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Multibooting for the Masses (Tutorial) – Part 2b

At last, Part 2 of this in-depth tutorial is available, where we will be looking at installing Windows next to Windows on a single hard drive, step by step! For those who may be coming along this series of posts for the first time, this is the definitive ThinkBoxly guide where I will be covering a wide range of tips, tricks, and tutorials surrounding booting your computer with more than just 1 OS. If that sounds interesting to you, then put your Thinking (Boxly) Cap on, and strap yourself in for an exciting tech ride! You’ve all waited a long time for this one, so if you feel the need to, glance over parts 1 and 2a and then check out the full post after the jump below!

Welcome to Part 2b of the Official Multibooting Guide for ThinkBoxly! You’ve waited a long time for this one, so let’s dive right in. Don’t forget that clicking images will present a larger view of them!

For the sake of covering as many aspects of multibooting Windows with Windows as is possible in one guide, I have selected to add Windows XP to my existing Windows 7 installation. You, however, may choose whichever editions you want and follow along. Any differing details will be minor. Refer back to Part 2a if you find yourself unable to continue exactly as shown here—sooner or later our diverging paths will meet again, so no worries.

1 – Starting Up…

We begin our adventure just like we’d begin any other virtual quest: our Windows desktop. In this example I am using a clean installation of Windows 7, but if you happen to already have a good deal of important data on your PC, then now would be the time to back it all up…just to be safe.

2 – Making Space (Partitioning)

Though it isn’t immediately obvious, Windows actually has basic partitioning software built right in. This little program is called DISKPART, and can be accessed via command prompt, or in Vista and later editions of Windows, accessed via the GUI in Computer Management. We will go over using both here.

2a – DISKPART (only follow if using Windows XP or older)

To use the DISKPART utility, hold  + R to bring up the ‘Run’ prompt, and in it type “cmd” (without the quotes). After that, running the program could hardly be simpler: just type “diskpart” (again, no quotes) into the prompt and hit enter. If UAC requests permission for DISKPART to modify your system, grant it and a second window will automatically open with admin privileges.

Though it isn’t necessary, at this point I’d recommend you unplug any other drives currently in the computer to make it easier to use DISKPART without mistakes.

When you are ready to proceed, type list disk into the DISKPART prompt and hit enter to see all available media. Check the size to make sure you know what disk you want to partition, and then select it by typing in select disk 0, or whatever number you need. Now that DISKPART knows which physical disk we want to work with, we can type in list volume to see which partition to shrink. You’ll have your drive letters listed here, which will make it very easy to identify the correct volume. In my case, I want to partition my C: drive, so I will type select volume 2 and hit enter.

At last DISKPART is fully on target for what memory to partition. To free up space, all we must do now is type in shrink and wait for the utility to do its thing. I stronglyrecommend you do not attempt to do anything else with your computer during this time; you could easily break the whole installation!

When everything is finished, you should see a message similar to this one indicating DISKPART was successful, and how much memory it was able to shrink the volume by. Opening Windows Explorer and checking your hard drive should verify this; you’ll notice it now reads less memory available than before, and you didn’t even have to reboot! You may now close all command prompt windows and move on to Step 3.

2b – Disk Management (only follow if using Windows Vista or newer)

You may have noticed when using DISKPART that there was one critical point in which the utility was lacking: the ability to choose how much space to shrink the volume by. Besides that, command prompt simply isn’t as pleasant to use as a GUI. Thankfully, Microsoft addressed both of these issues in Windows Vista with an update to the Computer Management application in the Control Panel. To access this utility, go to your Control Panel, set the view to Classic Mode or Large Icons, select Administrative Tools, and finally, Computer Management. Alternatively, you can type “compmgmt.msc” (without the quotes) into a ‘Run’ prompt to launch the application directly. In the Window that appears, choose Disk Management from the left pane, and you’re ready to go.

Once Disk Management has fully loaded, you will be greeted with a visual representation of all currently connected drives and their respective volumes. As you can see, the system is the same here as in DISKPART—disks and volumes all follow the same number scheme, only now you can see it much easier.

To partition a volume, right click on it either in the list view on top or in the visual representation below and choose Shrink Volume… from the context menu.

Rather than simply shrink the maximum possible value of memory as DISKPART does, Disk Management will query the drive for how much space can be shrunk and then leave it to you to decide just how much to actually shrink by. Remember that byte values (KB, MB, GB, etc.) are all made up of groups of 1,024, not 1,000 as is commonly approximated to. Therefore, if I want to shrink my disk by 8GB, I will enter 8,192 (1024 x 8), and not 8,000.

After you’ve determined the value you want, simply hit Shrink and wait a few moments as Disk Management does its thing. As with DISKPART, I highly recommend you do not attempt to do anything with your computer at this point.

Note: On the off-chance that you are not allowed to shrink the amount of space you desire, but the free space is there for you to take away, you will have to look into the third party partitioning options listed in Parts 1 and 2a.

If everything worked properly, when all is said and done you should now see a black section on your selected disk labeled “Unallocated”. At this point you may resume using your PC as normal and proceed to Step 3.

3 – Configuring the BIOS

Alright, it’s time! Insert your CD/DVD containing the Windows OS you wish to add to your system, close any prompts that may try to open, and reboot the computer. Watch your boot screen closely for keys to either enter setup (F2 in our example), or enter a boot menu (ESC in our example). Not every BIOS supports a one-time boot menu, but if yours does, preferably go with this option. As seen in the image below, this will allow you to select your CD/DVD from a list in a quick and painless process that won’t affect your configuration for the future.

Using the temporary boot device selection could hardly be easier; while every BIOS varies, you’ll simply have to select to boot from CD/DVD by selecting the option with your arrow keys or pressing an indicated letter or number.

If the temporary boot option is not available on your BIOS, or you just want to know the more advanced way to do things, you’ll need to enter the BIOS configuration by holding the indicated key at boot. Anticipate every BIOS being significantly different in appearance from most any other you come across, but also don’t let appearances frighten you; once you start looking at the options listed, you’ll see they are all much the same in functionality.

For those unfamiliar with BIOS setup utilities, the first exposure may seem kind of scary. There are a ton of options that all affect your system in major ways presented on a screen that is anything but attractive and user friendly. Fortunately, all we need to do is set the computer to check the CD/DVD drive for something to boot up before it checks the internal hard drive, so we can bypass the majority of what our BIOS has to offer.

To get started, use the arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate to your boot priorities menu. In our example on the left, this would mean simply pressing the ‘right’ arrow three times, but for you, it could be an entirely different location. Don’t be afraid to look around your BIOS; no changes are necessary at this point, and if you do accidentally change something and aren’t sure what it does, exit the BIOS and choose NOT to save changes and then try again. You may also refer to a manual or Google to see where the boot priorities are for your specific model of computer or motherboard.

At any rate, once you’ve located the boot priorities list, adjust the entries using the indicated keys (+ and – in my case) so that the CD-ROM drive is higher than the Hard Drive. That’s really all there is to it! You may now exit and choose to save your changes (accomplished in one stroke of F10, according to the screenshot on the right) and this time let your PC boot from your OS installation media. The exciting part begins at last!

4 – Installing the OS!

Once your computer has picked up on the optical drive and booted from it, the installer will load everything it needs to walk you through installing the new OS. I mention this for one important reason: depending on your hardware and OS of choice, this may take merely a few seconds, or it may take as long as half an hour. Don’t be quick to assume things have frozen and won’t ever continue.

Though this step is probably the most tense of all, it actually requires very little input from you, the user. Our first big task is to tell the OS where to install, and then…that’s pretty much it until it comes time to give post-install information.

Seen on the left below is an example of Windows XP’s setup partitioner, which as you can see has assigned its own letter scheme to my drives. This can tend to happen, so make sure you watch the size of the partition and not just its identification! I know my C: drive is not just 100MB large, so that must mean D: is where Windows 7 currently resides. I certainly don’t want to mess with that! Instead, I want to select the ‘Unpartitioned Space’ option at the very bottom, and then format it as NTFS (Quick).

The formatting should complete in a few moments’ time and then you may sit back and watch as Windows installs itself! The process will likely take 45 minutes to an hour, but you won’t need to be involved for the majority of this period of time. Take it easy; you’re almost there!

Note: Your PC will have to reboot at least once during the installation process. DO NOT boot off of the CD/DVD again at this point!

Installing Windows…

After some time, we’re presented with the opportunity to fill out some basic information. Most of this (Workgroup, time zone, etc.) can be set later, so feel free to skip anything you don’t care to mess with right now. Just be sure to enter an administrator account name and password you’ll be able to remember and let the installation continue to its completion.

Once that has happened, your computer will automatically enter the last piece of the setup where you enter your user name and select whether or not to enable Windows Update (which I would recommend you do not and instead simply install the latest service pack from once the install has completed. You’ll likely need to download a few other things from the internet as well anyway; at this point, don’t be surprised if your sound card and a number of other devices do not function. Pay a visit to your PC manufacturer’s website and you should be able to find all the drivers you need there.)

At last you’ll be confronted with the sight you’ve been waiting for: the desktop of a freshly installed second OS!

Except…there’s just one potential problem left. If you happen to be following this guide installing a newer edition of Windows as your secondary OS, then there should be no issue; right away you should see the option of which OS to launch at boot. However, if like me you are installing an older edition of Windows secondarily, you’ll find that as of right now, OS #1 can no longer boot. Don’t worry; the OS itself is fine, there is just no way the computer can start it up. This can be corrected by inserting the disk for your first OS (Vista or 7), rebooting, and choosing to repair startup issues, but in recent years an even easier solution has arisen in the form of EasyBCD. Download the free edition of the software from, and then install it right inside whatever OS is currently accessible.

Inside EasyBCD, we need to do two things: first, we must install a bootloader capable of loading both of our OS’s, and then we must create a boot entry for the missing OS. The first should be taken care of by simply running the program; you will know if this is true based on what entry is listed on the main screen. As you can see to the right, EasyBCD has restored Windows 7’s bootloader, and it is now XP that is missing! However it is not unusual for this to fail; meaning you’ll then need to select ‘Useful Utilities’ from the left panel and download a Vista/7 Recovery Disk, or use your own should you have one to restore the bootloader the old fashioned way. Else, you may continue on by selecting ‘Add New Entry’ from the left panel of EasyBCD.

Creating a new boot entry in EasyBCD is fairly straightforward. From the top half of the screen, select the ‘Windows’ tab, and then in the ‘Type’ screen select whatever version of Windows is missing from your bootloader. Change the name if you’d like, leave ‘Automatically detect correct drive’ checked, and then hit ‘Add Entry’.

If you stop by the ‘Edit Boot Menu’ tab on the left, you can also set which OS to boot by default and after how many seconds. Then hit ‘save settings’ and you’re good to go. You may exit EasyBCD now and reboot your computer to make sure everything worked!

If the latest Windows bootloader was successfully restored and the second boot entry correctly added, upon rebooting you should be greeted with a screen like the following, allowing you to boot up the OS of your choice:

And of course, if you select the first OS, you should find everything is just fine; no files missing files or settings!

Note that both partitions are visible from either version of Windows…feel free to save files across both drives!

And there you have it! It was quite a journey, but now you have two operating systems to enjoy the benefits of both! You may stop right here and bask in satisfaction, or if there’s still some adventure left in you, feel free to move on to the next section of this in-depth guide to multibooting!

Check out all the other parts of this series of important posts!

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