dual boot with 2 hard drives

April 25, 2009 at 20:14:55
Specs: Windows XP, Athlon 3200+ / 1 gb Ram

I have installed my old hard drive with xp home as the master drive in a new computer. It works perfectly.

The hard drive that came with the new computer runs xp media center. Prior to installing my old drive this OS also booted and ran perfectly. I am unable to run programs that are on that drive when I use the drive with xp home as the master I get an error message that says: "The operating system is not presently configured to run this application". I would prefer not to have to reinstall the software on my old drive.

I would like to be able to dual boot and choose which drive to use. When I start and hit F8 I am not given the choice of the slave drive.

What do I have to do to boot from the slave drive?



See More: dual boot with 2 hard drives

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April 25, 2009 at 21:05:29
It is surprising that you could transplant a working XP Home drive into a different hardware environment and have it boot. The system it originally came from must be almost identical to the one you put it into.

Your problem now is that each version of XP was installed when the drive it is on was a "C" drive. You can only boot the Home version by cabling it a primary master, and when you want to boot MCE you have to return that disk to the primary master position. Each drive contains it's own bootfiles and it is only natural that programs you have installed in MCE will not run when you boot up the Home operating system. There is no way you will get most such programs to work since they rely on registry pointers and DLL files etc that are located on the C drive during installation. You will have to install those programs in XP Home if you wish to use them there.

As to creating a dualboot using your current setup? I'm not certain you can.

My recommendation:

Put the MCE disk back as primary master and make the old HOME disk either secondary master or primary slave.

Format the Home disk. Do a fresh installation of XP Home on this secondary harddrive. During installation the setup process will automatically configure the dualboot menu for you. You will find that XP Home will be installed on D or some other drive letter. You will still have to re-install other programs into Home in order to use them when booting that operating system.

At this point I would ask why you are bothering with a dualboot using XP Home and MCE? Life would be much simpler if you just keep MCE as your operating system and use the old Home disk for extra storage.

Goin' Fishin' (Some day)

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April 25, 2009 at 22:05:58
more than likely you have screwed up the MCE boot ini files as well if you have gotten the XP home to configure and boot.

Change Is Good

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April 25, 2009 at 23:30:38
If I read your post correctly you have an older drive (with XP-Home) as master to a new hard-drive (with XP-Media Centre).

You can boot to the older OS/installation; but cannot boot to the newer drive (XP-MCE)?

Presumably the boot.ini (on the current older drive set as Master) does not include a reference to the newer drive/XP-MCE; and if this is correct then no way you can boot to it...; at least with it set as a Slave to another drive which is set as Master...

A couple of options various come to mind:

Install a third-party boot-manger util; or tweak (as in edit) the boot.ini to achieve the required entry enable a dual;-boot

I'd be less inclined to use an add-in util as it's really not necessary; as tweaking the boot.ini can be done at least three ways.


Boot as per “norm” to XP on current master; locate/copy the boot.ini (it’s in the c: root and maybe a hidden file) on the current Master drive to somewhere safe (just in case…) – usually to a floppy/usb-stick/CD; and also print a hard copy of it.

Next via Explorer access the (second/slave) MCE drive and locate the boot.ini there (for that installation) – it’s also in the c:\ root and again may be a hidden file; copy it to somewhere safe.

Having found it (the MCE boot.ini) open it via Wordpad/Notepad (or even Word). Again to make things easier later - print a hard copy of this boot.ini and keep it to hand; you may want to refer to it later… Note carefully the contents of the line that refers to the XP-MCE installation (on that drive). There will be a line that refers to default OS to boot; and another below that is more complete and (likewise) refers to the OS installed on that drive.

Copy that line.

Now access and open (again via Wordpad/Notepad etc.) the boot.ini on the current Master drive (for the XP-Home installation). This is the boot.ini you will edit to include the ARC/path statement for the XP-MCE installation.

Paste the entry you copied from the XP-MCE boot.ini to this XP-Home boot.ini. It will go in below the entry already there for XP-Home.

This (XP-MCE) line will have a reference to rdisk(0); change that to read rdisk(1).

Be sure you change the rdisk(0) entry for the line that you have just copied over (for XP-MCE) – and NOT the one for XP-Home…

Save changes and exit… You now have boot-menu that lists both installations.

Reboot system and all things being equal you will be able to choose either installation to boot?


You can also manually enter (write) the required line into the boot.ini on the current Master drive – using the details on the hard-copy of the XP-MCE boot.ini as reference; but ensuring the rdisk(0) value is entered there as rdisk(1) – for that XP-MCE entry – only!


If you are familiar with the uses of Recovery Console you can use its bootcfg util to locate any other NT/W2K/XP installations in the system overall and them to the boot.ini on the current Master driver. It may be easier than the above manual (hunt/find/copy/paste etc…) approach? More on the bootcfg approach see:




I have to say that I too am surprised you managed to get XP-Home from another system to boot OK in a new location – without (apparently) any tweaking etc..?

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Related Solutions

April 26, 2009 at 03:14:39
Both computers are emachines made within probably 1 year of each other using the same motherboard, ram, graphics, etc.

I don't know enough about computers to have tried this if they weren't very similar systems.

Thanks for your suggestions.


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April 26, 2009 at 04:13:54
mmm - If they were "close enuff" in terms of critical items (Mobo/bios etc...) then I'm guessing it would explain how/why you are able to transfer the drive and run it without any need to do anything more...

The dual-boot options above ought to work (regardless) - all three aproaches. And you likely could have set the drives the other way round and made a similar tweak to the boot.ini (on the MCE drive then set as Master, with XP-Home as Slave) as in the above arrangement (where XP-Home drive is the Master to MCE Slave).

If any doubts etc. as to what the final boot.in will resemble - post details of both boot.ini files here; and then we can clarify accordingly?

Important item: before you tweak the "active" boot.ini (the one on the current XP-Home/ Master drive), be sure to make a safe copy of it somewhere; and also print it out... This is your get out trouble/jail card if needs-be; should anything go amiss with your edting etc...

Let us all know how it works out?

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April 26, 2009 at 04:37:01
The second article tells how to add or remove an O.S. from the boot.ini file.
The Purpose of the Boot.ini File in Windows XP

HOW TO: Edit the Boot.ini File in Windows XP

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April 26, 2009 at 09:17:33
If all you did was install a different HDD as the primary master & move the other HDD to the primary slave (or 2ndary channel), the boot.ini file probably wasn't affected. The only way to run programs on the 2nd HDD would be to boot to that drive...you can't run them from the XP Home drive.

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April 26, 2009 at 09:42:32
If using older drive (XP-Home) to boot up (the new system) - and there is no entry in the boot.ini on "that older" drive for the second drive (the MCE drive that was previously Master in the new system), there's no way one can get the second (MCE) drive to boot etc. without one of the earlier solutions being applied first; or one sets each drive as Master on its own controller (Primary Master/Secondary Master) and then goes the bios switching routine to select which drive to set as the drive to boot accordingly.

And if both drives "were" set as Master appropriately... one could still tweak (edit) the boot.ini as earlier above and boot both from the Primary Master (set as the active boot-drive), and thus avoid the bios switching routine.

Also having tweaked (edited) the boot.ini on the older drive, it can/will still function OK in its original home; and the newer drive likewise in its current home (when it is set again as Master).

All that is required here is to add the necessary ARC/path statement to the boot.ini on the older drive; as that drive is providing the boot-files/ARC-path/info etc. for both drives.

Basic stuff onthis occasion - as the older drive is apparently OK in the newer system, without any attention/repair routine etc.usually associated with transfering a drive from one system to another - and wanting it to boot ok...?

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April 26, 2009 at 18:22:00
Here are the contents of the boot.ini files ( the one on top is the current c drive (master) and the bottom is the current d drive (slave):

[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition" /fastdetect /NoExecute=OptIn

[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Windows XP Media Center Edition" /fastdetect /NoExecute=OptIn

How should I modify the file to try to allow dual booting?



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April 26, 2009 at 20:45:47
If both drives are bootable, which they are because the both booted previously, don't mess with the boot.ini.

You should have the choice in the bios to chose which drive you can boot. Del or F2 should give you access. See if you have this feature.

If you don't want do it via the bios the proper procedure is to do a repair install of the OS on the 2nd drive.

There is more then just editing the boot.ini. There are thousands of registry entries that point to c: which is now the 2nd drive which means its on d: [or some other letter xp decided].

A repair install corrects the registry entries and the boot.ini.
It leaves your programs installed and your data intact. I have had to reinstall some apps like my cannon camera software but that is easy.

the entry you asked about is rdisk(0) needs to change to (1) for the slave.

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April 27, 2009 at 03:50:15
Yes I am able to go into bios and change which drive boots - Thanks!


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April 27, 2009 at 04:08:56

In the two boot.ini as posted...

Copy the entire line in the lower (MCE) one that is below the sub-header [operating systems] into the upper boot.ini (XP-Home) and below the entry for XP-Home. Thus you have two OS entries there. Change the rdisk(0) to rdisk(1) for the line you have copied over - and ONLY in that entry and that detail in that boot.ini - on that (XP-Home) drive only. Save changes and exit...

Reboot to verify you can still boot (by default) to XPH; and unless you have tweaked the wrong entry in the boot.ini you will still boot to XPH as per norm. Then reboot and choose MCE from the boot-menu option...

Correctly edited boot.ini (XP-Home drive boot.ini only...) will be:

[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition" /fastdetect /NoExecute=OptIn
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Windows XP Media Center Edition" /fastdetect /NoExecute=OptIn

Again - do NOT change anything in the version on the MCE drive; and also make/print a hard copy of both boot.ini before you start tweaking; and save the actual file(s) somewhere safe too... That way you have them as both as hard copy references in needs-be and also can copy back the original if you so wish/need to at some time or other...

Even if you don't get the entry for MCE correctly edited initially (and it does happen...) you will still boot OK to XPH - as you will NOT have touched/tweaked anything relating to that OS and its entries (one hopes...)

re' registry caveats...

We seem to go down this road frequently re' registry entries...; and from my experience and that of a few others - it ain't so in a situation like this...

When NT/W2K/XP (and presumably Vista too) boot up they refer to the registry for drive letter assignments; and thus path info... Which ever drive boots that drive "will" be whatever it was when the OS was installed. But the drive that is not booted will appear as something other than what it is when it is booted.

Thus in this case XP-Home will boot as c: and MCE will appear as possibly d: or e: - depends a little on what other drives are present (CD/DVD etc,...) when viewed in Explorer/MyComputer. As there are no apps being used at that time(?) in MCE... it is essentially a resource bank (data etc.) for XP-Home. If anything (apps/utils) was to be installed there via XP-Home (aka - XPH) it would present problems path-wise if it was to be used when MCE was booted up...
Similarly when MCE boots up it will also boot as c: - and XPH will appear as other than c: when viewed from MCE; and the same caveat applies re' installing anything into XPH drive via MCE...

In this system the two drives will effectively/more than likely appear to switch drive letters when the one not booted is viewed from the booted OS.

I've done this routine more than a few times with NT/W2K and a dos-based OS as the intended Master to a drive (NT/W2K). The NT/W2K drive (originally the Master/only drive in the system) was slaved to a newly installed dos-OS Master drive - and once the boot routine established correctly - all works as above. And have done it similarly with XP/W2K and NT/W2K - and no dos-OS... If I could find the ancient posts (here and another forum or two) that discussed this in the past with regard to NT/W2K and sometimes with assorted dos-OS... I'd refer to them as they clearly indicate it works.

If... one puts a dos-based OS in position other than where it was when installed... then yes the path statements do become a serious issue - because the drive letters are assigned during boot up... Primary partitions are assigned across all drives, then Extended etc. starting with those on the Master drive. But for the NT family once it's in the registry - that is what it used/assigned... regardless of where the drive it physically.

Bios switching is a viable (but nuisance) option if both drives are correctly set there; and using an add-in boot util will also facilitate/allow the dual-boot.... But...???

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