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I have purchased an i7 based PC pre-installed with 64 bit windows 7 (home premium). Unfortunately some third party 32 bit software that I need to use is not working properly (see for details). I am now torn between the plan of installing windows XP 32 bit or making it dual boot. Which option do you think will give me the least problems? And if the answer is dual boot, then can you point me to a good guide for how to do it, preferably a guide specifically for my two OS's created in this order (i.e. 7x64 first).

EDIT: the performance of my 32bit programs is critical so am concerned about any kind of 32bit XP "emulation".

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What about installing XP in VMware? – Iain Feb 3 '10 at 12:31
VMWare is a respectable idea. – user3463 Feb 3 '10 at 12:32
What version of Windows 7? If you have Pro or Ultimate, you can use XP Mode (you need to download and install it) - XP Mode is basically a Virtual Machine running XP that integrates with 7 so the app "appears" to run as a regular app on win7. – Multiverse IT Feb 3 '10 at 12:39
@multiverse My version is "home premium" (I just edited it in to my original question). – Mick Feb 3 '10 at 12:52
I had the same dilemma. Chose to spend $85 to upgrade to Win7 Professional so I could get XP Mode in Virtual Machine. Works like a charm for all my ancient software that won't run on Win7 64-bit. I'm sure dual boot is a great way to go too. Depends on you budget. – Patriot Feb 3 '10 at 13:50
up vote 1 down vote accepted

If you decide to go Dual Boot, you may not have to mess with repartitioning and boot loaders- provided you have a second hard disk.

My SATA based system allows you to choose the hard drive you boot from using the F12 key, with the default set in the BIOS if you don't hit F12. That way, I get Windows 7 if I do nothing, or I can choose XP or 7 if I hit F12.

The BIOS essentially switches which drive is C: and D:.

Since Anti/Virus programs are rightfully suspicious of bootloaders, and I have to load no extra software, I find it a good solution for me.

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Virtualization is definitely the way to go. I use VMWare Workstation for just this type of development work. Though I suspect you can probably solve your Java issue in your native OS, there are some cases that are just better run in another machine. Dual-boot is a nuisance, especially compared to virtualization.

Other options for virtualization include Virtual PC (mentioned in the other answer) or Sun's Virtualbox. I've never used Virtual Box, but those who do rave about it. I still think VMWare Workstation is best in class, but it has a steeper price point.

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Virtualization is an option, but it does often have hardware requirements and incurs a performance penalty on both the host and guest OS. For the OP's specific issue I'd agree that it would be the better choice, but not a definite. – STW Feb 3 '10 at 13:05
...oh yeah, +1 for VirtualBox. Why pay a couple hundred for VMWare Workstation when you can get something that does very nearly as much (in some cases more) for free. – STW Feb 3 '10 at 13:06
+1 for virtual box. Unless this third party app is a real performacne hog, the i7 should have no problems running a virtual machine well over 90% native. As long as there is no need for 3d or direct hardware access there will be no problems – basszero Feb 3 '10 at 13:26

Windows 7 includes something called XP Mode, which incorporates Virtual PC. It's designed specifically for cases like you mention. Since it includes Virtual PC, you can also run Windows XP virtual machines.

The only caveat is your processor must support virtualization.

Edit: I just checked the site and noticed that XP Mode requires an upgraded Windows SKU (Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate).

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Dual-booting is perfectly possible, and not too difficult.

I'd suggest installing XP first: load the CD, and when it comes time to select the drive make sure to partition it as you'd like and place XP on the partion you'd prefer (I'd recommend placing it on the first partition, more on that later).

After XP is installed then go ahead and install Windows 7 into the second partition. It will likely find your XP installation on it's own and record the necessary information in the Boot.ini file.

After both are installed boot up your computer; Windows may or may not present you with it's plain-text bootloader which lets you choose which of the two installations to run. If it doesn't then it will boot (likely to Windows 7 if it was installed 2nd). Once logged in go to the Advanced System Settings > Advanced Tab; the top portion is related to Startup behavior and should let you choose which OS to default to and whether or not to display the menu at startup.

Note: In my experience installing Vista/7 on 2nd/3rd/4th.... partitions is a good idea because these versions of Windows will perform a little trickery and display their installation partition as "Drive C"; if XP is installed to a secondary partition then it will likely consider C: to be 7's installation partition and E\F\G or something like that to be XP's. Installing both with "C:" as their system partition is a whole lot easier to remmeber.

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For the actual Windows 7 and XP -Yes you can "multiboot" to Windows XP and Windows 7. *(After installing Windows 7, default Windows 7 is selected and that will be the primary choice for booting to Windows 7). See the detailed instructions on the Microsoft website. Essentially, these are the important steps to pay attention to: "On the Which type of installation do you want? page, click Custom. On the Where do you want to install Windows? page, select the partition or disk where you want to install the new Windows operating system. Be sure to install Windows on a different partition from the one where the earlier version of Windows is installed. Click Next to begin the installation. You might see a compatibility report."

Let me know if this helps! John M. Microsoft Windows Client Support

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