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Windows 7: Recover/install Win7 on multiboot system- too many primary partitions?

18 Dec 2010   #1

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Recover/install Win7 on multiboot system- too many primary partitions?

I posted this on a Toshiba-specific forum too, but I'm thinking I'll get more responses here...

I have a few questions: (first background questions, and then I'll get to the heart of the issue)

First, on a new Toshiba laptop with factory installed Windows 7, there are 3 primary partitions - a 1.5GB "MBR-0", a ~10GB "recovery" partition, and the main installation partition. What is the 1.5GB one for, and what's on it? An MBR certainly doesn't need 1.5GB. Does Windows 7 create that, or is that something unique for Toshiba?

If I'm using a 3rd party boot-manager (BootitNG via an EMBR on its own partition), can I just wipe that 1.5GB partition? And, can the recovery installation be set up to create the Toshiba-Windows 7 recovery partition (and that 1.5GB one) as extended volumes within the Windows 7 primary partition, and not to make them as its own new primary partition? But would they function as extended volumes?

And now to the main problem: (the gist of it is, how many partitions will the Windows 7 recovery disks create? and can I customize it?)

I have a new toshiba c655 laptop that came with Windows 7 installed. I created the one-time recovery DVDs first thing (it made 4 of them - Disk 1,2,3, and "64-bit environment").

I then wanted to set up a multi-boot system between Windows 7, and 2 instances of XP (one of which is a fresh install, the other being an image backup off a computer that died). I want each OS on its own primary partition, where each only sees/knows of itself, and each is its own C: . Also, I'll have one small, 50MB primary partition for the boot-manager program.

Of course, a drive can only have 4 primary partitions (if working with standard tools like fdisk, etc). To get around that (if needed), my boot-manager program will support as many primary partitions as I want, provided I use only it alone to manage/create my partitions.

Skipping the background, here's what I have now: I wiped the hard drive, except for that 1.5GB MBR-0 partitition, for now, till I find what it is. (Since XP doesn't recognize Windows 7, using XP's install cd would overwrite the factory Windows 7 installation, so I installed XP first on its own primary partition - and it's working fine. Plus, I don't want to use the Windows boot menu anyway, just the boot manager's). I have the boot manager program on a second primary partition, and that 1.5GB partition exists too. I then created 2 more primary partitions - one to place the XP-drive-image into, and one to install Windows 7. So, the entire drive is now fully utilized and partitioned (5 primaries, via the boot manager).

But here's the problem...

starting with the boot manager program, I'm pointing to boot from the empty Win-7 partition, which will cue it to boot from the DVD, and go on about its installation business. So far so good. At this point, Windows 7 will only "see" the empty partition reserved for it. However, if Windows 7 tries to create an extra 1 or 2 new primary partitions (like how it came from the factory), my XP partitions would likely get overwritten.

Having 6-7 primary partitions wouldn't be a problem, as long as I create/manage them only with the boot manager - but in this case the Windows 7 installation would likely create them during installation instead. If I pre-create those partitions (the 1.5GB one, and the 10GB one) with the boot manager, can I point Windows 7 during the installation to utilize those? How?

One more side note: When I'm in XP now, XP only "sees" it's own partition, but still senses that there's more room on the drive - it just considers it all as unallocated space. I'm guessing Windows 7 would do the same thing? And if it does, I'm worried it would start sticking its own new partitions there into what it "sees" as "unallocated space", even though my other partitions are there.

If you made it through this longwinded mess, thanks for what help you can provide! How should I get Windows 7 on there, through the boot manager program, without damaging the existing partitions?

My System SpecsSystem Spec

18 Dec 2010   #2
Microsoft MVP


All of this could be avoided by virtualizing XP in Windows 7 using Ultimate's XP Mode, Virtual Box or Virtual Player. Most XP apps and drivers which balk can be made to run using Windows 7 Compatibility Mode

Depends also on how badly you want to keep the current partitioning. The 1.5gb is likely your System Active boot partition (check in Disk Mgmt) containing utilities that you may not even want since Windows 7 has better versions. You can see what's on it by showing hidden folders. I would also check the free space because you could keep it, since its best to have a boot partition with multi-boots - which can be installed to Logical Extended sub-partitions as long as there is a boot partition marked Active for them to place their boot files upon.

After installing and imaging XP to Logical Extended sub-partitions created as fourth partition in Disk Mgmt, you'll need to add Windows 7 and the XP image to the multi-boot menu using EasyBCD 2.0 Add OS tab. This will need to be done from the installed XP since it will capture the boot when installed last, or you can mark Windows 7 active and use Startup Repair from the Windows 7 Repair CD to start Windows 7 and add both XP's using EasyBCD 2.0 which works better from Windows 7:
Dual Boot Installation with Windows 7 and XP
System Repair Disc - Create
Welcome to EasyBCD 2.0! — The NeoSmart Files
Partition - Mark as Active
Startup Repair - Run 3 Separate Times

What I would do is make my Recovery Disks, wipe the HD and clean reinstall Windows 7 for much better performance without the bloatware and useless utilities. re-install windows 7

If you create three Primary partitions, install XP first to the #2 Primary partition, then reimage the other XP to #3 partition space, when you install Windows 7 to #1 Primary partition it will auto-configure a multi-boot menu with all three, or any missing after it starts can be added using EasyBCD.

More tips for cleaning up a factory bloatware install without full clean reinstall: HP laptop has used up all four primary partitions

All of this could be avoided by virtualizing XP in Windows 7 using Ultimate's XP Mode, Virtual Box or Virtual Player. Most XP apps and drivers which balk can be made to run using Windows 7 Compatibility Mode
My System SpecsSystem Spec
20 Dec 2010   #3

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

I'd really prefer to avoid virtualizing XP, since XP running alone on its own installation will run much faster and use far less memory resources than a virtualized version.

Otherwise, I get what you're saying there. And I will have a separate boot partition, but it'll be created/managed through 3rd party software, not through windows. (and so I shouldn't have a Windows boot menu appear in the first place - each OS will boot directly from the 3rd-party boot menu - which will set each partition as 'Active' when I select it). Hence, I shouldn't have to do a repair on that.

If I do your recommendation, and install each XP onto primary partition #2 and #3, and then install Windows 7 onto Primary #1 (which in theory should work fine), the question still remains... Would Windows 7's install process attempt to create additional, new primary partitions?

I think this is more of an issue for me because I only have the Toshiba factory reinstallation DVDs, which (I think?) would put Windows 7 on as Toshiba set it up - with 3 primary partitions. Can I direct it not to make those partitions?

I'm still not sure what that original 1.5GB partition from Windows 7 is, since XP just shows it as unallocated space, while my boot manager (which shows all partitions/volumes) calls it by default "MBR-entry-0".

I may well follow the tutorial i found here to create a universal Win7 installation disk, and try to utilize that if nothing else. Plus, I'm happy to avoid the extra Toshiba software and misc junk that came with the computer.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

20 Dec 2010   #4
Microsoft MVP


Would Windows 7's install process attempt to create additional, new primary partitions?

Only if you use Custom install>Drive Options to create the partitions yourself. Windows 7 creates no partitions, only asks you where you want to install it. Pre-partition to avoid having to use the Drive Options at all. Screenshots here: Clean Install Windows 7

I would read the Manual for your model on the Toshiba Support Downloads webpage to see what options it presents when you boot the Recovery DVD or partition. I would not assume that it gives you any options other than setting back to factory condition otherwise. If the Manual is unclear I would boot the DVD to see for myself what it offers, or run the Recovery partiition. Back up your files and a System Image even though you likely can bail out before executing any Recovery.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
21 Dec 2010   #5

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

Yay! I finally got Windows 7 to work! The Toshiba recovery disks only give you the option of erasing all data on the drive and erasing/recreating/formatting the partition it wants to install on - but I figured out that as long as I pre-create a large enough ( >20GB) primary NTFS partition via the boot manager, and place it at the very front of the harddisk (shifting my other partitions further down), the Windows 7 recovery won't mess up the other partitions. Only the 1st primary partition gets rewritten this way.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Recover/install Win7 on multiboot system- too many primary partitions?

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