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I currently have a PC with a single drive, with WinXP installed. I will soon be adding in another drive to this PC, which had Win7 installed on it (while it was in another machine).

  • When the PC starts up, will I automatically get an option to choose which drive to boot off of or do I need to do something to set that up?

  • I am guessing that regardless of which OS I boot into, I will be able to see the other drive. Is that so?

  • How does installed software work in such a scenario? For example, let's say I boot into Win7 and from my WinXP drive I run some software that was installed under WinXP. Would it be able to run? I was just thinking about something like WinXP registry settings that might be required to run the app. Would those be available if I didn't boot into WinXP? If I install the same software under both Win7 and WinXP, would that cause any issues or are those two drives basically completely separate?

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The crude solution is to use the BIOS (e.g. the F12 key) to select the boot drive. –  sawdust May 22 '12 at 23:20

2 Answers 2

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  1. With two separate bootable drives, there is no default question as to which one to boot. The system will boot the first one, unless it is not readable. If you want that choice at bootup, install a boot manager. Or use the BIOS boot drive selection.
  2. Assuming both drives are NTFS, both Windows versions can read both, but there are are subtle features added in versions including Vista which make XP not like the drive. As long as Win7 does not write to the XP drive, XP should be able to share it. Likewise, XP won't like the Win7 drive much. It might be able to read many of the files, but will balk at some directories.
  3. One of the biggest failings of the registry architecture is the problem of a shareable installation configuration.

Alas, to get good interoperability between the two operating systems, use a drive format like FAT32. However, there are good reasons not do to that. Instead, maybe use a thumb drive or other external drive formatted with FAT.

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  • Yes, when you install Windows 7 it will install a dual boot loader automatically, so you will have a choice after the bios post to choose which OS to boot into. (The XP drive needs to be connected when you install Windows 7 on the other drive, be sure to select the correct drive to install W7 onto)

  • Yes you will be able to browse the other hard drive from either OS.

  • No, you cannot run most applications installed in the other OS, they have to be installed in the OS you wish to use them in.

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