Setting Up Multi-Boot Windows From Scratch

#1
My goal: A single disc with multiple 32-bit Windows OS’s:

a) Primary Partition 1: XP Pro SP3
b) Primary Partition 1: Vista Ultimate
c) Primary Partition 1: 7 Ultimate
d) Extended Partition Logical Drive 1: XP Pro SP3 (clone of Primary Partition 1)
e) Extended Partition Logical Drive 2: Vista Ultimate: (clone of Primary Partition 2)
f) Extended Partition Logical Drive 3: 7 Ultimate (not a clone)
g) Extended Partition Logical Drive 4: Unused

It seems like BCD should easily be able to do this but my quad-boot system totally crashed after trying EasyBCD. I’ve spent days trying to repair it and had to start from new install “a” above.

My questions are:

1) Is this even possible to do with EasyBCD?

2) If so, is there a special order of operations required? (“a”, then format partitions/drives, “then d”, “b”, “e” , “c” ,”f”, “g” ?). I tried “a”, then format partitions/drives, “then d”, but no settings seemed able to give me the option to boot 2 versions of XP, so I didn't even consider loading other OS's
 

Terry60

Knows where his towel is.
Staff member
#2
It's not a problem for EasyBCD to put the required entries in your BCD. (that's all it does. It's not an active part of a running OS)
The problem is most likely one of cloning.
The BCD entry appears to point to a partition letter, but in reality that's just EasyBCD translating the indecipherable UID which the BCD actually uses.
That UID, for Vista/7, contains both the unique signature of the HDD (which it bears from the moment of its birth) and the exact starting position of the partition. Clone the partition to another spot and the UID entry is incorrect (and not unique).
Those problems can be corrected by "startup repair". Read this thread.
XP presents greater problems which can rarely be fixed after the event. Read this link about how to anticipate and avoid them.
On the subject of booting multiple XPs from the BCD, the MS native code cannot do it in a single menu. However recent custom code in EasyBCD can circumvent that restriction. Read all about it here.
 
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#3
SilentRunningPC,

Setting up a multi-boot system with a Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP should be no problem.

Having multiple versions of any of the Windows OS’s is more problematic.

I would generally recommend against trying to clone any Windows OS.

As far as the order of Windows OS,s goes I would recommend going from newest to oldest. Start with Windows 7. Run Easy BCD boot loader out of Windows 7 at the front of your hard drive.

Note. I don’t have experience with dual booting Windows Vista and Windows 7. I can’t really see the point of running both of them as Windows Vista is pretty bad. That aside I don’t see why if you can’t get them both installed on the same hard disc. Easy BCD should be able to handle booting both of them.

“1) Is this even possible to do with EasyBCD?” Yes Easy BCD boot loader can theoretically handle all of the operating systems you have talked about.
 
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#4
*** First Response ***

Terry 60: “It's not a problem for EasyBCD to put the required entries in your BCD.
Response: OK, so it is possible. Thank you for taking the time to respond Terry

Terry60: …”(that's all it does. It's not an active part of a running OS)”… …”The BCD entry appears to point to a partition letter, but in reality that's just EasyBCD translating the indecipherable UID which the BCD actually uses.”
Response: OK….

Terry60: The problem is most likely one of cloning. That UID, for Vista/7, contains both the unique signature of the HDD (which it bears from the moment of its birth) and the exact starting position of the partition. Clone the partition to another spot and the UID entry is incorrect (and not unique). Those problems can be corrected by "startup repair". Read this thread.
Response: I’ve since decided to do it by individual (aka: time consuming) installs, one OS at a time to eliminate all cloning issues. However, when I tried cloning the volume Ids were all different.

Terry60:XP presents greater problems which can rarely be fixed after the event. Read this link about how to anticipate and avoid them.”
Response: Starting from a fresh hard disc, I have installed 3 fresh XP Pro OSs (each on a primary partition). I have been able to boot to any of the three without problems. (No Easy BCD install yet). I also did a complete system backup at this point.

Terry60: “On the subject of booting multiple XPs from the BCD, the MS native code cannot do it in a single menu. However recent custom code in EasyBCD can circumvent that restriction. Read all about it here.”
Response: I had read that previously.


*** Second Response ***

Pillars of Creation:Setting up a multi-boot system with a Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP should be no problem.”… …” That aside I don’t see why if you can’t get them both installed on the same hard disc. Easy BCD should be able to handle booting both of them. Easy BCD boot loader can theoretically handle all of the operating systems you have talked about.”
Response: OK, so it is possible. Thank you for taking the time to respond Pillars of Creation

Pillars of Creation: Having multiple versions of any of the Windows OS’s is more problematic.”
Response:If by “more problematic” you mean for problematic for MS, that’s what I’m looking at EasyBCD.

Pillars of Creation: I would generally recommend against trying to clone any Windows OS.”
Response: I’ve since decided to do it by individual (aka: time consuming) installs, one OS at a time to eliminate all cloning issues.

Pillars of Creation: As far as the order of Windows OS,s goes I would recommend going from newest to oldest. Start with Windows 7. Run Easy BCD boot loader out of Windows 7 at the front of your hard drive.”
Response: What is your source of information? Everything I read recommends against going from newer to older

Pillars of Creation: Note. I don’t have experience with dual booting Windows Vista and Windows 7. I can’t really see the point of running both of them as Windows Vista is pretty bad. “
Response: I need to boot them all.


*** Current System Status ***

Primary Partition 1: XP, Primary Partition 2: XP, Primary Partition 3: XP, Logical Drive 1:Vista
Pre-Vista Install I could select any of the 3 XP installations at the MS boot manager screen (hard disc backup made) .
Post-Vista install MS boot manager changed. Lets me boot to Vista, OS1, and OS2 (but OS 2 actually boots to OS 1. XP2 & XP3 not accessible ) (hard disc backup made.)

Question: What’s next? Before I do any more OS installations it seems like I should get the system back to seeing the 4 on it already.
 
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Terry60

Knows where his towel is.
Staff member
#5
See the very first link in the sticky thread for the differences between the XP NTLDR boot and the Vista/7 bootmgr, and how they work together.
When you Installed the three XPs, each new install added itself to the boot.ini of the first, and the menu you saw was NTLDR's.
When you added Vista, because you placed it in a logical drive it could not put its own boot files with the rest of the OS even if you'd wanted it to. (only primary partitions are bootable).
By design, the Vista boot files were added to the root of the XP "system" drive, which was controlling all three XP boots, and should have picked up the existing boot.ini when it chained to NTLDR, giving you a 2-level boot. The first menu, Vista and "earlier version of Windows", and the second menu being the previous NTLDR menu with the three XP boots.
If you want all 4 in the top menu, you'll need to delete the XP entry from the BCD and add individual entries (not auto-configure) for all three using the NST EasyLDR custom XP loader as mentioned in the previous link I gave you.
 
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#6
“Pillars of Creation: “Having multiple versions of any of the Windows OS’s is more problematic.”
Response:If by “more problematic” you mean for problematic for MS, that’s what I’m looking at EasyBCD.”

Well for example setting up a dual-boot between Windows 7 and Windows XP is very easy. Also so is setting up a dual-boot between Windows Vista and Windows XP. Setting up two Windows XP’s is a little tricky because you have to assign the drive letters manually.

If you wanted to do Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP I would install either Windows 7 or Windows Vista first. Then the other one of the two of them. Then Windows XP.

Example 1: hidden boot partition primary, Windows 7 primary, Windows Vista primary, Windows XP logical partition.

Example 2: hidden boot partition primary, Windows Vista primary, Windows 7 primary, Windows XP logical partition.

“Pillars of Creation: “As far as the order of Windows OS,s goes I would recommend going from newest to oldest. Start with Windows 7. Run Easy BCD boot loader out of Windows 7 at the front of your hard drive.”
Response: What is your source of information? Everything I read recommends against going from newer to older.”

If you’re going to use the Windows boot loader exclusively, you have to load the Windows OS’s from oldest to newest. That way each new Windows will add the pre-existing Windows to the boot loader. This makes for a much more complicated boot loader. If you’re going to let Easy BCD handle the Windows boot loading, I think it’s easier on Easy BCD to load the Windows OS’s from newest to oldest.

Also you have to consider the old Windows 7 and Windows Vista absolutely must be on a primary partition. On the other hand Windows XP and any linux distributions can be either on a primary partition or a logical partition. And generally I think it’s easier to put the primary partitions toward the front of the hard drive.

If you’re going to have an extended partition you can only have three primary partitions. If you start with the Windows 7 install on a clean hard drive the Windows 7 install will make a hidden boot partition of approximately 100 MB at the front of the hard drive. This was where the boot files for Windows XP will end up. Then Windows 7 and Windows Vista will each use one primary partition. If you’re only going to install one Windows XP you can put that in the first logical partition in your extended partition. Easy BCD will pick up that single Windows XP without you having to assign a drive letter manually.