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I use acronis true image to mount images to my primary partition and it works great. lets say I have 3 partitions on my hard disk and all of them each is 600 GB. In the 3rd partition I keep files (documents, pictures etc), on the first partition is my primary partition where the operating system runs (windows 7).

And in the 2nd partition is empty. I have an image of my primary partition and I save that image in my 3rd partition (50 GB is the size of the image so it fits in the partition number 3) and in an external hard drive.

I know it is possible to install a new operating system in partition 2 such as windows xp but the only problem is that once I install that how could I tell the computer to boot from partition 1? is there a way to switch back and forth just like it's possible in the mac?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Mar 13 '11 at 15:36

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Yes, it's. It's called bootloader.

When you install second Windows, it'll automatically add entry to bootloader, and then it shows menu for selecting OS when you boot your computer. This assumes second Windows is newer one (for example Windows XP is already installed and you are installing Windows 7).

If you already have Windows 7 and you are going to install Windows XP (or similar case), newer installation CD with recovery option most probably fixes the problem.

Configuring bootloader is more complex process if you mix different operating systems, for example Linux and Windows.

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While this answer is generally true, I think the order in which you install the different versions of Windows matters because the boot process is different in Win 7 than it is in Win XP. If you install Win 7 second, it'll work because it knows how the older version does things as well the new process. However if you install Win XP second, it doesn't know how the later version works and will mess things up. However I think you can fix that afterwards by using the Win 7 install CD to repair the existing installation. –  martineau Mar 13 '11 at 16:43
    
@martineau good point, I'll update my answer. –  Olli Mar 13 '11 at 16:49
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No. It's actually called Boot Manager. The things that it invokes, such as WINLOAD are boot loaders, and they are, as boot loaders are, specific to individual operating systems. –  JdeBP Mar 13 '11 at 18:29
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