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How to Set Up a Dual Boot System

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Authored by Dave Mallisk in Computer Software
Published on 11-17-2009

Dual booting (also called multibooting) lets you boot your computer to any operating system that you can select at startup. For example, if your PC contains both Windows XP and Ubuntu (a Linux distribution), you can select either operating system each time you start or restart your PC. You can run only your selected operating system until you shut down your PC.

Note: Dual booting or multibooting lets you run only one operating system after each startup. Therefore, it is not the same as virtualization, in which one or more guest operating systems can run simultaneously with a host operating system. For more information, see Benefits of Virtualization.

Dual Booting Windows with Linux

You can dual boot and multiboot Windows and Linux. For example, you can install Ubuntu to dual boot with Windows as follows:

  1. Go to Ubuntu.com, download Ununtu, and then burn its ISO image onto an Ununtu installation CD.
  2. Close all applications, and then insert the Ununtu installation CD into the optical drive to display the “Ubuntu Menu” as shown below.

  3. Click on the Install inside Windows button to display the “Ubuntu Installer” window.
  4. Enter and confirm a password, and then click on the Install button to start the installation and display its progress.
  5. After the installation ejects the CD, remove the CD, select Reboot now, and then click on the Finish button to reboot your PC.
  6. When your PC restarts, select Ubuntu so that it can finish its installation.

Setting Your Default Operating System

To set your default operating system in a dual or multiboot system, do the following:

  1. Boot to a Windows operating system.
  2. On your desktop, click on the Start button to display its menu, and then (in the Classic Start menu) click on Settings to display its menu.
  3. Click on Control Panel to display its icons, and then click on the System icon to display the “System Properties” window, and then click on the Advanced tab to display its page.
  4. In the “Startup and Recovery” frame, click on Settings to display the “Startup and Recovery” window.
  5. Use the “Default operating system” dropdown menu to select which operating system you want to start automatically if you do not select another at startup.

    CAUTION: Never use the Edit button because manually configuring your startup file can cause problems so severe that you cannot boot any operating system.

  6. Click OK to close the “Startup and Recovery” window, click OK to close the “System Properties” window, and then close the Control Panel.

Dual Booting Windows with Windows

You can dual boot or multiboot the following Microsoft Windows operating-system combinations:

  • Windows XP with earlier Windows operating systems
  • Windows Vista with other Windows operating systems
  • Windows 7 with other Windows operating systems

Dual Booting Windows XP with Earlier Windows Operating Systems – As detailed by Microsoft Support – XP, you can dual boot or multiboot Windows XP with one or more earlier Windows operating systems. To dual boot or multiboot Windows XP with earlier Windows, do the following:

  1. Install two or more Windows operating systems on separate volumes (disks or partitions) in the following order:
    1. MS-DOS
    2. Windows 95, 98, or Me
    3. Windows NT (not recommended, use only for evaluation)
    4. Windows 2000
    5. Windows XP
  2. Set your default operating system according to the “Setting Your Default Operating System” procedure above.

Dual Booting Windows Vista with Other Windows Operating Systems – As detailed by Microsoft Support – Vista, you can dual boot or multiboot Windows Vista with one or more other Windows operating systems. To dual boot or multiboot Windows Vista with other Windows, do the following:

  1. While running your current Windows operating system, make sure it is connected to the internet.
  2. Insert the installation CD for another Windows operating system into the optical drive.
  3. Click on Install now, and then follow the prompts.
  4. As prompted, install all “important updates for installation” and enter “your product key for activation.”
  5. When asked “Where do you want to install Windows?,” select the disk or partition on which you wish to install this Windows operating system.
  6. Click on “Next” to start the installation.
  7. Set your default operating system according to the “Setting Your Default Operating System” procedure above.

Dual Booting Windows 7 with Other Windows Operating Systems – To dual boot Windows 7 with Vista, or multiboot Windows 7 with Vista and other operating systems, simply install Windows 7 in its own volume on a Windows Vista system as explained above. For more information, see Techspot.

Dual Booting Mac OS X with Windows

You can dual boot Mac OSX and Windows through Boot Camp. For more information, see Boot Camp FAQs.

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