Rather long triple boot question


When I built this box, back in 2007, I first installed WinXP (32bit) on the C: drive. This is also where the BIOS is directed to find the OS, drive 0. It is not the only partition on this drive.

Subsequently, when Vista arrived, I wanted to install a 64bit OS to utilize the capabilities of the CPU and the additional memory that is installed. I created another partition (called Vista) on drive 1 for this purpose. When I installed Vista, it decided, quite on its own, to call that partition C: and re-label the other partitions with other letters. I did not ever change where the BIOS was being directed on boot. The boot menu now has two entries, Previous version of Windows, and Vista.

So now comes Win7, so I create yet another partition (also on drive 1) labeled I: Win7, fully figuring that this letter assignment will again change to C: upon installation. However, Win7 does not rearrange the drive letters at all. It nicely installs itself on the I: Win7 partition and leaves all of the drive letters assigned just as they were in Vista. The boot menu now has three entries, Previous version of Windows, Vista, and Windows 7.

So that is the history. Now it is my desire to reformat the Vista partition and recover the 327Gb that are assigned there. What sort of precautions should I take before I do this? Will this screw up the drive lettering assignments that the Vista install created? Will there be other ill effects?

I think I will consider what might be required to format the WinXP partition at another time as I have a feeling that this might be more involved. It is, if my research is correct, where the boot menu and the boot menu entries reside.

Thanks for taking the time to read this rather long history and for whatever ideas you might have.

Disk letters aren't "real" the way that volume labels are.
The volume label is written on the HDD in the partition table of the MBR and can be read by any Windows (or Linux) and will therefore be identical wherever it's viewed from.
The disk letter is just an entry in the registry of a running system, and is therefore unique to that OS.
Any similarity between the mappings of letters from one OS to another is just coincidental. They each keep their own maps.
The only reason your W7 and Vista agree is presumably because you have never assigned disk letters manually, and therefore each device receives its assignment dynamically at boot time, in the sequence that the BIOS detects the devices.
Windows will always install as C: if the install is done from a booted CD/DVD and no other Windows partition is visible.
Vista/7 installed with XP visible as "system" in Device Management, will install as C, but put the boot\BCD and the bootmgr on the XP partition, keeping the original OS as "system".
If you installed your second Vista/7, from the running copy, it will have to take the next available free letter (which you had already assigned anyway), because the running system is using all the previous letters already.
Getting rid of old OSs is easy as long as they're not "system".
Check your Disk Management
If I'm correct, you'll find (from W7) that XP is "system" "active", and W7 is "boot", in which case you can cheerfully format Vista out of existence and simply delete the entry from the BCD with EasyBCD "edit boot menu".
Getting rid of XP if it is "system" used to be difficult, but is quite simple using EasyBCD 2.
Post back when you want to do it and you'll see how easy.
I think you are right on all accounts here. XP is "system". I had no idea that this label was so important. I had actually manually assigned drive letters up to H, but this was all done before Vista was installed. I created the I: Win7 partition (which is, in fact, boot) thinking they would get juggled again, the way they were when Vista was installed, but the Win7 install didn't do this. It kept the same map, or rather, as I have now learned, a duplicate map of the drive letters that matched the way Vista labeled them. Although I thought that what you are telling me might be the case, I'm thrilled to learn that it is. I think I'll be spending some time tomorrow to reclaim some space and clean up this box a little. I'm considering leaving XP on here as it is on a very small partition anyway.

Thanks Terry,

TC (Terry C) Harp