A workaround for the dual-boot System Restore bug

As I point out in Tweak #8 from my 10 Top Vista Tweaks series at ZDNet, there’s a big difference between the way Windows XP and Vista handle the automatic checkpoints that are used for System Restore. The incompatibility is so profound, in fact, that it affects dual-boot machines running Windows XP and Vista. When you boot into XP, the system detects that restore points exist but that they can’t be read. It then assumes (oops) that the restore points are corrupt and immediately deletes them. When you restart Vista, you discover that your restore points are gone and any Complete PC Backups before the most recent one are also wiped out. Not good.

In the TalkBack section of that post, Vince asks about this bug. I provide a brief answer there but decided it’s worth fleshing out that answer here.

Microsoft has published a Knowledge Base article on this topic that details a registry edit you can make while running Windows XP to prevent this from happening. What it does is make the Vista volume appear offline:

To keep Windows XP from deleting restore points of the volume in Windows Vista, add the following registry entry under the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\MountedDevices\Offline registry subkey in Windows XP:

Value name: \DosDevices\D:
Value data: 1

Note If the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\MountedDevices\Offline registry subkey does not exist, you must manually create this registry subkey. Create this registry entry when you have installed Windows Vista on the "D" partition in Windows XP.

When you boot into XP, the Vista volume will be invisible and thus protected from damage (you can see the XP volume from Vista, however). If you want a dual-boot system with a shared data drive, you’re out of luck. If you use this registry edit to make the drive appear offline, you won’t be able to access your data from Windows Vista.

Personally, I no longer recommend dual-boot setups at all. I prefer using Virtual PC, VMWare, or another virtualization solution to run XP in a virtual machine under Vista. On those rare occasions when I need to test XP and Vista on the same hardware, I swap the hard drives and access shared data files from a server to avoid this issue.

6 thoughts on “A workaround for the dual-boot System Restore bug

  1. Excellent point… dual boot setups are really not very useful most of the time, and should be avoided.

    In fact, there’s only one reason I would (and do) recommend dual-boot: Gaming. That’s really the only use case for dual booting anymore.

  2. In My Personal Opinion, I rather prefer to disable System Restore, It’s actually Userful, but for me it never worked as i’d spect.
    This happened always in Windows XP and now in Windows Vista.
    It free up Some HDD space and some processor Cycles.
    What happens when something goes wrong?
    I’d rather prefer to Reinstall the Whole Windows from one of my Manual Backup Copy’s on DVD9 with imaging software like Ghost.
    Disabling System Restore on Windows Vista and Windows XP may be a solution for those with a Non-Recommended Dual Boot OS PC.

  3. In my mind, there’s a benefit to using dual boot and
    shared drives. If one system doesn’t boot or some other
    serious problem, you can boot the other system and investigate the problem system from there.

    This has helped me out a couple of times in the past.

    The “solution” that MS provided for the system restore
    bug is pathetic.

  4. Thanks Ed for a providing some additional clarifying details. All I can say is thank the heavens for imaging software. While I can see your recommendation to use a virtual setup, I find the dual boot with XP still useful, although less so with each passing month. For example, I have a Canon camera that I really like and while I could probably replace it to make the Vista transition, I find myself hating to part with it. The driver and all the Canon software work in XP and to a very limited extent in Vista (it’s almost painful), and worst of all I can’t make use of Windows Live Photo Gallery to import in Vista. Yet, I can do all this in XP and with pics of the grandkids taking on increasing prominence among some in the family, well you know how that goes…

  5. Ed.
    The workaround fix works if Xp is the original installed operating system and Vista is added later. I have Vista Home Premium as my original installed operating system and Xp installed as my second. On my Hp laptop, Vista Home Premium is on C:, Xp Pro is on D: and HP_Recovery is on E:. When I apply the fix to Xp Pro nothing happens. It doesn’t block out Vista on C: and the System Restore files on C: are deleted if I boot into Xp. Just to let you know, I can apply the fix to the registry on C:, the Vista drive, and block Xp Pro on D:. It appears the fix only works on the registry in the originally installed operating system. If you know of any other solution to my problem, I would certainly appreciate it. Thanks.

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