Error loading operating system message when booting Windows Vista

I was faced this morning with a few dilemmas...

First, several inches of snow. Now, just for the record, my idea of fun is absolutely not driving in snow wherever possible having totalled a car many years ago in black ice.

No problem, I'll work from home on my work laptop. So I popped upstairs to get the laptop out of it's case having been stored away for the last few days over Christmas. Hello... the bag seems a little light. Aargh. Yes, I left it in the office.

No worries - I'll install another partition on my main home machine, VPN back to work and set it up to join the Microsoft corp domain. (Although you can VPN from a machine joined to my home domain, IPSec gets a little upset at some things, so having a seperate partition domain joined is a lot simpler).

My home machine is running Windows Vista. I figured I really didn't need Vista for work stuff as basically everything I was likely to do from home is connecting to remote machines in my office or browsing the Intranet. So... I went with XP for the work partition. There comes my first mistake.

Of course, knowing that the boot loader setup is very different between Vista and XP, and you should consult the knowledgebase to learn how to re-install the Vista boot loader. KB 919529 has the information - Windows Vista no longer starts after you install an earlier version of the Windows operating system. Easy, so I thought. Nothing can possibly go wrong.

So the XP install was now prompting me to reboot, but the setup itself wouldn't restart following the first reboot - I can't recall the specific error but am fairly certain it's the same one I had problems with all the way through - namely "Error loading operating system".

Oh well, never mind, I'd had a change of plan and decided to go with Vista afterall. Pop the Vista DVD in, boot of DVD and go into the recovery steps to run bootsect.exe /nt60 c: to restore the Vista boot loader on my original installation before starting the dual boot install.

Unfortunately, after running bootsect and rebooting, I still got the same error. Same after running all the recovery options short of running a full system restore (which.... you guessed, I haven't done yet).

From another machine and a bit of surfing, it looks like several other people have had the problem. The bad bit though - I couldn't find anything which fixed the problem. Besides, most references were to people using Vista Beta or RC code and wanting to return back to XP.

Not one to give up, I thought I'd just install Vista on a second disk anyway and see how far that got me. The good news was yes, that did indeed solve the problem - the first you see of it is when the second Vista instance boots for the first full time - you get a choice of two Windows Vista's to choose from.

Now the only thing left is to use BCDEdit to rename each of the instances. For those who prefer GUI tools, a nice alternative to BCDEdit is VistaBootPRO - this isn't a Microsoft tool, and currently v3.1 is in Beta.

So.... back to work now.

Comments (10)

  1. Thanks Michael – good to know even old posts can be useful sometimes 🙂



  2. Shawn – that was a loooooong time back I hit this. In my case, no, I didn’t need to re-install the programs and drivers. However, if you can, I would strongly recommend you take a backup of your data using the recovery console when booting from the Vista CD to install the second instance on a second disk before attempting this.



  3. shawn says:

    does that mean you have to install all your programs and drivers again? do both vistas now work? can you delete one?.  I just screwed up my PC the same way you did, and I’m panicking as I think I may have lost 3TB of stuff…

  4. ML49448 says:

    I know this post is ancient, but I came across this after attempting to install XP dual-boot on a Vista system and getting the dreaded ‘error loading operating system’ message. I’ve since found an easy solution which I thought I’d post here in case anyone else strikes this.

    To fix, load up the Vista recovery screen and open the command prompt. From there, run:

    bootrec /FixMbr

    bootrec /FixBoot

    Worked a treat for me! See for more information.


  5. eskey says:

    Got the same problem and became already nervous.

    But now it works again.

    Thanks a lot!

  6. Thanks!  I had the same problem and now it’s fixed.  Great work.

  7. Et says:

    Thank you soooo much Michael you saved my computer!! that command prompt worked brilliantly!

  8. K. Simms says:

    Did the same thing and this fix works.  thanks!

  9. Best says:

    Thanks.i saw this with my phone cuz my pc got that error

  10. Mark Hesketh says:

    Brilliant. Thanks a lot Michael. Its 1.20 on a work night and you’ve just saved my skin!

    Worked with windows 7 no problem. Back up and running again!

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