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Last post Author Topic: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?  (Read 6648 times)

JavaJones

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Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« on: September 15, 2011, 03:24:15 PM »
I had a really "fun" experience last night as I tried to replace a failing 2TB HD in my media machine with a new 3TB I purchased. On the plus side SMART warned me early that there was a problem so I had time to order the new drive (2 day shipping, thanks Amazon!), install it, and copy everything over to it before the old drive started to smoke (it hasn't done that yet actually, heh).

On the negative side, it turns out the H: drive that was failing was actually on SATA 1 and, apparently, was the boot drive, even though Windows is installed on another drive. There's no OS installed on this system, never has been, so while I recognize the potential benefit of allowing partitions without the primary OS on it to be the "boot" partition, I really think this should be an advanced option that you need to manually specify. I also don't think it should have to do with what SATA port your drive is plugged in to. It's long enough ago that I can't remember why the config ended up this way, but I'm pretty confident I was not aware that some drive other than the OS install drive was set to manage booting. Why, after all, would I do this intentionally unless I was multi-booting? So my first issue is that I think Windows basically made this decision on its own during install of Win7. Bad default.

That would not be so bad *if* Windows could intelligently move or recover from the loss of a boot drive. In my case, at least, it could not. Here's what happened:

I removed the failing drive after copying everything off of it and on next boot I got a message "Reboot and select proper boot device..." etc. Now I had just copied all the files off the drive, I knew it wasn't the Windows install drive, but I plugged it back in just to be sure. It booted up, of course, but looking at H: showed no Windows files, as I thought. Unplugged again, same message. OK, Windows is stupid, but a simple repair should work, yes? Put in the DVD, booted to it, tried startup repair several times in sequence, no go. It didn't even recognize the Windows install I had in there, even though it was on C: and in the default \Windows install directory. WTF? Tried manual startup repair from command prompt in recovery mode. Nope. Then I found out about bcdedit.exe and the new way Windows 7 manages booting. I found a Windows-based BCD tool so I figured I'd just boot back into Windows and specify the right drive for boot. Oops, the "repairs" I had attempted previously without the old drive in there appear to have done *something*: they made it so even the old config doesn't work. Argh!

Finally I found these instructions and yes, I had to follow every last one, essentially manually recreating the bcd file. This is a royal pain in the ass. This should not be necessary.

Why in the name of all that is holy does Windows 7 not handle this more gracefully? Seeing what is actually *in* the BCD file it is retardedly simple. The kind of thing you would think could be generated on the fly *if necessary*. A simple scan of the available drives ought to turn up *all* of the info that's in there. It's absolutely ridiculous that I had to spent a half hour in the command prompt to fix this, and that was only after an hour or two of trying other options that should have been easier and should have worked. Really I think it should have "just worked" considering nothing was lost except this stupid BCD file.

So has anyone else experienced this? Any sane explanations as to why it's done this way and why recovery is not easier? Why could Windows Startup Repair not even find my Windows install (yes, the BCD file was missing, but there is a bcdedit scan function that can find it, why did the GUI version not do this?)? Am I just ridiculous for expecting to be able to remove a non-boot (or apparently not) drive and expect my system to still boot? And why did I even get into this mess in the first place - I never asked Windows to use a drive other than the Windows install drive for boot management.

- Oshyan

tomos

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2011, 03:42:57 PM »
I did an install of win7 lately on a computer with a slow drive and a fast drive - I put windows on the fast drive but the other drive was "drive 0" so windows put the hidden 100mb boot partition on it.

It really should ask *where* to put it....

(I reinstalled at the time - after disconnecting the slow drive - but I was getting advice from the experts)
Tom

40hz

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2011, 04:00:00 PM »
AFAIK Win7 always selects the (SATA) boot drive from the first 'active' flagged drive in the SATA port sequence as determined by your BIOS settings.

Some of the newer BIOSes allow you to define which SATA port to boot from. But many don't - so you're stuck with the numeric sequence.

FWIW, I've run into this hassle often enough that I usually take the easy way out and temporarily unplug all the drives other than the the one I want to install Win7on. Cuts down on bad surprises down the road.

And you're right. Win7 is braindead in that regard. >:(


JavaJones

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2011, 04:13:54 PM »
Yeah, it's kind of shocking that I wasn't really conscious of this. Once I figured out what happened it made sense to me (though still seemed quite stupid and limited), and I'm sure I learned/knew this at one time, but clearly had forgotten. In any case regardless of that, it seems like a ridiculous limitation. In this day and age when MS is trying to make everything easier for the lay person, when they've given the boot-up DVD a decent GUI implying it might even be for use of average folk, and even further with Win8 apparently including some kind of partial reinstall "refresh" option, it's shocking that the boot management system is so limited and fragile. Seriously.

- Oshyan

Carol Haynes

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2011, 04:53:35 PM »
There is an automatic fix when the boot drive isn't doing what you expect - just use the Repair windows option booting from a System Recovery Disk or a Windows 7 disk and use BOOTREC at the command line prompt.

For details see: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/927392

JavaJones

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2011, 05:04:17 PM »
Carol, that's exactly what I did. About 5 times each with both the changed config (without the old, dying drive) and then after I put the old drive back in hoping to use the Windows-based BCD editor. No dice. I tried both the automated "startup repair" option in the GUI, as well as bootrec with all options from the commandline.

- Oshyan

Stoic Joker

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2011, 05:12:19 PM »
FWIW, I've run into this hassle often enough that I usually take the easy way out and temporarily unplug all the drives other than the the one I want to install Win7on. Cuts down on bad surprises down the road.

+1 I started doing that back in the XP days to keep CardReaders from shifting the OS to drive H:.

One Drive = One Target ... and no mistakes/suprizes.

JavaJones

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2011, 07:07:32 PM »
I tend to do the same, but I seem to recall wanting to install Windows on an existing drive in this case and wanting to have them all available so I knew which one to use. Or something like that. I could have unplugged the rest after I figured it out I guess. Oh well.

- Oshyan

40hz

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2011, 07:16:03 PM »
Something "funny" just occurred to me... :huh:

In the NIX world there's been a long tradition and practice of having "the boot" in a separate partition. And there were (still are) several good reasons for doing so.

But why Microsoft did it that way - and then destroyed much of the reason for doing so by not allowing you to assign which drive it gets put on - is a bit of a mystery to me.

Does anybody actually know why Windows 7 now has a separate boot partition? I mean seriously know why?

(Non-scatological replies only please...)  ;)


4wd

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2011, 08:03:08 PM »
IIRC from trawling the web a year or so ago, Windows 7 puts its recovery programs there - so you can get to the boot fixing stage without a DVD, (or I should say the Windows fixing stage since if you can't boot you can't get to the recovery programs).

EDIT: And after a quick search again, it also stores the Bitlocker components - so if you've Bitlocked your system drive and you remove the 100MB partition, I'll guess you'll be SOOL.

Nowadays I do exactly what SJ and 40hz do, unplug the other drives or make sure they have no primary partitions or space for them.
Only ever one drive with primary partitions on my system.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2011, 08:35:30 PM by 4wd »

JavaJones

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2011, 08:46:12 PM »
Er, so how do I boot from the magic hidden partition? It always tells me to insert the Win 7 install DVD. ;)

- Oshyan

4wd

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2011, 09:07:46 PM »
That's the million dollar question ;)

And after a little experimentation the answer is.......[drum roll].........F8

As usual, press F8 as you boot then choose Repair Computer.  It boots into a WinPE environment, (the files are stored in the 100MB area).

Didn't ask for the DVD at all.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2011, 09:36:11 PM by 4wd »

Stoic Joker

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2011, 06:49:49 AM »
That's the million dollar question ;)

And after a little experimentation the answer is.......[drum roll].........F8

As usual, press F8 as you boot then choose Repair Computer.  It boots into a WinPE environment, (the files are stored in the 100MB area).

Didn't ask for the DVD at all.

Well that answer looks good on paper, but...

(from first post)
"Reboot and select proper boot device..."

^That's^ a BIOS error message that say's no boot record/MBR found ... So he's got nothing looking for F8 to catch the keystroke.

...Think I'll save a copy of that article JJ linked to.

 :D

wraith808

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2011, 06:57:44 AM »
Unfortunately, this helped me, as my machine just crapped out, and I would have been stumped as to why it wouldn't boot with just my boot drive installed.

4wd

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2011, 09:30:01 AM »
Well that answer looks good on paper, but...

The questions I answered were:
1) what was it for, and
2) how you boot into it.

And I did mention that you had to be able to boot from that partition in order to use it, (in a kind of off-hand way).

cmpm

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #15 on: September 16, 2011, 09:53:32 AM »
@Stoic Joker

Quote
So he's got nothing looking for F8 to catch the keystroke.

Some keyboards don't recognize the F keys on boot up at all.
I have one that does not, could not even get to safe mode,
till I figured out the keyboard will not see the F keys on bootup.

Not sure if this is the case with that keyboard.
But it happened to me with an HP keyboard,
so I had to hookup another keyboard to get to my boot options.

That's all the help I can offer, the rest is out of my understanding, most of it.

Stoic Joker

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #16 on: September 16, 2011, 11:36:02 AM »
Well that answer looks good on paper, but...

The questions I answered were:
1) what was it for, and
2) how you boot into it.

And I did mention that you had to be able to boot from that partition in order to use it, (in a kind of off-hand way).

Apparently it was a bit to early in the morning for subtlety :)


@Stoic Joker

Quote
So he's got nothing looking for F8 to catch the keystroke.

Some keyboards don't recognize the F keys on boot up at all.
I have one that does not, could not even get to safe mode,
till I figured out the keyboard will not see the F keys on bootup.

That's not quite the direction I was headed earlier, but... I have run into that isue once or twice myself ... Usually with a multi-media keyboard (which is part of why I hate them). A lot of the MM Keyboards like to toggle the default usage of the F-key row between its intended/proper purpose and a bunch of daffy media shortcuts. This behavior makes the keyboard completely useless unless you can remember which hotkey combo will force the keyboard to go back to acting right.

40hz

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #17 on: September 16, 2011, 12:11:53 PM »
Usually with a multi-media keyboard (which is part of why I hate them). A lot of the MM Keyboards like to toggle the default usage of the F-key row between its intended/proper purpose and a bunch of daffy media shortcuts. This behavior makes the keyboard completely useless unless you can remember which hotkey combo will force the keyboard to go back to acting right.

Yeppers! :Thmbsup:

But it happened to me with an HP keyboard,
so I had to hookup another keyboard to get to my boot options.

junkkbd.jpg

Which is why we all still keep that P.O.S. cheap-ass (USB 101-key w/puke green PS/2 adapter)  keyboard somebody gave us (and which we wouldn't be caught dead trying to type on) for just such occasions.
 ;D

« Last Edit: September 16, 2011, 12:18:40 PM by 40hz »

Shades

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #18 on: September 16, 2011, 04:14:14 PM »
@40hz
The connector is purple, green was for the mouse....damn, just now I gave away my "computer age" away   :P

40hz

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #19 on: September 16, 2011, 06:25:50 PM »
@40hz
The connector is purple, green was for the mouse....damn, just now I gave away my "computer age" away   :P

You're correct. I neglected to look. It is puke purple. ;D (Thx for catching it.  :redface:)

4wd

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #20 on: September 16, 2011, 07:41:53 PM »
Apparently it was a bit to early in the morning for subtlety :)

Seems to happen to me a lot the last few years.  :(

cmpm

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #21 on: September 17, 2011, 05:20:58 AM »
Yes, I have quite a few older keyboards.
If your keyboard dies your stuck without a computer.
I'm pretty sure anyway, without one mine will boot till it beeps for a keyboard.
If I don't have one hooked up.

I was using the HP (which is still hooked up) for the extra usb ports on it.
The MM buttons never get used.

Ath

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #22 on: September 17, 2011, 05:32:38 AM »
Most BIOSes have an option to boot without a keyboard, for the poor souls that don't have or want a keyboard connected :D

Stoic Joker

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #23 on: September 17, 2011, 08:39:18 AM »
I'm pretty sure anyway, without one mine will boot till it beeps for a keyboard.
If I don't have one hooked up.

POST Error: Keyboard Not Detected!
Press F1 to Continue...  O_o

...I just love that one.


Ath has correct answer ... Assuming you're running a headless box (I run several), or are just planning on doing "Mouse Stuff" (...or just really hate that freakin' error).

JavaJones

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Re: Is Windows 7 boot management more broken than ever?
« Reply #24 on: September 17, 2011, 09:17:38 PM »
Ah, F8, of course... but only if you can already boot from that partition, hehe. Oh well.

Yes, the multimedia keyboards and "office keyboards" are retarded. Ok, fine, you've got these extra keys that double up on the functions of the F-keys, but for god's sake why isn't it defaulted to F-key functionality instead of the damn office/media keys!?

So, the verdict is: yes, Win7 boot management is more broken than ever. :D

- Oshyan