Tutorial Windows: Enable Boot Loader for more operating systems in Windows

Installing Windows on a computer doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it until the next format or reinstall. As you already know, there’s the possibility to have more operating system types on a computer, and even different Windows iterations.

Let’s say you’re still using Windows 7 as the primary operating system, but want to install Windows 10 as well, without completely migrating to it. As a consequence, installed operating systems are shown in the boot screen so you can select the one you want to launch.

However, chances are that installing Windows 10 on a separate partition without replacing a previous version or upgrading, can cause the boot screen options to no longer show up. What’s more, Windows isn’t just a regular program you can launch from an executable, which leaves you kind of stuck without any initial options.

Luckily, there are several ways to enable the operating system selection screen, and we’re going to go through what it takes to make this happen.

Enabling the boot loader

Windows Boot Loader

Windows 8 introduced a new way of selecting the operating system you want to run, in case more are installed on your computer. However, even if Windows doesn’t completely boot when presenting these options, part of it does, meaning you waste some time if the operating system you want to run is different from the one that loads the boot options.

This new boot loader is also found in Windows 10, and is triggered in the same way. Here’s how:

Step 1: Press the Win key or hit the Start button to reveal power options.

Step 2: Click on Power, but don’t choose an option yet.

Step 3: Hold down the Shift key and choose to Restart.

Step 4: Wait for the PC to restart and ask you to Choose an Option.

Step 5: Select the second option to Use Another Operating System.

Step 6: Now, follow the link to Change Defaults.

Step 7: Choose to Change the Timer and select from 5 seconds, 30 seconds, or 5 minutes.

Note: The current setting is shown and if the value is 0 (zero), then you have your reason why boot options didn’t greet you before arriving to the desktop.

Legacy Boot Loader

In case you don’t want to use the new boot loader Microsoft bundled in Windows, you’d be happy to know it’s possible to enable the good old DOS boot loader. Here’s what you need to know.

Step 1: Right-click the Start Menu button and choose to launch Command Prompt (Admin).

Step 2: Write down the following code and press Enter:

bcdedit /set {default} BootMenuPolicy Legacy

Step 3: Once you receive the message that states “The operation completed successfully” close the Command Prompt and restart your PC.

Even if you configured the new Windows boot loader, punching in the code from above in the Command Prompt disables it. Don’t worry, you can return to the stylish boot loader by simply writing down this code in Command Prompt (Admin):

bcdedit /set {default} BootMenuPolicy Standard

Boot options on the desktop

Editing system registries

Needless to say that you can’t switch to a different operating system while one is already running, without using a virtual machine. However, there is the possibility to create a shortcut that triggers a system restart, followed either by boot loader options, or directly taking you to the selected operating system.

One method is to access the system registry editor in order to create a special context menu function to reboot in the boot options menu. This is how it’s done.

Step 1: Access the Registry Editor by pressing Win + R to write down “regedit” and press Enter.

Step 2: Navigate to the following location HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTDesktopBackgroundShell.

Step 3: Right-click Shell on the left navigation panel, and choose to create a new Key. Give it any name you see fit, such as “Power Options“, or “Boot Loader“.

Step 4: Now, click the newly created Key (Boot Loader), right-click an empty space in the right panel, and create a new String Value with the name “SubCommands“.

Step 5: Double-click the “SubCommands” String and write down “safemode” in the Value Data Field. Press OK to confirm, but don’t close the Registry Editor.

Step 6: Go all the way to this location HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerCommandStoreshell and create a new Key in the Shell directory called “safemode“.

Step 7: Select the “safemode” Key, and double-click the default key, and change the Value Data field to any name you’d like to see in the context menu as a trigger, like “Restart Now”.

Step 8: Create a new Key from the “safemode” directory, and name it “command“.

Step 9: Click on command, and open the default String. Now, write down “Shutdown -r -o -f -t 00” in the Value Data field.

Step 10: Close the Registry Editor, click on an empty desktop space, and check out the new context menu entry to quickly restart to the boot loader. Oh, make sure to save your work before testing it out.

Note: To remove the context menu entry, simply delete the “safemode“, and “Boot Loader” keys you created.

The third-party solution
Sure enough, editing system registries requires a lot of attention, and can take some time. Moreover, it’s not that different from holding down the Shift key when choosing to restart your computer, but it does look cool in the context menu. Luckily, you can download Reboot-To, a lightweight application that quietly sits in the tray, while letting you choose the operating system you want to reboot to, making things way easier.

To end with

Now that disk space is less of a concern, you can keep multiple types of operating systems on your computer, and it’s good to know how you can enable boot options in case they don’t appear, at least when it comes to Windows.

Hint: Check out how remove an OS from boot options.

Wagiman Wiryosukiro

Petani Sistem Informasi, tukang las plugin & themes Wordpress. Co-Founder SistemInformasi.biz. Saat ini aktif sebagai Developer & kontributor di OpenMandriva Linux.

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