Creating a Dual Boot XP Installation

Contributed By

A Guide to creating two seperate Installations of Windows XP allowing you to create a custom, streamlined install purley for Audio Work.

Everyone knows that in order to have low latency and hassle free Audio work, you need to keep your Windows XP install as clean and lean as possible and avoid installing any programs that will take CPU power away from the most important tasks. However, the main problem that a lot of home users experience is the fact that they only have one computer to do their Audio work on, and unfortunately the rest of the family uses it as well resulting in your well groomed XP installation becoming some form of nightmare behemoth XP mess! However, there is another way...

By creating a Dual Boot Windows XP install, you can select between two completely separate operating systems upon boot – one for every day usage (complete with your Internet access settings, Microsoft Office and Monkey Island 4) and one soley for your Digital Audio Work, and nothing else!

*** Please note that this guide is not for the computer novice, be sure to READ through this entire article before embarking upon it – it may also be a good idea to create a print out of this so you have something to follow while you are doing it

Also, please note that neither Home Recording Connection (HRC) nor Jues (J. Reeves) are liable for any damage to your computer or data that may possibly arise whilst undertaking this task – this includes tidal wave or giant monster attack, I'm afraid ***

*** Golden Rule: BACKUP! ***

Right first off you need to understand the basics of Hard Disc management. In order to have a dual boot system you need to partition your Primary Boot Hard Disk so that you have two bootable partitions on your main boot drive. If you already have two partitions on the main boot drive – great – you can skip all the steps that involve partitioning the Main Boot Drive and simply install XP onto those two partitions. However, if you do not (which is most likely the case) then you need to repartition it.

First off you will need to back up everything that you want to keep on the C: drive as we are going to have to format it (thus deleting all the data on the disk! The easiest way to do this is to copy all your data from the main boot drive to another physical hard disk (if you don't have a second hard disc drive, then now would be a good time to invest in one. It is always a good idea to have a fast second hard disk drive (7,2000rpm & ATA133, preferably with an 8Mb Cache) solely for audio work, as this will cut down on the amount of strain that your Main Boot Drive is under when recording.

Once all your files have been backed up onto the other hard disc (or onto a bunch of CD-R's if this simply isn't an option) then we can embark upon the task of installing Windows XP a-fresh!

Place the Windows XP Installation CD in your CD-Rom drive; ignore the setup program that launches, as we wish to do a clean install, wiping out the old installation.

Restart your computer and make sure that it boots from the CD-Rom drive as opposed to the hard disc drive. You may have to hold down the C key or maybe go into your BIOS and select the CD-Rom drive to be the primary boot device (if you have difficulties with this then be sure to check your motherboard's / computer's manual - if you are still stuck, post your motherboard's manufacturer and the model number and I will try to find out how to achieve this for you.)

The computer should now be booting off of the Windows XP installation CD (if the computer simply boots up into Windows as per usual then you have not made the CD the main booting device!).

The Windows XP install program (if you have never had the pleasure before) will appear on a blue screen with lots of writing and no graphics (welcome to DOS :) – be sure to read all the text on each screen, it's not waffle!

When it asks you what you wish to do, tell it you wish to Install a fresh copy of Windows XP (NOT repair the current installation). It will now ask you which Physical Hard Disc Drive you wish to install XP onto.

You should now be at a screen which shows the Physical Hard Discs you have on your system along with any partition information you have. Select the main boot drive (the first one in the list) and delete the partition - Windows will ask you to confirm your choice - do bear in mind that this will delete everything from your main hard disc drive - so make sure you have made sufficient backups first!. When the partition has been deleted you will now have a nice empty hard disc to work with.

Now depending on the size of the disc, you will wish to create 2 or maybe 3 partitions. Make the first two partitions around 6-15Gigabytes in size. If you have a large hard disc then you may wish to create a third partition which you can use to store data - make this last partition as large as you can with the remaining space.

So, for example, if you have a 60Gb Hard Disc Drive then I would partition it thusly:

Partition 1 – 12Gb
Partition 2 – 12Gb
Partition 3 – 36Gb

Once you have created these partitions you will need to format them. I would personally opt for the NTFS filing system - though there are some people that believe FAT32 is better for Audio work (and there are some people that say that Pepsi MAX tastes nice... : ). Make sure you do proper ‘full' formats on all the new partitions and not a 'Quick Format' as Quick Formats will not check the drive for errors - it will take a while to format these new partitions (depending on the size of them and the speed of your hard disk). Once they are formatted, we are ready to start installing Windows (yay!)

Select the first partition (one of the 6-15Gb ones) to install Windows XP onto - install XP as per usual.


Wait some more...

'Setup will be completed in 5 minutes...'

Wait about 15 minutes more...

Hurrah! Now install all your drivers and configure your internet applications - make this installation of Windows XP the way you want it - this is now your General Usage partition, where you do all your internet browsing, play games, install Microsoft Office (oh, already mentioned playing games...), etc, etc. When everything is the way you like it, be sure to name your Hard Disks in 'My Computer'. Call the first Drive something like 'OS and Programs' call the second one (the other 6-15Gb partition – which should at this point be completely empty) 'DAW OS' and if you created the third drive (the large one that used the remaining space on the drive) call that 'Data' or something equally bland – this is where you can put all your various files (downloads, mp3's, etc, etc)

Right, now we are ready to install Windows XP again - joy! However, the good news is that this time you don't have to faff around with partitioning the drives, because we have already done that (yay!)

Restart the computer with the XP installation CD in the Drive (like we did last time) and this time tell it you wish to install a fresh copy of Windows XP onto your 'DAW OS' partition (which should be completely empty) - installation will now commence as per usual... so go get a cup of tea, read a Jane Austin Novell and then if you have time, watch all 5 Star Wars episode's back to back, wondering how they got the new ones soooo very wrong.

Cheer as the Second Death Star explodes ending the Empire's grip on the galaxy...

Once XP is installed, configure it solely for Audio Work - this means not installing Microsoft Office, Monkey Island 4 or anything else that will slow the system down. Simply install your Audio Card Drives, set up the correct Graphics Drivers and then install whichever Audio Apps you use (eg: Cubase, Vegas, Cakewalk!, etc) and then leave everything else alone - this installation will be the lean, mean XP install just for Audio. If you have other people who use the computer, you may wish to put a password on this XP installation to stop people coming along and installing Monkey Island, etc on it. Also, if you wish to test out any new programs (including Audio ones) - it would be a good idea to install them onto the 'General Purpose' XP partition until you know that you want them on the DAW OS one. My main point here is keep the DAW OS partition as clean and lean as you can - it will work better that way.

For more information on configuring and tweaking Windows XP for Audio work, be sure to check out TweakXP dot com which contains hundreds of tips on how to tweak everyone's favourite OS.

Right, now when you boot up the computer you should be presented with a little menu that pops up before XP boots which lets you choose between XP Professional / Home or XP Professional / Home. Hmm, these two choices may appear quite cryptic, but luckily there is a nice easy way to edit their names. Choose the first option on the list and with a bit of luck it will boot into your General Purpose XP install (the first installation that we made).

When everything has booted up, Open up the control panel and double click on the 'system properties' icon. Click on the Advanced Tab and then click on the 'Start up and Recovery' Settings button. This will bring up a new window with your boot options in it. About 1/3 of the way down on the Right Hand Side is a button marked "Edit" - click on this.

Notepad will now open up with your Boot Configuration file - be careful when editing this, because if you hash it up you could possibly damage your XP installations.

You will now be presented with something like this:

[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)WINDOWS="Windows XP" /fastdetect
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)WINDOWS="Windows XP" /fastdetect

Now you see the bottom two lines, I have highlighted what you want to change in bold characters. You want to change these two to something a bit less cryptic - eg:

[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)WINDOWS="General" /fastdetect
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)WINDOWS="DAW" /fastdetect

Important: DO NOT just copy and paste the above - this will almost undoubetly not work - you need to just change the parts that I have highlighted in bold.

Now save this file and restart the computer - you should now be greeted with a slightly less cryptic menu.

Right, I think that just about covers it. As you can see this is a rather mammoth operation and I would recommend that you don't undertake it unless you are confident with computers ... if you feel a bit unsure then by all means ask some questions, but it would probably be a good idea to get a friend who is knowledgeable about such things (or maybe just someone to hold your hand and agree with your decisions :) to help you out with this undertaking.

Oh, one point to add. Although I said that you have to delete all your data when creating new partitions on the hard disc - this is not 100% true. The company 'Power Quest' make a program called 'Partition Magic' which will allow you to create and resize partitions on the fly. It is quite costly, but it will save you all the hassle of having to backup all your data and then reconfigure all the system's partition information in the XP install.

Right, that's just about it - any questions, feel free to ask in the forums.

Oh and Good Luck!!!

Related Forum Topics:

User-submitted comments

el musico
Jun 21, 2003 10:14 pm
be careful
be careful wih using norton utilities' speed disk program when using partition magic or fat32 drives... i have experienced catastrophic data loss doing so. of course i had everything backed-up but i know many people don't.

Sep 25, 2003 11:57 pm
My Raid"0" Raptors/or the overkill DAW?
I have been reading the Dual-Boot article over and again, not being the slickest pc geek, but making up for it with "sheer determination". I am sure that my system will kick azz when my dumness finally gets the right tune-up applied.
I will be short since this is not where I want to post as far as correct form and all.

Just a double thanks to the author for the article I have been waiting for.

Oct 20, 2003 03:33 pm
here is my boot config file;
[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition" /fastdetect

***"Should this be initially altered by windows, or how I get to this step?", is my boggle. I am, so going to do this dual boot thing!...But I am quite hung at the moment..
60gb udma5 ata
80gb udma5 ata
2 raptors,raid "0" array "00e00" 36gb+36gb sata
highpoint rocket raid 1520 pci card
TascamUS224 interface/midi/soundcardsolution
Intel onboard video no agp slot available

Oct 20, 2003 03:56 pm
whoops.. I meant to tell you I have copied my c drive to the array successfully, using a purchase I made of "Partition Manager". Works great Got all my partitioning done, or its close, and easy to modify now, but the boot manager utility let me down or I failed to follw directions more accurately stated. any way i am so very close. thanks again

Mar 15, 2004 06:25 am
boot discs
if ya need some help with a boot disc, or a boot disc which will allow cd-r access go to

jues gave me that link, and its way useful. thanks jues!

Joe Belanger
Mar 11, 2005 10:32 am
In my experience of multi-partition PC hard disk recording.. Bcareful
I have partitioned a large capacity hard drive (60Gig) into 2 partitions and recorded audio using an M-audio multi track sound card and experienced audio glitches during recording process. The glitches appeared at the exact same moment and time for each seperate recording and the computer would "miss" or "drop frames" of sampling and add a loud frequency pop.
Though I do not KNOW the exact reason, I assume that the audio recording would reach the partition information on the Hard Disk and ,,reset? Or like a typewriter, return? I do not know if this happens or has happened to anyone else, but thought it might be good for someone to know. I imagine that more RAM might be able to overcome this problem also, and RAM may have been a factor, but after removing the partition information and starting over the problem no longer existed..

If you would like to leave comments to the articles you read, feel free to register for your free membership.