2001  

By Greg Shultz


(This article was originally published on the 8wire Web site and is reprinted on TheWinWiz with permission.)

Chances are, you're thinking about eventually making the move to Windows XP Professional. Before you decide to upgrade, however, you'll probably want to experiment with the new operating system to see what advantages it provides and to determine how well it interacts with your current network setup.

If so, you'll be glad to know that you can use Windows XP Professional's built-in dual-boot configuration feature to boot both Windows 2000 and Windows XP on the same system. This allows you to experiment with the new operating system without disrupting your current Windows 2000 configuration.

In this article, I'll discuss the procedure from start to finish that you'll use to install Windows XP Professional in a dual-boot configuration on your existing Windows 2000 Professional system. I'll then show you how to easily migrate your Windows 2000 Professional settings into Windows XP Professional. Finally, I'll show you how to revert your dual-boot system back to a single-boot system once you're done experimenting with Windows XP Professional.

Before You Start: Safety First!

While the technique I'll show you in this article is designed to be safe, you never know when a problem could crop up. Therefore, I encourage you to cover all your bases before you begin.

  • First, do a complete backup of your hard disk.
  • Second, create a new Windows 2000 Emergency Repair Disk.
  • Third, make sure that you have a set of Windows 2000 Setup floppy disks.

Once you've taken these steps, if anything does go wrong, you can boot your system and restore all your settings and data.

Creating the Windows 2000 setup disks

Making a hard disk backup and creating an Emergency Repair Disk is probably something all of us can do in our sleep, so I won't go into any detail on how to accomplish those tasks. However, since Windows 2000 doesn't come with a set of Setup disks, like Windows NT did, nor does it require the creation of the Setup disks as part of the Windows 2000 installation procedure, chances are you don't have a set. As such, the procedure for creating the Windows 2000 Setup disks is probably worth a brief visit. Fortunately, the procedure is easy:

  • Gather four 1.44MB floppy disks and label them:
    • Windows 2000 Setup Boot Disk 1
    • Windows 2000 Setup Disk 2
    • Windows 2000 Setup Disk 3
    • Windows 2000 Setup Disk 4
  • Insert the Windows 2000 Professional CD
  • Open a Command Prompt Window, access the CD drive, and change to the \Bootdisk folder
  • Run the Makebt32.exe utility and follow the prompts to create the Windows 2000 Setup disk set

Adding a second hard disk vs. partitioning

When you're setting up a Windows-based dual-boot configuration, you need to have each operating system installed on a separate partition. This ensures that the installation procedure for the second operating system doesn't overwrite crucial files belonging to the first operating system.

However, when setting up a Windows 2000 and Windows XP dual-boot configuration, I recommend that you go one step further and keep each operating system on a separate hard disk. Doing so not only allows you to keep the operating systems separate but also allows you to avoid making drastic changes to your existing hard disk.

Installing a second hard disk is a relatively simple procedure, and like most computer professionals, you probably have an old hard disk lying around in a box of parts somewhere that will fill that bill. Windows XP Professional's system requirements call for 1.5 GB of available hard disk space. Even if you have to purchase a new hard disk, you can get your hands on a good quality 20-30 GB hard disk for under $100.

If you don't want to go the second hard disk route, you can indeed repartition your hard disk and install Windows XP Professional on the second partition. You can use a third-party partitioning utility, such as PartitionMagic or Partition Commander, to repartition your existing hard disk without disrupting your Windows 2000 Professional installation.

Getting a performance boost

One advantage of putting each operating system on a separate hard disk is that you can gain a dramatic performance boost by putting each operating system's virtual memory paging file on the other hard disk. For example, when you install Windows XP Professional on a second hard disk, you can later specify the first hard disk as the location for the virtual memory paging file. The performance boost comes from the fact that while one hard disk is handling operating system functions, the other hard disk can simultaneously handle paging file requests. In this case, two hard disks really are better than one!

Choosing a file system

Another thing you'll want to take into account before you start is the file system you'll use for the Windows XP Professional installation. Of course, you'll want to use the same file system for both operating systems so that you can share data and applications. Fortunately, Windows XP Professional supports the same three file systems - FAT16, FAT32, and NTFS - that Windows 2000 Professional does. As such, if you're using NTFS on your Windows 2000 Professional installation, you can install Windows XP Professional with NTFS and not have to worry about compatibility problems.

Creating a boot files backup

When you install Windows XP Professional on your Windows 2000 Professional system in a dual-boot configuration, the Windows XP Professional installation procedure will overwrite the Windows 2000 Professional boot files with its own so that it can control the dual-boot operation. While you're evaluating Windows XP Professional this is fine. However, at some point, you'll probably want to remove Windows XP Professional and return to using Windows 2000 Professional.

You'll therefore need a way to remove Windows XP Professional's boot files and restore Windows 2000 Professional's boot files. You can accomplish this by making a backup of Windows 2000 Professional's boot files before you install Windows XP Professional. To do so, simply format a floppy disk as you normally would. Then copy the following files from the root directory to the floppy disk:

  • Ntldr
  • Boot.ini

Now label this disk Windows 2000 Professional Boot Files and store it in a safe place.

Installing Windows XP Professional

Installing Windows XP Professional in a dual-boot configuration is a fairly straightforward process. However, there are some tricks along the way that you'll want to be familiar before you perform the operation. Let's take a look.

You'll perform the installation from within Windows 2000 Professional, so you can begin by placing the Windows XP Professional CD in the drive and beginning the installation procedure as you normally would. When you see the Welcome to Windows Setup page, you'll need to select the New Installation (Advanced) option in the Installation Type dropdown list box, as shown in Figure 1, and click Next.

Figure 1. Windows Setup page.

After you enter your Product Key and click Next, you'll see the Setup Options screen; click the Advanced Options button. Then, in the Advanced Options dialog box, select "I Want To Choose The Install Drive Letter And Partition During Setup," as shown in Figure 2, and click OK.

Figure 2. Advanced Options dialog box.

You'll now progress through the installation procedure until you arrive at the screen in the character-based portion of Setup that shows the existing partitions on your computer. You'll then select the second hard disk that you installed in your system as the location for Windows XP Professional.

From this point on, the installation procedure is pretty clear-cut and you'll progress through it as you normally would. When the installation is complete, you'll be able to boot into either Windows 2000 Professional or Windows XP Professional by choosing the appropriate item on the boot menu.

Note: If your system is connected to a Windows 2000 domain, you must use a different computer name for your Windows XP Professional installation than you're using for your Windows 2000 Professional installation. This is because each system participating in a Windows 2000 domain must have a unique security identifier (SID) and as such must have a unique computer name. For example, if you're computer is named Dragon in your Windows 2000 Professional installation, you might name it Dragon-XP in your Windows XP Professional installation.

Taking advantage of the File and Settings Transfer wizard

When you're experimenting with Windows XP Professional, chances are you'll want to continue working as you normally would. For example, you'll probably want to be able to connect to specific mapped drives and printers on your network, take a look at your favorite Web sites, or check your email.

Fortunately, you won't have to manually reconfigure all the settings necessary to continue your work in Windows XP Professional. Instead, you can take advantage of Windows XP's File and Settings Transfer Wizard. While this new tool is designed to migrate your configuration settings and files from an old computer to a new Windows XP system, it also works for migrating files and settings from one drive to another in a dual-boot configuration.

To use the File and Settings Transfer Wizard, boot your system into Windows 2000 Professional. Then insert the Windows XP Professional CD into the drive. When you see the "Welcome to Microsoft Windows XP" screen, select the Perform Additional Tasks button. On the next screen, select the Transfer Files and Settings button to launch the File and Settings Transfer Wizard.

When you see the Select a Transfer Method page, as shown in Figure 3, select the Other option, click the Browse button, and choose a folder on the Windows 2000 Professional drive in which to save your files and settings. You'll then follow through with the rest of the wizard and choose the files and settings that you want to migrate to Windows XP Professional.

Figure 3. Use the File and Settings Transfer Wizard to save your Windows 2000 Professional files and settings on the hard disk.

Once you complete the File and Settings Transfer Wizard on your Windows 2000 Professional installation, boot your system into Windows XP Professional. You'll now launch the File and Settings Transfer Wizard from the Start menu and begin the process of importing your files and settings into Windows XP Professional.

As you run the wizard you'll be asked to specify which computer you're running the wizard on. Of course, you'll select the New Computer option.

When the wizard prompts you for the Windows XP CD, just select "I Don't Need The Wizard Disk," as shown in Figure 4, and then click Next. When you do, you'll be prompted specify the location of the file and setting items.

Figure 4. Since you've already saved your Windows 2000 Professional file and setting items on the first hard disk, you don't need to use the Wizard Disk.

Once the wizard imports the file and setting items into Windows XP Professional, you'll be prompted to log off the system. When you log back on, you'll find that Windows XP Professional now contains all the files and settings you chose to migrate from your Windows 2000 Professional installation. For example, if you're using Outlook Express, you'll find that all your mail folders, your Address Book, and configuration settings have been installed in Windows XP Professional's version of Outlook Express.

Installing your Applications

When it comes to installing your applications in Windows XP Professional, you have two choices. You can perform completely new installations on the second hard disk or you can simply reinstall the applications in the same folders on the first hard disk.

When you go with the latter method, the installation procedure will be treated by the application as a simple reinstallation and shouldn't cause any problems in Windows 2000. 

On the other hand, if you aren't sure whether a particular application is completely Windows XP compatible, I'd recommend performing a new installation on the second hard disk. That way there will be no chance of any file corruption or other mishaps as you experiment with Windows XP.

Undoing the Dual-Boot Configuration

At some point, you may to want to remove the Windows XP Professional dual-boot configuration and return to a single-boot Windows 2000 Professional setup. Fortunately, there's a way to undo this dual-boot configuration - it's a bit convoluted, but it works like a charm.

To begin, insert the Windows 2000 Professional CD into the drive and hold down the Shift key to prevent Autostart from launching Setup. Next, insert the Windows 2000 Setup Boot Disk 1 into the floppy drive and reboot your system. When the system reboots allow it to launch Setup normally. Successively insert the other Windows 2000 Setup disks as you're prompted.

Once the fourth disk finishes loading, you'll see the Windows 2000 Professional Setup menu containing the following items:

  • Set up Windows 2000
  • Repair your current Windows 2000 installation
  • Quit Setup.

To continue, choose the repair option by typing R.

The next screen will prompt you to choose either the Recovery Console or the Emergency Repair Disk to perform the repair operation. To continue, choose the Recovery Console option by typing C. As soon as you do, your screen will go black - but don't panic.

In a moment you'll see the Microsoft Windows 2000 Recovery Console screen and will be prompted to choose which Windows installation you want to log into. You'll choose drive C, which is the drive containing Windows 2000 Professional. You'll now be prompted to type in the Administrator password for that drive. When you do so, you'll be logged into that drive and will see a C: prompt.

At this point, insert the Windows 2000 Professional Boot Files disk you made earlier into the floppy disk drive. Now, use the Copy command to copy the three boot files from the floppy disk to the root directory of drive C. When you do, you'll overwrite the Windows XP Professional versions. Unfortunately, the Recovery Console's Copy command won't allow you to use wildcards, so you'll have to copy each file individually.

Once you finishing copying the files, remove Windows 2000 Professional Boot Files disk and type Exit at the command prompt. Doing so will automatically reboot your system.

When your system restarts, Windows 2000 Professional will be the only bootable operating system. You can then either reformat second hard disk from within the Disk Management console or remove it.