Double (no) trouble

Despite Microsoft's latest attempts to preach to the converted, it's clear that their new OS (operating system) costs a lot more than its predecessor.

It's also obvious that it's far less expensive to perform an upgrade than it is to buy Vista outright. But is this the wisest path for the average user? After swallowing PC manufacturers' "easy upgrade" smooth talk, plenty of users face the prospect of upgrading their own PCs to Vista, and many of them wouldn't normally attempt anything so radical. We predict trouble.

In truth, the procedure isn't all that complex - but you do need to be properly prepared before you start. You also need to be sufficiently organised to have discs and installation keys for all the software you've bought - by no means a given. We'd recommend making a compromise (at least at first) by dual-booting the two OSes. There are a number of reasons why this could be the best option.

You won't lose your data in the process - this month's workshop shows you how to back it up in such a way that it can be accessed and used in both XP and Vista, which is an ideal scenario if you depend on a particular application and drivers haven't yet been written for it.

Nor do you need to worry about having the correct software discs to hand, or losing all your settings. And as if that weren't reason enough, it gives you the chance to experiment and get some practice at the installation process before taking the plunge and upgrading for real. Then you can overwrite your OS and pray that you did everything right before clicking install.


1. It's a (fairly) simple matter to install and run Windows Vista and XP on the same machine. But before starting this workshop, confirm your PC comfortably meets the Vista requirements at You'll also need Internet access to download any updates, as well as your software activation codes.

2. Because we're dual-booting rather than overwriting the existing OS, we shouldn't lose any of our files or applications. Nevertheless, backing up is extremely important. Go to Start-All Programs-Accessories- System Tools-Backup and choose the All information on this computer option. Creating a System Restore point is also a good idea.

3. Next, we want to partition our hard drive so each OS can use its own partition without interfering with the other. Here we use Norton Partiton Magic, but you can also use the free Gnome Partition Manager from the Cover Disc. Create a primary partition, adjust to desired size and click Apply. After a reboot you should see your new partition listed as a separate drive under My Computer.

4. We're finally ready to start installing Windows Vista. Insert the Vista disc and, when the Vista install menu appears, click "Check compatibility online" just to be certain all is well at this early juncture. Read through the details under "What to know before installing Windows" before clicking Install now.

5. You will now be asked what type of installation to perform; choose Custom and your new partition as the destination drive. Installation takes about 30 minutes and involves your PC rebooting at several points. Once complete, Vista will be referred to as "Windows", while XP and other OSes are listed under "Earlier version of Windows" within the boot menu.

6. In the initial Vista screen, you'll be asked to give your PC a name and password as well as choosing a Vista background before Windows goes ahead and loads preferences and settings. After a few minutes, the Vista desktop will load and you'll be able to set up your PC according to your needs.



Windows Vista introduces a very useful new feature: Previous Versions. This feature, which was included in Windows Server 2003, allows you to "time travel" back to an earlier version of a file that you may have accidentally saved over or edited.

The Properties of a document now sport a helpful Previous Versions tab. Select one and click on the Restore button and your document is magically restored "as it was". Alternatively, you can open a previous version of the document directly from the Documents Explorer.


There are way too many versions of Windows Vista and choosing the one that's right for you can be tricky. It is, however, possible to try all of them out, for 14 days, to see which one you like best.

During setup, you'll be asked to enter a product key. However, if you don't enter a key and click No, you'll be presented with a list of all the Vista versions available. Intriguingly, every Vista install DVD is identical and it's the product key that determines which version is actually installed. So you can pick one from the list and use it for 14 days before it times out.


With protection against viruses, spyware, malware and phishing - and including a firewall far more powerful than the one that ships with Vista - Windows Live OneCare is dedicated to keeping your machine clean of creepy crawlies. In addition to its security features, OneCare also allows you to back up your data and has a one button "tune-up" - combining the virus/malware check with hard drive defrag and Windows update. A yearly subscription costs $99.95 and the software can be downloaded from and requires a Windows Live ID.


1. It's also possible to dual-boot XP with Vista already installed. Before starting your dual-boot installation, do a complete backup of your Vista OS. Go to Start-Control Panel and click on Backup and Restore Center. In the new window, click the Backup computer button. In the next screen, select where you want to save the backup image. Choose either a separate partition or DVD and click Next.

2. Make sure you only select your Vista System disk to back up - if you've already created a partition for XP, deselect this, then click Next. Confirm your backup settings and click Start backup. Once complete, and if you haven't done so already, create a separate partition for XP using the same methods as was explained in the first workshop.

3. As XP is an earlier version than Vista, it won't recognise the newer OS when booting up, and will load XP as if it is the only OS on the system. To rectify this, you'll need to install a program called VistaBootPRO (from the Cover Disc). Install, open and click Bootloader. Make sure "reinstall the Vista bootloader" is selected, and click Apply.

4. Now click on Manage OS Entries. You should see a list of all your installed operating systems, including Vista. You can highlight each one, which displays options such as renaming (making it easier choose each OS in the boot menu), time adjustment for the boot delay (how long before the default OS is automatically loaded) and set as default (which OS will boot up after boot delay time-out).

5. Once complete, click the View Settings button. Here you can see all the settings you have just created. If everything looks fine, close VistaBootPRO and reboot your system. You should be confronted with a new boot menu, allowing you to choose between Vista and XP. Boot into both to ensure everything has worked correctly.

6. If you have any problems at all, you can recover your Vista installation by accessing the backup you made earlier. To do this, go to Start-Control Panel-Backup and Restore Center and click the Restore computer button. If you can't access your OS, boot into your Vista installation disc and choose System recovery options, then the Windows Complete PC Restore option.

7. Although XP does not allow it, the new Microsoft OS supports the resizing of partitions. To adjust the size of your partitions, go to Start-Control Panel-Administrative Tools-Computer Management. In the new window, click Disk Management from the left-hand menu and Right-click the partition you want to resize.

8. Choose either Extend Volume (to enlarge partition) or Shrink Volume (to make partition smaller) and follow the prompts that appear - extending has a wizard; for shrinking you enter a resize amount (in MB) and click Shrink.



There's a real variation in quality among the numerous Vista emulators out there, but one that seems to have found general approval is Launchy. This alternative to Windows' Start menu makes accessing programs a matter of a couple of keystrokes. Start typing the program's name and it immediately finds it.


Surprisingly, considering every manual and many marketing brochures are distributed this way, there's no PDF reader built-in to Vista. Thankfully, Adobe has already made its Vista version of the free Acrobat Reader 8.0 available for download. One of those invaluable applications you're bound to need.


One of the main ways Microsoft will be pushing Vista is with its strengthened security setup. At the core of its Security Center is Windows Defender, a two-way firewall that provides antivirus protection and squishes both spam and spyware. Download a free copy for Windows XP.


Mac users have always had some of the best toys and the docking bar introduced in Mac OS X is a feature many PC users have come to envy. Applications are hidden from sight, leaving the whole screen free for you to work on until you move your mouse over the bottom of the screen. Aqua Dock 1.0 brings this no longer unique Mac style to Windows. Download it from


A while back we previewed Vista by showing how you could turn your perfectly good XP PC into one that boasts many of Vista's attributes, without having to shell out for it. Items such as widgets can be acquired from and will then reside on your desktop feeding you news headlines, stock market updates, random facts and quotations as well as games to while away a wet Wednesday.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Rosemary Haworth

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?