Creating a cloned drive for testing

I would like to clone my Vista hard drive so that it can be used as a test ground for new and unfamiliar software. A previous attempt to do this failed. I have got Acronis True Image, so cloning the drive itself is not a problem. The problem is booting from the cloned USB hard drive afterwards. Tech forums say that you should not attempt to boot with two identical copies of the operating system attached to the computer, as this will lead to confusion over drive letter allocations etc and the computer will not boot. Instead, they recommend removing the original hard drive from the computer and attaching the cloned drive instead. Is there a way to dual boot from a cloned drive using EasyBCD?



Mostly Harmless
Staff member
At the moment, it is not actually clear on what kind of USB drive support Windows Vista's bootloader has.

Windows Vista cannot be installed to a USB drive, and we haven't had anyone successfully boot to an external drive either.

However, the process would look something like this:
  1. Clone the drive
  2. Remove the boot files from the cloned drive
  3. Use EasyBCD to add a second Vista entry that points to the drive letter of the cloned drive.
  4. Reboot and use the newly-created entry.

Thanks for your reply. The consensus of the online tech forums is that Vista cannot be installed to an external USB hard drive, and will not boot even if it is successfully copied to one (see Vista external USB boot for more info on this issue). Rather than get blue screens and risk wrecking the computer OS, it is probably best to abandon this idea. :??

Mak 2.0

Staff member
If you can only use a External then yes i would have to agree that abandon would be the best course of measure. The removal of Vista being able to be installed on External has frustrated more than a handful of people. But i can kinda understand why...


Mostly Harmless
Staff member
:lol: I'm glad you can, because I certainly haven't a clue.

Almost all other operating systems can be installed to external drives or flash drives; Windows XP and Linux included.
Vista and booting from USB

At the moment I have a Vista laptop only, so there is no way that more than one hard drive can be installed internally. For copyright reasons Microsoft may have placed technical barriers in the way of installing Vista on an external disk, although people have been able to boot Windows XP from an external medium. On a more general note, I have had poor luck with booting anything from USB on Vista, but booting from the CD drive is OK. :x
Making a bootable external operating system

Windows XP users might want to look at this bootable version at , while Linux can be booted from external USB devices (eg ). However, it seems that no-one has successfully booted Vista from an external USB device, and may well get blue screen of death messages if they try. See also
for more unsuccessful attempts in this area. It would be a major achievement if anyone managed to boot Vista from an external medium, but unless the drive is connected internally via an IDE connector or similar interface, it looks like a no-go area. Still, it may be worth trying if you know what you are doing and are prepared to risk BSOD messages. :tongueout:oint:


Mostly Harmless
Staff member
Sounds like an interesting project once the final exams are over :grinning:
Give up on this idea

Unfortunately I have had to admit defeat on this. Cloning the drive is the easy part, but it just will not boot afterwards. Vista knows from the BIOS whether a device is connected via an IDE connector or USB, and seems to ban any copy of the operating system on a USB device. This is a nuisance, but that's the way it is.


Mostly Harmless
Staff member
damn shame, that's for sure.

At least you can say you really tried - not many can make that claim :smile:

Thanks for your reply. The recent experiments were done with tongue in cheek, because it does not seem that anyone else has successfully booted Vista from an external USB device either. My personal view is that if you have got a copy of an operating system that is legally bought and paid for, you should be able to install it wherever you like. Microsoft thinks otherwise, and seems to have programmed Vista to refuse to accept installation and booting from external media. :rage:


Mostly Harmless
Staff member
I actually haven't gotten around to testing it myself, though I did recently purchase a new external hard drive..... but with so many people trying and coming to the conclusion that Vista simply doesn't support installations to external drives I wonder if I should even bother......
Give it a go!

If anyone could do it, you could. I've given up on the error messages that this causes, but would love to know if anyone else could do it.:??


There is a clue at vista usb hard drive boot - The CD Forum which may explain why Vista blocks external booting. User ktp writes:

Wow ! Success ! I proceed exactly as described above (install on IDE internal HDD first, do the inf/regedit tweaks, then unplug it and put in an external HDD USB enclosure). Then Vista boots
perfectly on the external USB HDD with or without any other internal IDE HDD.

This shows that Vista can block installations on a USB drive but cannot block IDE based installations. I have managed to boot Linux on my Vista laptop (see vista linux boot - eSnips, share anything ), and this may be because it was based on an IDE install (see boot screen - eSnips, share anything ). This means that taking a common or garden USB hard drive and trying to install or boot Vista from it will almost certainly lead to failure, since Vista seems to be pre-programmed not to accept USB booting. Only by telling Vista that it is installed on an internal IDE drive is it likely to boot correctly.

Hope this helps. :wink:
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