How do I reconfigure hard disks?

#1
Hi. Glad to have found this place. Been reading up a lot but still not sure I have an answer to my particular question, so here goes.

Got an older PC dual-booting Win7 and Win8. It has a series of old, smaller HDDs, several of which are beginning to fail. First is the Win 8 drive, then a drive with two partitions, one of which is the Win 7 drive. Then another 3 drives with data, files etc. Total of 9 partitions/ drive letters over 5 drives. All of the drives are small (200GB or 300GB). They are older SATA drives except the Win 8 drive, which is IDE/ATA. I used it as the Win 8 drive because no matter how I configured the BIOS setup, the system looked there for the boot files. If the boot files weren't there, the system wouldn't boot. Not sure "boot files" is the right term, but I'm referring to the BCD and all else needed to avoid the 0xc000000f error on startup.

I just broke down and bought a 4TB drive and a 750GB drive (both SATA). I would like to move the two OSes to two partitions on the 750GB drive and put all the data and files on the 4TB.

So, I format the 750GB with two primary partitions, then one primary on the 4TB. But, after I format and partition the drives, what do I do? If I clone the Win 8 and Win 7 drives, how do I make sure the system knows where to look to find the boot files and/or make sure the boot files are in the right place since everything has moved around?

Thanks!
 

Terry60

Knows where his towel is.
Staff member
#2
The BIOS looks for the first HDD in the boot sequence (assuming that any higher priority Floppy or CD entry has no media in the slot/tray). It transfers control to the IPL code in the MBR of that HDD, which will examine the Partition Table in the MBR to determine if one of the partitions is flagged with the "active" bit.
If a partition is active, the IPL transfers control to the boot sector of that partition, at the beginning of which is another small piece of code which will transfer control to the boot manager in that partition (NTLDR for an XP-only system, bootmgr for Vista/7/8)
If no partition is active, the same process will be attempted on the next HDD in the sequence until an active partition is found, or the boot fails.
When you install a copy of Windows (XP onwards), it will install to the location you instruct, but it will always place its boot files in the highest priority "active" partition it finds. This is the MS architecture which enables successive versions of Windows to dual-boot automatically with pre-existing versions.
That is why the IDE drive continued to be the boot device as you added W8.
When installing Windows, if you remove any drive with a previous copy of Windows (or remove its active flag), and set the target location "active", then the new copy will contain its own boot files, but be completely unaware of any other OS, and not able to dual-boot it automatically (EasyBCD can subsequently be used to inform the new system about the old and hence dual-boot it.)

EasyBCD can also be used
Changing the Boot Partition - EasyBCD - NeoSmart Technologies Wiki
to copy the boot files from one place to another, if you wish to do that before you clone the OS to its new location.

Remember that MBR-formatted HDDs cannot be used in Windows (fully) if they exceed 2Tb.
How To Avoid the Windows MBR Disk 2TB Limit by Using GPT Type Disks | Lewan IT Solutions Technical Blog
 
#3
Ahh. Thank you. That makes sense. So I should probably install the 750 GB with the cloned OSes alone, and if for some reason it doesn't boot into an OS, do the recovery DVD dance. If it only boots directly to one or the other, run EasyBCD to reconfigure. Then install the 4GB drive and reinstall the other drives to copy the files over.