Dual Boot System Composed of Various Windows Operating Systems

Microsoft Windows
Due to various software I have and would rather not lose the ability to use them, is it possible to have a multi-boot system composed of the various Windows environments: 95, 98, ME, 2000, XP, 2003? If necessary, I can dedicate different hard drives to these areas. I would also like to install Linux on the same machine ... possible or another complication?

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Definitely possible.

Over the years I’ve done many multi boot systems containing pretty much everything except Win2003.

Do a google and search for ‘multibooting’ or ‘booting multipe OS’s’.

I believe you would start by installing the older OS’s first..and then finish with Linux as it and Win2K, WinNT, and probably Win2K3 have boot loaders built in.

You can install OS’s on the same drive, different partitions. but the best way would be to have them on different HD’s.

Another option would be to use something like the TRIOS DRIVE SELECTOR..this is a hardware solution..where you actually boot off of different drives by selecting which drive you want. Much safer, as the OFFLINE drives are in affect OFFLINE. 🙂


You can use the Dual Boot feature of any Windows Operating system. However, you have to consider at most the compatibility of the operating system versions to the hardware installed in your computer system because enabling your computer system for dual boot requires a high hardware specifications to run both operating system.

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  • Poppaman
    This is definately possible - I do this myself, with Windows 98 and XP on my primary machine; my son has 98, 2000 and Fedora on his. Be aware that, as previously stated, the oldest OS needs to be loaded first, and that NT, 2000 and XP (and 2003) all have different versions of the NTFS file system; care must be taken to keep the OS'es separate - you should seriously consider separate HDD's if you can, as it would make life much easier...
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  • Sgornick
    Keep in mind the limitation discussed in MS KB 227707. http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;227707 If you already have a primary partition on your system, Win2K Setup will create the new partition as an extended partition. That really will bite you if you ever want to delete or reinstall (or restore to) the primary partition. Partition Magic (aquired about a year ago by Symantec) is what I used to create the second primary partition and then had Win2K setup use that and all worked fine.
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  • Howard2nd
    Try Virtual PC - If you have the Hard drive space and enough memory 512 min 1 full GB preferred. Setup XP Pro SP2 with at least two partitions on the HD, then setup Virtual PC with the 'virtual drives in the second partitions. I have 98 on one, 2000 on the 2nd, and 2003 on a third, Suse linux on the 4th, and BeOS on the 5th. I have run three at the same time and with a shared folder on the XP partition and internal networking can swap files betwen them. MAIN REASON for this only the XP partition is exposed to the internet (firewalled, anti-virus, and anti-spyware running) all the others are NAT behind the firewall of the XP machine. Keeps the unpatched 98 system from catching anything (I hope - at least thus far - 6 months). WARNING if you use USB devices - printer etc this will not work as Virtual PC does not support USB for the client OS's. Note: a lot of the CF, SM/SD card readers that come in new computers are actually on the USB interface.
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  • Bobkberg
    Cheers to Howard2nd for bringing in the subject of virtual machines. My personal recommendation is VMWare - they're further ahead on the learning curve than is VirtualPC, but either way, this IS the right direction to go. I have a dual processor machine with 2 GB of memory, and virtual machines ranging from DOS, Win95, win 98, WinNT, Win2K, Win XP, different Linux distributions, etc. You can't run more than 2 or 3 of them simultaneously, but that's generally plenty. Each one can and does have its own name, IP Address, etc. Another advantage, is that since the "hard drive" is a file on the host system, you can create a "virgin" or clean install of an O/S, and then make a backup (usually to CD) of the clean install. This way, you can experiment with things and EASILY get back to a clean install. Bob
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