How can i make an active disk not active? (reg. Dual boot problem)


Mar 5, 2006
OK, this is weird. I was trying to dual boot... Windows Vista 64 and XP pro 32bit....
But instead of getting the OS choice menu in boot up - I Now have realized that if i unplug one of my external eSATA drives the computer starts up to XP Pro but if I plug the drive in and restart it boots up to VISTA. What? This is a non system disk and should have nothing to do with it.

Here is the story...
So - On a single disk, I had two partitions for a dual boot. Both with Windows XP Pro 32bit installed on The C:/ Drive and the D:/ drive. --( This on a Raptor 150g drive split down to two 75g partitions.)

I decided to upgrade the D:/ drive partition to Windows Vista 64bit while wanting to maintain the C:/ drive with WinXP pro and all my old 32 bit programs and settings.

So I installed from boot. I did this and selected the D:/ drive from the list of drives to install Vista to - and overwrite the existing XP partition on the disk.

After install - I assumed i would get a dual boot menu to be able to choose Windows XP pro or Vista 64 -- But instead - it goes right into Vista. :(

From Vista - I went to my computer and I see the drives letters are now changed... What was the C:/ drive partition with WinXP is now the F:/ drive partition. -And what was the D:/ in XP is now the C:/ drive with Vista.

I need the dual boot to work.

From Vista i went to DISK MANAGEMENT - and i see that one of my backup storage Hard drives (non system) (750g) is set as Active. Thus, it will not let me change drive letters. If i shut down the computer and unplug this Active drive then restart the computer - the system boots into Windows XP now. - No mention of VISTA.

pat mcgroin

Nov 21, 2007
here is a article from the window secret newsletter that could be helpful.

Make your computer dual-boot Vista and XP

By Scott Dunn

It's getting harder to buy a new computer with Windows XP installed and — after Microsoft stops selling XP on June 30, 2008 — it will become nearly impossible.

Fortunately, you can have your XP cake and eat your Vista, too, by setting up your system to boot between the two operating systems.

Add an XP option to your new Vista system

If a new computer arrived in your recent past, or you plan to buy one in the near future, chances are it will come with Windows Vista installed. Although some manufacturers still give you the option of getting XP on your new system, that option is likely to dry up for most consumers later this year when Microsoft stops selling Windows XP.

If you're not ready to dive into Vista all at once, there is an answer: set up your Vista computer to dual-boot between Vista and XP.

In this article, I'll tell you how to make your PC give you a choice between Vista and XP every time you start up. In a separate article coming soon, I'll give you some additional tips that save disk space on a dual-boot system.

Although some sources, such as Computer Shopper Magazine, advise that you need an add-on product like VistaBootPro to dual-boot, you can accomplish the same thing without any additional software other than the two operating systems.

Before starting, make sure you have your Windows XP install discs ready as well as your Windows Vista DVD. In addition, it's a good idea to make a complete system backup before beginning an operation like this.

Once you've laid that groundwork, you're ready to go to work:

Step 1. In Vista, click Start, type diskmgmt.msc, and press Enter. Click Continue if prompted by User Account Control.

Step 2. Right-click a drive and choose Shrink Volume. Specify the amount to shrink, which in this case is the amount you want for your XP partition. At a minimum, you'll need around 2.5GB for XP Pro SP2. I suggest you select a larger partition to leave room for updates and other files that may need to be on the same drive as XP. Because I wanted a 5GB partition, I typed 5000 (representing 5,000 megabytes) in the available box. Click Shrink.

Step 3. Right-click the newly available area and choose New Simple Volume. Follow the steps in the wizard to assign a drive letter now, or wait until the next step. When prompted, check Perform a quick format to format the volume with NTFS.

Step 4. When the wizard is done formatting the new volume, you can assign or rearrange drive letters as needed. For example, changing drive letters may also put your CD/DVD drive in a more logical order.

To do that, right-click a volume or the CD/DVD drive and choose Change Drive Letters and Paths. If a volume hasn't got a drive letter yet, click Add. Otherwise, select the drive icon in the dialog box and click Change.

If you're rearranging the letters on existing drives, you may need to change the drives in a particular order. Or you may need to give a drive a temporary letter (such as Z) to free up a letter for another drive; you would change the Z drive to something else later. Make your selection and click OK. Repeat for other partitions or drives until you have the order you want.

Step 5. When you're done with your partitioning chores, exit Disk Management. Insert your XP disc into the drive and restart your system, booting from that disk.

Step 6. Follow the steps to install XP. When asked for the target drive, select your new partition and press Enter. Because you already formatted this partition with NTFS, you can skip the formatting step. At the appropriate screen, arrow down to Leave the current file system intact (no changes) and press Enter. Continue the installation process until it's finished and XP has started.

Step 7. Your system now boots to XP, so we'll need to do some fixing to set up a boot menu. Insert your Vista DVD and restart the computer from it. Click Next in the first screen.

Step 8. Don't click Install when prompted! Instead, click Repair Your Computer in the lower-left corner.

Step 9. When the System Recovery Options dialog appears, make sure Microsoft Windows Vista is selected and click Next. In the next dialog box, select the Command Prompt option at the bottom.

Step 10. In the command-prompt window, type the following commands and press Enter after each one:

bootrec.exe /fixMBR
bootrec.exe /fixBoot

Step 11. Close the command prompt and click Restart.

Step 12. When your computer has booted into Vista, click Start, type cmd.exe, and press Ctrl+Shift+Enter to make the command window open with elevated privileges. Click Continue, if prompted by User Account Control.

Step 13. Type the following commands in the command window, one at at time, pressing Enter after each one. After each command, you should get the response, "The operation completed successfully." A response of, "The specified entry already exists," is OK, too. If not, retype your command to make sure you've entered it correctly. If Vista is installed on a drive other than c:, change the first command below to use the proper drive letter. The curly braces around {ntldr} in each command must be typed exactly as shown:

bcdedit -set {ntldr} device partition=C:
bcdedit -set {ntldr} path \ntldr
bcdedit -displayorder {ntldr} -addlast
bcdedit -set {ntldr} description "Microsoft Windows XP"

That's it! The next time you restart your system, you should be see a prompt that will let you choose between Vista or XP. Select the one you want and press Enter.

How to customize your boot menu

When you start your dual-boot system, the menu will appear for a few seconds. If you don't press any keys, eventually Windows Vista will start. Fortunately, you can change this if you don't want Vista to be your default operating system. You can also customize the waiting period before the default kicks in.

Here's what to do:

Step 1. Click Start. Type systempropertiesadvanced and press Enter. Click Continue, if prompted by User Account Control.

Step 2. Under Startup and Recovery, click Settings.

Step 3. At the top of the dialog box, select the operating system you want to start by default.

Step 4. In the box to the right of Time to display list of operating systems, specify the number of seconds for the options to stay on screen. Click OK.

Microsoft provides documentation of Vista's bcdedit command and its parameters in an article in the Windows Vista Technical Library


Mar 5, 2006
I got it working now. The problem was that i had another disk marked as active and primary on the same system. This somehow was causing boot problems and not allowing Windows XP and Vista to show up in the boot menu.
So i removed the other Active disk, and re-installed Vista on the D:/ partition and it works now. I can now dual boot. - then i hooked back up the 750g disk that was active and no problems.


Aug 22, 2009
1. Windows +R
2. Type "cmd"
3. At the prompt type "diskpart"
4. then after the ">" symbol type " list disk"

DISKPART> list disk

Disk ### Status Size Free Dyn Gpt
-------- ---------- ------- ------- --- ---
Disk 0 Online 28 GB 1536 KB
Disk 1 Online 233 GB 993 KB

5.Now select the disk which you want to make INACTIVE (For instance if i want to make my Disk 1 as active i.e where the OS is installed and REQUIRED to boot, i need to select the drive which i want to make INACTIVE. In my example DISK 0)

Disk 0 is now the selected disk.

6. Type "list partition"

DISKPART> list partition

Partition ### Type Size Offset
------------- ---------------- ------- -------
Partition 1 Primary 28 GB 1024 KB

7. Since there is a single partition on DISK 0, select it by issuing the command "select partition 1"

DISKPART> select partition 1

Partition 1 is now the selected partition.

8.Type "inactive" - this will make disk 0 partition 1 as inactive

Explanation : This error crops up because you have been in Computer Management > Storage > Disk Management and selected more than 1 drive as ACTIVE together with the one which was already active- the one where your OS was .


********************************IMPORTANT THING TO DO FIRST ***************************************
Also since you cant get your OS to boot you must specifically select the boot disk from where to boot.
On my PC it was F12-> then i selected "hard disk" from where i had all my drives listed.
From here you must select the drive where your OS was initially installed
Finally run the command 1-8 above the disable the other drives as ACTIVE.

Hope i helped you