Dual-Boot Windows 7 and LabVIEW Real Time on a PXI Controller

Updated Dec 22, 2023



  • PXI Controller

Operating System

  • Windows

I would like to dual-boot my RT-capable PXI controller with Windows 7 and LabVIEW Real-Time. How can I do this?

Note: NI will remove support for Phar Lap for cRIO in the NI 2020 Software Release and for PXI in the NI 2022 Software Release. For more information, please see the Phar Lap RT OS EOL Road Map. Also, NI does not plan to support Dual-Boot for NI Linux Real-Time controllers at this time.

There are two ways to get a dual-boot controller:
  • Purchasing a dual-boot controller
  • Changing an existing controller to be dual-boot by dividing the hard drive into two partitions 
Purchasing a dual-boot controller
Controllers can be purchased as a dual-boot system, and will be custom formatted with a primary partition of 32GB (maximum allowed for FAT32) and a secondary partition for the remaining disk space. These controllers will come loaded with Windows 7 on the second partition (FAT32) and LabVIEW RT on the first partition (FAT32). To purchase a dual boot controller, please see our online PXI Advisor to assist with hardware selection. Select the embedded controller you would like to purchase then View and edit options/accessories for this product to select the Windows OS you would like and add Dual Boot LabVIEW RT.

Changing an existing controller to be dual-boot by dividing the hard drive into multiple partitions
Note: You are required to purchase a LabVIEW Real-Time Debug/Deploy License for every controller you would like to convert to dual-boot with Real Time.​​
Note: This will result in the loss of all data that you previously had on the hard drive.
  1. ​Boot into your Windows 7 install/recovery CD
    1. Connect a USB CD-ROM drive to the controller and insert the recovery media that was shipped with the product.
      • You can use the recovery disk shipped with your controller or acquire your own Windows disk to make your controller dual-bootable.
      • To detect whether your recovery CD will be able to format to FAT32, navigate to I386\SYSTEM32\ within the CD and ensure that the executable disksize.exe exists.
        • If your recovery CD does not have this file and your controller shipped with the NTFS file system, please contact National Instruments technical support.
    2. Power on the controller and enter the BIOS by pressing the Delete key.
    3. Navigate to the Boot section and change the Boot order to the following:
      1. CD ROM Drive
      2. Removable Devices
      3. Hard Drive.
    4. Save changes and exit the BIOS. This will reboot the controller.
    5. The controller should then boot to the recovery CD, and the user will have the option to press any key to boot from CD. Press a key and enter the recovery CD setup.
  2. Destroy your current partition table and create a primary FAT32 partition (which will be used for the Real-Time OS) followed by a second primary NTFS partition (which will be used for Windows)
    • The user will be prompted to choose which convention to use to format the controller. The default format is NTFS. Make sure to change this selection to FAT32.
  3. Complete the Windows installation
    • when prompted to reboot make sure change the boot order back to the original or disconnect the CD ROM.
  4. Follow the normal procedure to install RT on the primary partition

Additional Information

As of early 2004, National Instruments began shipping controllers with NTFS as the default file system instead of FAT32. NTFS provides improvements to file security, disk performance, and allows disks larger than 32GB to be formatted for Windows.

When reformatting your hard drive into multiple partitions, Acronis Trueimage will be erased by reformatting your hard drive. The Phoenix Firstware image will remain as the original image of your hard drive. If you re-image your FAT32 system and your original controller was NTFS, Firstware would recover the NTFS factory-installed image. Also, Microsoft Windows Vista does not support FAT32 systems, so it is not currently possible to create a dual-boot controller with Windows Vista installed, other than by dividing the hard drive into two separate partitions (one for FAT32, and one for NTFS).

Windows 10 does not support dual booting with PharLap RT as discussed in the article in the Related Links section.

Third party software such as Partition Magic can be purchased that has the ability to shrink your current Windows partition and create a new partition in the remaining space for the RT operating system as well (without erasing the data on the hard drive).  If you do not wish to use third-party software, you can use the recovery CD provided with your controller and a USB CD-ROM to re-install the operating system.