can I run two separate instances of XP on the same laptop?

I am running xp-pro sp3 on an asus laptop. The kids are always clogging up my computer with games and getting the occassional virus from dodgy downloads. I would like to have a completely separate partition and operating system where they can put their junk and could be wiped and reinstalled quickly, with having to reinstall all my software data etc.

At the moment the computer is set up with two Basic partitions (C: and D:) about 30 Gb each. Being a laptop I cant install a separate hard drive. Oh and I would prefer not have to spend too much if at all. I tried googling it but couldnt find an idiots guide to what to do.


Yes, during the normal install process it will ask you where you want to put the new OS. You can then select the second partition and it will install a second OS. When you boot up it will give you the option of which OS you want to boot into.

Your primary active partition (almost certainly your C drive unless you’ve changed it) will contain the system partition information - meaning that if you wipe that drive, the boot loading option will dissapear and you won’t be able to get into the other OS until you manually rebuild the boot loader - so you’ll want the OS you plan to wipe to be on your D drive.

Next time you do a clean load, get everything set up the way you want it.

Install the mozy free backup software to backup any day to day needs.

Grab a copy of acronis true image (10 day trial), and create a DVD restore image or a backup to an external hard drive and the emergency boot disk.

kids hose the machine, takes about 20 min to put it all back to clean load,

restore files from mozy.

thanks for the quick useful replies. Some followup questions.

can I use the same xp installation disk (and serial no) for both partitions or will there be a problem activating one of them?
Could a smart virus see the partitions and infect both anyway?

eek more help needed

inserted recovery disk. Nothing happened even on boot up. Looked at it. It containslots of image files etc but no bootloader. It seems to use windows inbuilt recovery module rather than being a self initializing disk.

OK on bootup pressed F9 which brought up the recovery module. But the only options were recover to first partition, recover to entire HD (presumeably wiping out second partition) or recover XP to 2 partitions. I am not entirely sure what the third option does - it may just restore the status quo (e.g. empty D: partition)

Most laptops have hard disks which are easily removable. You could just have separate disks. When you are done you just remove your hard disk. There is nothing safer than that.

Having two separate partitions will not save you from malware. I suggest you go beyond drachillix’s excellent suggestion and lock your machine down. Don’t give your children admin-level accounts. Restrict what they can do by using file level permissions. Particularly don’t let them install software. Run gpedit.msc and lock that sucker down tight. It’s your computer, not theirs.

If you go this route, there are several subtleties in the implementation, which we can discuss later.