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Microsoft's newest generation of operating systems have transformed many of the accepted ways for successful multibooting, cloning, imaging or deploying Windows. If you have yet to get to grips with all the new rules then this
website should be a good place for you to start. Our articles and guides are as clear and concise as we could make them and most are written in plain language that will allow almost any able computer user to follow along.
Being able to boot two or more operating systems from a single computer can allow you to have different systems for different tasks. Or give you time to learn a new
operating system while still being able to use the old familiar one. But the best use of a multiboot setup is to have identical clones of your all important and hard working main system so you can banish software problems with just a reboot.
Advanced Format hard drives became available at the start of 2010 and the first new PCs began to ship with
them in early 2011. Recent operating systems that are Advanced Format aware will configure the drives correctly for optimum use, but older operating systems and many current software tools for partitioning, cloning and imaging are unlikely to get it right.
There are now many different ways to incorrectly configure partitions on both of the currently available formats of
mechanical hard drive. Getting it wrong at best will result in a performance loss, at worst a corrupted or lost partition. Getting it right can require knowing which format a hard drive is; which partition alignments should be.........
We don't need to understand any of the really complicated stuff about partitions and their files systems to be a multibooter, but it certainly helps to know the types of partitions we can use and the restrictions and conventions that will dictated how we can and should place our partitions on a drive. It also helps to be clear on how partitions are numbered and labeled so that we don't make mistakes in identifying and selecting a partition we are about to modify or delete.
Before trying to modify or add to existing partitions on a hard drive it must be determine how those existing partitions are aligned so that we know which standards we
should be working to. Mixing the different standards of partition alignments on the same hard drive is not recommended, so we need to know what we already have if we wish to avoid making configuration errors.
It is generally believed that Partition Magic is incompatible with the latest generation of Windows operating systems of Vista and Windows7. This is not the whole story because it is actually the new Advanced Format partition alignments that Windows now creates that is the real cause of the problem.
This website is about introducing people to the benefits of having more that one operating system and to the backup and recovery advantages of multibooting with identical clones. Achieving these goals need not be difficult or require you to have extreme technical abilities, but we do implore you to take your time and understand what you are doing. Be under no illusion that modifying or creating partitions.........
The Disk Management tool (diskmgmt.msc) has been around for a while and it gives us a nice graphical view of the partition structure of hard drives and devices. It has of course evolved over time and in the latest generation of Windows it has been updated to fully support the new Advanced Format architecture and the upcoming GUID partitioning scheme.
When configuring a multiboot machine it can be useful to have at least a basic grasp of how the boot sequence progresses. We don’t have to learn anything
particularly difficult or technical to understand enough of what is going on to help us in making informed decisions. The general flow of the boot sequence is what concerns us the most and that is not a difficult thing to understand if we don’t........
As with any job or skill that we want to master and do well we should acquire some decent tools of the trade and the knowledge to use them. Our recommended tools will not only be used to create our multiboot computer, but will also give us the means if need be to repair minor problems or recover an unbootable machine.
There are several ways to achieve a multiboot system and some of them are safer and easier to get running than those that require the configuring of partitions and the installing of bootmanagers. The cleanest and safest is an operating system that can be booted and run from removable media like a CD/DVD or a USB/SD flash stick or card. While they have some limitations they are an excellent and quick way to get your first taste of other operating systems.
On-board recovery systems as well as backup and data partitions and even some lightweight and quick-booting operating system can all have their own separate partitions on a hard drive. This can mean that creating space to install another operating system may be difficult or just not possible.
Partitioning is no longer as straight forward as it used to be and so many auto-partitioners cannot be trusted on multiboot machines to get things wholly correct for optimum and stable performance. We recommend only manual partitioning but even then we should avoid complex and lengthy partitioning operations as they increase the risk of problems and future instability. By keeping it simple there is less to go wrong and more of a chance for us to fully understand and control what we are actually doing.
Do You Know Your Format, Style and Type?
The underlying Format
of a hard drive and how it has been configured for Style
are just a few of the things we need to consider before carrying out any partitioning, imaging and cloning, or before installing an operating system or bootmanager. An Introduction to Format, Style and Type.
BIOS firmware or UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface)
Most of the material on this site is currently aimed at PCs that are built on the long time standard of BIOS firmware in the computer's motherboard. There is however an updated standard on the way that will use UEFI firmware, which will require a new style of partitioning on hard drives. You should determine which camp you belong to before proceeding. How to Determine if a Machine is Using UEFI or BIOS Firmware.
Are you Configured for MBR or GUID Partitions?
The new GUID Partition Table (GPT) that is set to take over from the classic MBR partition table will literally re-write the rule book on how to configure and manage a dual or multiboot computer. Many current utilities will be unsafe to use so it really is quite important to know how a hard drive has been styled before embarking on any major work or modifications. MBR or GPT Styled Hard Drive?
Saving and Sharing Windows Operating System Updates.
On a computer that is multibooting various copies of Windows we may want to take a slightly different approach to how we keep on top of Windows updates. Allowing various installs to download the same update could be considered wasteful so where possible we could grab such updates only once and then pass them along.
Reuse updates in clones and other Windows installs.
How Windows uses the Disk Signature in the Boot Process.
Windows will stamp a unique ID number into the first sector of every hard drive it uses. This need not be a concern if you intend using only Microsoft’s own bootmanager and you follow the recommended procedures for installing Windows. If however you stray from the Microsoft path there are a few ways that this disk ID number could catch you out. The Windows Hard Drive Disk Signature.
The Hard Drive Disk Signature and Windows Drive Letters.
The way Windows assigns and maintains drive letters to partitions and drives is intimately connected to the hard drive disk signature and so a changed signature can cause a few issues for Windows. If you have ever wondered how it all works then our Tech Insight
article on the subject is for you. Drive Letters and Signatures.
Fixing a Windows Disk Signature Problem.
Since Windows Vista the list of issues caused by a changed or lost Disk Signature has grown to include the sometimes annoying problem of not being able to boot Windows. If you want to understand the signature dependency and be able to manually deal with any problems you may encounter then this tutorial should lead you in the right direction. Dealing with Disk Signature Issues.
Finding the New Windows Bootloader - Winload.exe.
The boot files of New-Generation Windows work in a different way to the files they replaced in legacy operating systems like XP. This has necessitated a change in procedures for successfully moving or cloning Windows and so anyone who wishes to perform such operations would do well to understand how the new files operate.
The Windows Boot Files - bootmgr and BCD