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Windows 7: Can Windows 7 be installed to a logical / extended volume?

15 Dec 2010   #1
johne53

Windows 7
 
 
Can Windows 7 be installed to a logical / extended volume?

Earlier in the year I bought myself an Apple Mac Mini. I knew I could run Windows on it and soon installed Windows 7. For various reasons I'd like to run 2 copies of Windows, plus OS-X, plus a shared FAT32 partition which all OSs can see and write to. You wouldn't think that would be so difficult..!

Unfortunately, Macs use the GPT disk partitioning scheme (which doesn't support extended or logical volumes), Instead, it can support up to 128 primary partitions. However, these get presented to Windows as if they were MBR partitions. GPT also needs an EFI partition, giving me 5 partitions minimum for what I need. Windows backup & partitioning tools (e.g. Paragon's Drive Backup) mistakenly see this as an MBR drive with 5 primary partitions and subsequently refuse to work.

Fortunately, Mac OS-X doesn't actually need to be on a GPT drive. It'll run perfectly well from an MBR drive which should in theory save me one partition (the EFI partition). In practice however, installing Win7 on an MBR drive causes it to create a 100MB System partition. This leaves me needing 5 partitions again which gets me right back to square one!!

Is there any way to configure Win7 so that it doesn't need that 100MB partition? Or alternatively, is it possible to install Win 7 on an extended partition where this wouldn't be an issue?


My System SpecsSystem Spec
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15 Dec 2010   #2
Bare Foot Kid
Microsoft MVP

W 7 64-bit Ultimate
 
 

Hello johne53.



As long as the Windows 7 partition is marked as "Active", which makes it the Windows "System" partition for (before) the installation process starts it will not create the default 100MB "System Reserved" partition; which is actually only created when Windows 7 is installed to "unallocated" space on a Hard Disk Drive.

Have a look at Step Two #2 in this tutorial at the link below for some ideas.

SSD / HDD : Optimize for Windows Reinstallation



Windows can be installed to an Extended partition/Logical drive BUT the boot files (MBR) must reside on a Primary partition for Windows to boot independently from a Logical drive.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Dec 2010   #3
johne53

Windows 7
 
 

Thanks Bare Foot Kid. That pretty much ties up with what I found. I couldn't install Win7 onto a logical partition (the Setup disk just wouldn't co-operate) but once I'd installed as a primary partition, I then simply moved the newly created volume to my extended partition. You need to have suitable tools of course (I used Paragon's Drive Backup 10) and you need to leave the 100MB System Reserved partition as a primary partition. But after the move, all I needed to do was boot up with the Win7 install disk and ask it to "Repair my installation". Importantly, I can now create extra Win7 partitions the same way since my MBR partition table only contains 1 x OS-X partition, 1 x Microsoft System Reserved partition plus the extended partition.

I'd recommend this strategy to anyone who wants to have multi-boot Windows partitions on an Apple Mac. It's FAR superior to Boot Camp, rEFIt, EasyBCD or any of the multitude of other boot managers that I tried.

One word of caution though.... one useful thing that Boot Camp does is to provide Windows drivers for your Mac hardware. These don't get installed if you do it my way. However, as long as you backed up your original Windows Boot Camp volume, you can use it to replace the copied one (above). After another "Repair my installation", all the hardware carries on working..!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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15 Dec 2010   #4
Bare Foot Kid
Microsoft MVP

W 7 64-bit Ultimate
 
 

Hello again.



Have a look at this one.

System Reserved : Multi Boot from Logical Partitions
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Dec 2010   #5
johne53

Windows 7
 
 

Interesting... it looks as if the Setup disk will install to an extended partition as long as the partition was already pre-created - but it definitely won't create an extended partition (I know, because I tried that earlier).

I was interested in the comment about increasing the default size of the System Reserved partition from 100MB to 200MB. The author seems to have some very good reasons for suggesting it so I might try that tomorrow (after backing it up, of course!)
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Dec 2010   #6
Bare Foot Kid
Microsoft MVP

W 7 64-bit Ultimate
 
 

Sounds like a good plan and be sure to keep me posted.

Yeah that author has learned a thing or two about boot situations.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Dec 2010   #7
johne53

Windows 7
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by johne53 View Post
I'd recommend this strategy to anyone who wants to have multi-boot Windows partitions on an Apple Mac. It's FAR superior to Boot Camp, rEFIt, EasyBCD or any of the multitude of other boot managers that I tried.

One word of caution though.... one useful thing that Boot Camp does is to provide Windows drivers for your Mac hardware. These don't get installed if you do it my way.
Thought I'd report back, now that I've managed to get everything working - 1 x OS-X partition, 2 x Windows partitions and Windows 7 running (on the Mac side) using Parallels. The secret is to format your drive as MBR and run your Windows installations from logical volumes instead of primary volumes (of course, you'll need to be running Windows 7 or some version of Windows that doesn't need to run from a primary volume - and don't forget that the Microsoft Reserved partition does still need to be primary).

As for installing the hardware drivers, it really couldn't be simpler.... Install Windows 7 as normal, re-boot, pop in the Mac install disk and run setup.exe when prompted. Voila! Apples's setup.exe very helpfully installs the drivers for all your Mac hardware without you needing to do a thing! I'm using OS-X Snow Leopard. It may be different for earlier OS-X versions.

It's all slightly more time consuming than the Boot Camp route but well worth the effort..!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Dec 2010   #8
Bare Foot Kid
Microsoft MVP

W 7 64-bit Ultimate
 
 

Hello again, thanks for the update.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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 Can Windows 7 be installed to a logical / extended volume?




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