Oops! Image Update Clobbers Dual XP/Win 7 Boot

OK, so if you read this blog or know me at all, you already know I have trouble leaving things alone for long. I like to tinker, tweak, and twiddle the settings on my various PCs — sometimes to the exclusion of other activities, even revenue generating ones. This morning, I learned the hard way that restoring a partition image without also refreshing the boot/MBR information is not exactly a great idea. Here’s what happened when I rebooted after restoring my XP partition only because my driver contortions resulted in an increasingly unstable system that finally started bluescreening because of driver incompatibilities. Apparently, I couldn’t leave well enough alone…

Restoring the XP image I’d created using Acronis TrueImage Home 2009 worked as I expected it to. But initially, I could only boot XP, so I knew I must have also overwritten the MBR and boot loader invocation data. Next, I used the Recovery Console from the Windows 7 install DVD I’d burnt, and opted for boot repair several times to no apparent effect. Finally, I grabbed a copy of EasyBCD 1.7.2 and started tinkering some more.

This led immediately to a reversal of the original situation —namely, upon telling EasyBCD to fix the boot-up information it saw, I wound up able to boot only Windows 7 but not XP any more. A little bit of further research online showed me that all I needed to do was revert to the XP boot.ini file, stick with ntldr, and add one more line of code to address the Windows 7 boot partition, like this:

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WIN7="Win7 Build 7048" ...

and presto! I was back in business. In the long run, I returned to EasyBCD to handle the boot loader invocation (see screenshot at the end of the story for the way things ultimately wound up). But at this point, I figured I was back in action…

Or so I thought! While I was using EasyBCD I noticed that I had two identically named Windows 7 boot invocations for the same partition so I deleted one of them. I went for the one on the bottom figuring it would be the oldest and thus the one I wanted to lose. Bad choice! I wound up trashing my current Windows 7 installation so that gave me the opportunity to practice my Windows 7 installation skills and drills.

Sounds like a complete waste of time, doesn’t it? Well, perhaps almost, but it did allow me to make a couple of interesting observations. The WinPE environment that loads with Windows 7’s recovery console is, if anything, even faster than the LiveXP and VistaPE pre-boot installation environments I’ve built myself using WinBuilder. Also, the Windows 7 installer appears to be learning about drivers for various machines because the last time I did an install, it came up 6 drivers short of the Eee PC’s full load. This time, it came up only two drivers short, and I already had them on my hard disk having installed them on the previous iteration.

Very interesting and also a fair amount of fun. The more I work with Windows 7, the more I realize that my Vista skills and knowledge remain relevant, but the more resiliant, error-tolerant, and stable the newer OS appears to be. Although I do like Vista pretty well, I’m coming to like Win7 even better. I also got a chance to fool around with EasyBCD 1.7.2, and was able to change my boot-up screen as follows:

  1. Windows 7 now shows up at the top of the list and is the default OS invoked if the keyboard isn’t touched before the timeout period expires
  2. I changed the label for XP from “Previous Version of Windows” (too generic for me) to Windows XP SP3
  3. I reduced the timeout period from its 30 second default to 10 seconds

Overall I’m a lot happier with the way the system boots and behaves now. I’m leaving things alone more on the Eee PC now, both for XP (having rolled back to an earlier, more stable set of drivers and software) and Windows 7 (having left the fresh install much more intact, except for the Asus ACPI and the Atheros Ethernet drivers that were the only ones missing after this install).

EasyBCD 1.7.2 works perfectly well with Win7. Great tool!

EasyBCD 1.7.2 works perfectly well with Win7. Great tool!

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