Some EasyBCD deficiensies

#1
Some EasyBCD deficiencies

I recently had an IDE drive failure, and needed to clone its bootable partitions to another IDE drive, and also some to a USB drive for emergencies. The original IDE drive had EasyBCD 2.02 installed, and it worked well to boot XP, 7, and Ubuntu, plus a number of ISO files via NeoGrub, and at times (not consistently) USB flash drives via Plop. This gave me a chance to test EasyBCD more extensively.

The following bugs & deficiencies were found, some of them earlier reported and promised to be fixed in previous EasyBCD releases:

1.EasyBCD Bootloader Setup feature doesn't offer a choice what drive to write MBR to (no drive letter choice), even when "Change Boot Drive" feature is used. It would be very convenient to have a drive choice, since after the 1-st drive is removed from the system, a user often faces the 2-nd drive with damaged or no MBR, and EasyBCD can't boot the system. I had to use Windows Recovery tools to write MBR and bootloader to drives after changing boot drives with EasyBCD and removing the old one.

2. EasyBCD doesn't work when installed to a bootable Windows USB drive (didn't try Linux). The USB drive simply boots to its active partition according to its boot.ini, and installed EasyBCD with complete menu is totally ignored. I tried to set it up several times, all EasyBCD files were present as usual, but it never worked at all, and its menu never appeared at boot time.

3. EasyBCD doesn't have an option to fix a cloned Windows partition to make it bootable on another drive (which usually includes some Registry and certain dirs "generalizing" even for the same PC). The main reason to Change Boot Drive is to remove or change use of previous one (usually old or failing), hence in most cases old partitions are cloned to the new drive. Without "Fix Cloned OS" function, the feature "Change Boot Drive" only complicates things, because its unclear how to remove it without booting to that drive, and it has links to the old drive. EasyBCD needs similar feature to Paragon HDM "Boot Corrector" (it seems, it loads the hive of a cloned partition and allows to change its drive letter in Registry to the one of original partition. It also seems to do some cleanup, since some drivers are installed again after the clone's boot. Disk serial numbers don't change, thus allowing both disks with source and clone volumes keep working in one system).

4. Once EasyBCD is installed to another drive via "Change Boot Drive", it can't be removed from it with Uninstall routing, unless you boot to that drive (if you can). There should be "Remove EasyBCD" function added with a selectable drive letter, that would auto uninstall EasyBCD from a selected by user drive and restore its original boot files, sectors and MBR, regardless of what drive you booted to at the moment. Also, EasyBCD's" Manual Uninstall & Win Boot Restore" procedure needs to be explained in Wiki or Help.

5. When Plop is added with Force Bootable Entry selected, it's button in EasyBCD often says "Install" again on next EasyBCD launch. Even when Plop is installed and can be selected from EasyBCD menu at boot time, it can hardly boot USB drives from Plop Hard Drives or USB Devices list. When Plop is installed on its own, it can boot some USB drives on physical and virtual machines, at least when only one is connected at a time. Something appears to be wrong in how Plop works from EasyBCD - it looks nice, but can't boot most USB devices, while able to boot IDE drives. See post #17 of this thread for details.
 
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mqudsi

Mostly Harmless
Staff member
#2
Hi sambul12! Thanks for your detailed comments on EasyBCD. I'll do my best to address them:

1) EasyBCD does not offer a choice of the disk, but it automatically chooses the correct disk for the job. When using "Change Boot Drive," EasyBCD should write the MBR of destination disk (which may or may not be the same as the current boot disk). If, on your PC, EasyBCD did not write the MBR to the disk hosting the partition you selected to become your new boot partition, then this is a bug and should be fixed (though I am not aware of any such bug!)

2) I have never tried booting Windows from a USB and testing EasyBCD on it - as such, I am not surprised to hear there are problems. I know that out of the box, it is not possible to install Windows Vista or Windows 7 to a USB, as Microsoft has explicitly disabled this capability. Is there a way to find out whether or not Windows is being booted from a USB? This information would help immensely!

3) EasyBCD is not a bare-metal restore utility. I have written such a feature before for a different backup company's upcoming software. EasyBCD's "Change Boot Drive" isn't primarily used if a disk is about to fail - in that case, you should clone the entire disk (not individual partitions) and be done with it. To the contrary, this EasyBCD feature is generally used by people who had a dual-boot between 2 operating systems where the boot partition was also the partition used by one of the OSes, and the user wants to format that partition.

4) Good idea for a future version. Can't see much need for it, to be honest, but I guess it would be nice to have.

5) The first is a bug that I have not been able to reproduce (if you know the exact steps to make the button remain enabled after having already installed PLoP, please do let me know!). I have no difficulties using PLoP to boot from a USB when installed via EasyBCD, and in fact use it to test certain bootable USBs in VMware which does not natively support USB booting.
 

Terry60

Knows where his towel is.
Staff member
#3
Point 4 seems a little confused, between "uninstall EasyBCD" and "remove Vista/7 boot manager".
Which is wanted ?
EasyBCD is an app installed independently on as many or as few systems as you wish, and removed in a standard manner. I've never come across an app which offers a facility to uninstall itself from a different system to the one you're on.
You are aware that EasyBCD is not the boot manager and takes no part in booting or running your OS ?
It helps you configure the MS bootmgr, which is the active code during boot.
EasyBCD only does anything at the time you run it and ask it to change something with respect to subsequent boots.
 

mqudsi

Mostly Harmless
Staff member
#4
I think he means that after changing the bootloader to another drive, he cannot "change his mind" and undo.

EasyBCD would have re-written the bootsector and MBR, plus created a BOOT folder and the BCD + BOOTMGR files. But I don't see the problem - EasyBCD doesn't come with a safety switch.
 
#5
Thansk guys for your comments!

I didn't come across any soft that offers to install itself on a different system. :grinning: Once such feature is offered, its generally a good idea to offer a restore feature, i.e. Uninstall from a different system in this case. Of course, some developers don't ever expect their soft to be uninstalled and even actively obstruct that - like spyware writers. :joy:

OK, I understand, how you see usability of "Change Boot Drive" - its different from mine. Strange though, some ppl prefer keep different OSs on different drives instead of volumes of the same drive. Yet why not extend its usability to include a popular OS cloning scenario? Keep in mind though, when EasyBCD is installed on a drive, and that drive is then cloned, some EasyBCD files would need to be corrected, it should be part of "Fix Cloned OS" routing. Of course if you see it as too much for a free soft, its for you to decide. :smile: But its an exiting feature, and would be very popular among DIYers.

As to your advice to clone the whole disks instead of bootable partitions, its not always feasible. Like in my case, I have a large archive on 1-st partition of a 2-d drive. Who knew that my new 1-st drive will fail within 3 month of use? Hence, I had to urgently and selectively clone its content to different drives. Moving a huge archive to the drive end was not rational, as a replacement RMA drive is expected shortly.

When it comes to choosing a drive to write MBR to, this feature is on a different pan, and visibly not connected to "Change Boot Drive". I did assume though, when EasyBCD loads menu for a different drive, its supposed to write MBR to that drive too. But not in my case (I tried several times), so I end up using Windows Recovery tools after changing drives to write MBR and boot sectors. The volume order has changed on a new drive, may be that what confused EasyBCD. Similar to other pans, a drop down Drive Letter Menu plus a default option "Let EasyBCD deside" on Write MBR pan would help a lot, making clear for a user what's being done, and allowing to fix errors.

I'll try to find if there is a way to identify if Windows booted from USB. Still interesting, why the boot process is channeled to boot.ini, and no EasyBCD Menu is presented, when booting Windows from USB. Interesting, if EasyBCD is not working at boot, why its Boot Menu generally looks different from Win Boot Menu?

Plop and NeoGrub button bugs often happen when installing them 1-st time with "Force" option selected. After 2-n install buttons look correct upon EasyBCD restart. I faced it several times with different drives after uninstalling EasyBCD, deleting all its files, and installing it again.

I do use Plop often to boot Windows from USB in VMWare, but standalone, without EasyBCD. It does work though from EasyBCD with some flash drives I have. I guess, the cause is in Plop USB driver not working properly with some USB enclosure chipsets, which is not the case with Flash drives without enclosure. Yet, with USB Flash booting, limited Plop driver Retry on Error functionality at times prevents boot.
 
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#6
I have never tried booting Windows from a USB and testing EasyBCD on it - as such, I am not surprised to hear there are problems. I know that out of the box, it is not possible to install Windows Vista or Windows 7 to a USB, as Microsoft has explicitly disabled this capability. Is there a way to find out whether or not Windows is being booted from a USB? This information would help immensely!
I've a 2.5" SATA Laptop HD in USB & SATA Combo External Enclosure. It can be used as either SATA or USB depending what type of cable you connect to it. I install a special WinXP USB Flash & HD release to it. It boots both ways now: from USB and from SATA (emulated as IDE in BIOS, since data must be written in IDE mode to hard disks connected via USB). I installed and setup with several Boot Menu Items EasyBCD in 2 different ways: after connecting the drive to PC by SATA cable, then tested, uninstalled EasyBCD, and installed it again after connecting the drive by USB cable. All other drives were physically disconnected before all that.

The tests shown that regardless of how the drive was connected to the PC (by SATA or USB cable), WinXP always booted properly using boot.ini, yet EasyBCD Boot Menu never appeared at boot time. It looks like the issue is not in whether Win was booted from USB or not, but in possibly modded in such Win release relevant to boot files or Registry entries, EasyBCD is not aware of. I can pm you a link to the XP USB release (made by real maestro), you can play with to ID the cause of EasyBCD failure. Booting Win from USB is getting popular for emergencies and "in guests", especially when complemented by ability to boot various Service ISOs via EasyBCD Boot Menu. So it seems like a real deal to make it work.
 
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