Dual and Multibooting with the Latest
Generation of Windows Operating Systems
to new boot files and partitioning rules that were first introduced in Windows Vista.
The Microsoft Way or the Third Way.
There are however limitations to what can be achieved with the strict and automatic Microsoft way. If you plan on being a bit more adventurous you can expand the use of the Microsoft bootmanager to give you more options for both Windows and non-Windows operating systems. This approach of course means that you will have to learn and understand enough about the messy details so you can avoid the numerous configuration errors that it is possible to make.
Pick a Bootmanager
When installing and configuring Windows-8 for multiboot on machines with motherboards using the classic BIOS firmware there appears to be few differences from Win-7 in the install and boot routines. When configuring a machine that has the new UEFI firmware enabled on the motherboard and the new GUID Partition Table (GPT) on the boot hard drive then there are a whole new set of rules and restrictions to deal with. It gets even worse with store bought Win-8 PCs because in addition to UEFI and GPT they may also have the new Secure Boot feature enabled to restrict tampering with the boot process, making it difficult to replace the Windows bootmanager.
At present even the tech guys are having fun with this and there is currently no easy way for us to work with it and certainly no truly user-friendly boot manager we can simply install. You won't find much material yet on our site for specifically dealing with Secure Boot and UEFI and GPT so unless you are one of those tech guys or you are up for a challenge then perhaps the best option at the moment if you want a multiboot system would be to revert your motherboard's firmware to BIOS mode and turn off secure boot.
Introduction to UEFI and GPT
The Windows Boot Files.
If you have any experience at all in configuring the boot options in the previous generation of Windows then you should be familiar with the ntldr and boot.ini files and be aware that by editing the boot.ini you can alter some settings to repair a boot path that may have been broken by a change or move of a drive, partition or operating system. In new Windows the equivalent boot files are bootmgr and BCD and they do the same job but just in a different way. As with the boot.ini the BCD can be edited manually to adjust for changed boot paths that may result from creating a multiboot system.
If you go the way of using the Microsoft bootmanager for your extended multiboot system then you will have to know about editing the BCD. If you go the way of a third-party bootmanager then you will be able to forgo knowing much about the boot files other than where they need to be located. Which ever way you choose you would do well to know a bit about how the new boot files operate so that you can understand the relevance of the hard drive Disk Signature and the new System Reserved partition. You will also need to be able to determine the format of a hard drive and know which partition alignment settings you should be using. Begin with the articles below and continue on as required with the further reading links.
These two crucial files operate in a completely different manner to the files they replace. If you have worked with the ntldr and the boot.ini then you may know that the ntldr will use the motherboard’s firmware (the bios) to find the location of the hard drive that it wants. It will then look at the partition table on that hard drive to find the location of the operating system it has been asked to start. The new boot files use neither of these methods to locate Windows.
How bootmgr and BCD do their job.
Windows NT operating systems will write a unique ID number into the MBR (master boot record) of hard drives. Historically this Disk Signature has not been crucial to the boot process, but from Vista onwards it became a vital part of how bootmgr and BCD operate. There are various ways you can inadvertently remove, change or make it invalid while setting up a multiboot system, which will break the Microsoft bootmanager.
What you need to know about the disk signature.
If you use Windows own bootmanager then it makes sense to place it on a separate partition rather than having it inside one of your operating systems. From Windows-7 the auto-setup routines will create a System Reserved partition for you where the bootmanager and Windows boot-files will reside. If however you intend using a third-party bootmanager it is beneficial for each Windows install to have their own set of boot-files, hence you may want to avoid the use of a system partition. The Windows System and Boot Partitions.
To achieve a stable and optimum performing system now requires knowing which format a hard drive is and which partition alignment settings should be used. Most partition manipulation tools around at the moment will offer no clue to what standard they work to and will give no regard or warning to being used incorrectly. It is almost entirely up to you therefore to be aware of which standard you should be working to and which tools will do the job required. Configuring Advanced Format Drives and Partition Alignments.
Choose a Bootmanager - Microsoft or Third-Party
An Introduction to Advanced Format
Mixing Partition Alignments can Delete Partitions
Motherboard Secure Boot Feature
Introduction to UEFI Firmware and GUID Partitions