(Thanks to Rob T. for this strategy)
First, how do you know you have this problem? Well, you recently re-installed Windows XP, but now see a boot menu when the computer is powered up that is a black screen with multiple Windows XP choices. It means that you’ve likely installed Windows XP to two different partitions on your hard drive.
There are two methods of resolving this situation and freeing up the hard drive space taken up by the unused installation, but they depend on your level of expertise, the time you have and whether you have a retail version of Windows XP.
If you have a copy of your Windows XP CD, use either of the two strategies below.
If you do not have a copy of your Windows XP CD, use the method "Fast and Tricky" method
(the "Fast, but Tricky Method" is below)
The instructions for this method assume that you have a retail copy of XP from a store.
1. Start Windows and choose the installation that is currently working from the Boot Menu and continue into Windows.
2. Backup up your documents – IMPORTANT – the next steps will completely erase your hard drive, so all data will be lost unless you back it up first. If you need backup software click here to get Eazy Backup. If you need a place on the web to back it up, a Carbonite account will allow you to do that.
3. If you cannot access the files from your previous installation of XP you must take ownership of those files first, then back them up. How to do that? See: How to take ownership of a file or folder in Windows XP. Reconfigure the computer’s BIOS to boot from the CD. Take a look at How to get into your computer’s BIOS if you need assistance with that. Then put your Windows XP CD in and restart the computer.
4. You’ll see a "Welcome to Setup" page, press ENTER to continue. Then press F8 to accept the Windows XP Licensing Agreement. If an existing Windows XP installation is detected, you are prompted to repair it. Press ESC (do not repair).
5. Now select a partition with Windows installed and press D to delete an existing partition. You must then press L (or press ENTER, and then press L if it is the System partition) to confirm that you want to delete the partition. Repeat this process for each of the existing partitions. When all the partitions are deleted, you can then select the resulting unpartitioned space and then press C to create the new partition.
6. Type the size (in megabytes, or MB) that you want to use for the new partition, and then press ENTER, or just press ENTER to create the partition using the maximum size.
7. Create additional partitions if you want to (if you created two more they will become drive D and E in the new Windows installation but will be empty).
8. Use the arrow keys to select the partition you want to install Windows XP on, and then press ENTER.
9. Select the format option that you want to use for the partition, and then press ENTER, i.e. FAT32 or NTFS and continue with the installation. FAT32 is an old file system that came before XP. NTFS is a file system left over from Windows 2000. If you’re unsure use NTFS. Windows XP will install on the partition and then you’ll be prompted to restart.
Note: If you have an Upgrade version of XP, you will be prompted for qualifying media during the installation process. This means that you will have to insert a CD-ROM with a previous version of Windows on it, i.e. Windows 2000, Windows ME, Windows 98 etc. (Windows setup needs to confirm that you own a previous version of Windows in order for you to qualify for the upgrade.) If you do not have a CD-ROM with a previous version of Windows then install that first on the new partition (and use FAT32) .
10. After a reboot all should be well!
Fast but Tricky Method updated
Our reader T. Sedlak came up with the following enhancements:
I thought I would add a few points that I had to address in my case.
First, if you do the Fast but Tricky Method, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ERASE YOUR HARD DRIVE! (see line #2 here).
Or the boot.ini file is locked. The user will have to right-click, select properties and uncheck the “read only” box. (see step 9 in the above line).
But the boot.ini file needs to have its default changed to: Default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)WINDOWS. This keeps a failed/aborted Windows installation from retrying on each boot-up. The reference here is on the Microsoft KB827324 article. This would occur in step 11 of your protocol (first link above).
Besides, $win_nt$.~bt folder and $win_nt$.~ls folders may be also deleted. These are Windows XP installation files hidden in the C: directory. See this Microsoft KB827324 article for details.")
(The "Easy but Time Consuming Method" is above )
Here’s a quick way to replace two copies of Windows XP from your system with one working copy. It may look like a lot of steps, but they are very quick.
1.Start Windows and choose the installation that is currently working from the Boot Menu and continue into Windows.
2. Backup up your documents–IMPORTANT–the next steps will completely erase your hard drive, so all data will be lost unless you back it up first. If you need backup software click here to get Eazy Backup. If you need a place on the web to back it up, get a Carbonite account.
3. If you cannot access the files from your previous installation of XP you must take ownership of those files first, then back them up: Here’s how to do that: How to take ownership of a file or folder in Windows XP
4. Open Windows Explorer, click My Computer, and click on the Tools menu, then Folder Options, then the View tab.
5. Under “Hidden files and folders”, chose to Show them. Uncheck the box next to “Hide protected operating system files”, and click Yes to confirm, then OK to exit.
6. Browse to your C: drive, and make a copy of the boot.ini file in the same folder as a backup.. Next, open the original boot.ini file with Notepad.
7. Look for the [operating systems] section. This is the area shown on the Boot Menu and will probably show at least two lines, each reflecting a different installation of Windows XP. It should look similar to this:
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)WINDOWS=”Microsoft Windows XP Professional” /fastdetect
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(3)WINDOWS2=”Microsoft Windows XP Professional” /fastdetect
Note: If you have XP Home, it will indicate “Microsoft XP Home” above instead. This does not affect any of the subsequent steps.
8. In order to tell the installations apart, we’ll modify the portion in quotes, which is the description you see on bootup. For example, you might change them to:
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)WINDOWS=”Microsoft Windows XP Professional X” /fastdetect
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(3)WINDOWS2=“Microsoft Windows XP Professional Y” /fastdetect
Note the “X” and “Y” we’ve added to tell them apart in the boot menu. You can use anything you want in the quotes.
9. Save your changes to the boot.ini and restart your machine. Make note of which installation of XP you want to keep. In our example, we want to keep the installation “Y” since that’s the one that is working correctly.
10. When the computer reboots, click on Start, then click Run, type in “msconfig”, and click OK. Select the BOOT.INI tab, and note the [operating systems] section again. Select the “good” installation, and click the “Set as Default” button and click OK.
11. Head back to the boot.ini on your C: drive, and edit it again with Notepad. Under [operating systems], delete the line that will no longer be used, leaving only the line reflecting your “good” installation of Windows. Make note of the backslash and folder name of the “bad” installation that you are no longer using before you delete this line (you’ll need this later in step 15).
12. In the example below, the bad folder name is “WINDOWS” since I am now using the installation in the “WINDOWS2” folder. Again, look for the folder location immediately after the partition number such as in this example:
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(3)WINDOWS=”Microsoft Windows XP Professional X” /fastdetect
13. Save the changes to your boot.ini file, and restart your computer. You should not be prompted with a boot menu and the correct version of Windows XP should load automatically.
14. If you have not yet backed up your documents, do so now! If you make a mistake on the next step, you could lose some of your documents. If you need backup software click here to get Eazy Backup. If you need a place on the web to back it up, click here to get a Carbonite account.
15. Recall the folder of the “bad” or “old” installation of XP from step 11. This installation is no longer used, and the duplicate Windows files are simply taking up space on your hard drive. Since you are now using a different installation, you are free to delete these files.
16. In step 11, I removed the line that pointed to the “WINDOWS” installation location. Note that this may vary for you. At this point, I can delete the “Windows” folder since I am now using the “Windows2” folder for Windows XP. This will save a fair amount of hard drive space.
17. Once you’ve done this you’re done. Congrats!