I've just got a Gateway laptop with OEM Windows 7 (which I've just upgraded from MSoft). One of the things I've learned to do first with a new computer is reorder the boot sequence such that the DVD/CD is first. If the c: drive fails, I can then boot with the DVD rescue disk and perhaps load a disk image of C: from an undamaged partition (I've divided the one disk into three partitions) onto the damaged boot partition.
I'm a new user of Windows 7, however, and the F8 key gets me only to a sort-of BIOS that does not offer to change the boot sequence. Thus, when I run a practice drill with a recovery disk in the drive, the boot process ignores it and boots normally. Is Win 7 written such that it will try the DVD drive if C: won't boot? If not, how do I get to the drive image on another partition or on an external drive?