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How To Install Windows XP on a Windows Vista Machine (Part 2)

Step 2: Changing your BIOS

This step is rather quirky, as we can't give you exact information on what to do here due to the number of different BIOS and motherboard manufactures. We can, however, show you what we did on our test rig which has an AMI Bios. This is definitely one of the more widely used BIOSes, and almost any machine in the modern world should have options to allow you to do the same thing. This does not, however, guarantee it will be in your particular bios. If you find that you can not set the exact hard drive you wish to boot from in your BIOS, then you will be forced to open up the case and disconnect your Vista hard drive, and make the secondary hard drive bootable. We won't be discussing how to do that here, however, as I mentioned before, almost all modern BIOS have a means to choose which hard drive should be considered the primary drive, so you should be OK. Remember the changes you make to your BIOS as you will have to reverse these settings later on! If you have to write the changes down to remember, do so!

AMI BIOS ScreenTo get into your BIOS you will generally have to hit either Delete, F2 or F12. If none of these work for you, you will have to check with your motherboard manufacture, or pay attention to what the power on screen tells you. It will generally say something like "Hit (key) to enter Setup" or "Hit (key) to enter BIOS Setup", replacing (key) with the key you need to strike to get into the setup screen. On our test rig, the key to hit at power on is the Delete key. When you've entered into the BIOS you should have a screen that looks similar to the image on the left. This should tell you what hard drives you have installed, what CD/DVD devices, floppies, etc. If you have a RAID device, a series of several hard drives that are utilized as a single device, they may not show up here and you may have to configure your RAID device BIOS instead. For example, our test rig has two RAID devices, each made up of two physical hard drives, set up, one SATA and one PATA, however we have to go into the Fastrak BIOS to configure those. Those four hard drives do not show up in this BIOS, only the solo Western Digital shows up here. You will see your RAID devices listed later on, though, usually named something like TX Array 1 or some such.

AMI BIOS Boot TabNow that you are in your BIOS, you should be able to access a boot tab, or similar area, in your BIOS. On our rig, the boot tab has all of the options which we will have to change in order to make the computer think that the solo Western Digital drive is the primary hard drive, rather than the RAID array we normally boot off of. Essentially what we will be doing here is changing how your computer sees your hard drives, and which one should be considered the hard drive that we want activated as the bootable hard drive. This will not affect your ability to boot into Windows Vista, or, at least, not permanently. We need to do this step in order to make sure that the Vista bootloader and Master Boot Record (MBR) are not affected.

AMI BIOS Drive SelectionFor us, using the BIOS we have on our test rig, we need to go to Hard Disk Drives and hit enter. We are presented with our current hard drive order; that is, the order that the computer sees these devices. At the moment, the computer sees our first RAID Array (the SATA RAID) as the primary boot device and the Western Digital solo drive as the secondary drive. Our PATA RAID doesn't even show up on this screen as we never need to utilize it as a boot device, so we removed it from this screen altogether. What we need to do is basically tell the computer we want to see the Western Digital hard drive first, and any other drive or RAID device second, third, etc.

AMI BIOS Set Secondary DriveTo do this, you simply have to hit enter on the First Disk drives name. Select the drive you wish the system to see as ordered as your first hard drive available on the system and then hit enter. This drive should be the drive you want to install Windows XP on, not the hard drive you currently have Windows Vista installed on. As a precautionary measure, we have also set the second drive to disabled, which basically means at boot time, the computer will not even recognize this hard drive as a bootable hard drive. The operating system will still have access to the hard drive, and it will still be available, however, you will not be able to write an MBR on any of the devices not shown on this screen. This is a good thing to implement, as you don't want to accidentally write to your Vista MBR.

AMI BIOS Device PriorityNext we need to select our boot device priority. If we try to boot off of the hard drive we are going to install Windows XP on, chances are our system will not boot, as we are assuming you are using a blank hard drive. We now need to tell the BIOS that we don't want to boot from that hard drive, but from the CD/DVD drive. Hit ESC to go back to the Boot Tab from the Hard Disk Drive section of our BIOS and then go to Boot Device Priority and hit enter. Here you may see that your blank hard drive is the first in the priority. You must change this to boot from the CD/DVD drive instead. To do this, hit Enter on the device beside 1st Boot Device and then use the arrow keys to select the CD/DVD drive you want to boot from, hitting enter to make that selection. As we can see below, the hard drive automatically goes down the list to becoming the second in queue to be booted, and the CD/DVD drive becomes the first to boot. If a bootable record isn't found on the CD/DVD media in the drive, or if no media is present, the computer will automatically boot the hard drive next.

AMI BIOS Boot Priority Switched

AMI BIOS Save and ExitThe final step we have to do in our BIOS is to save the configuaration and exit. Most BIOS use the F10 key to savem, but not all of them, so you might have to go to a Save and Exit Tab or hit the appropriate key. Make sure you save your changes, as we don't want to be able to boot to Windows Vista. Test this theory by leaving your CD/DVD drive empty and try to boot from the blank hard drive. You should not be able to boot, since the hard drive is empty. If this is the case, all is well and good.

Now that you have tested your configuration, put your Windows XP (this works for 2003 and Media Center as well) media in the CD/DVD drive and boot from the disc, install Windows XP, boot into it, get your service packs, drivers, etc all sorted out then meet me back here for part 3 when you are finished.