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Windows 7: Pros / Cons of Multi-boot, Multi-Disk Partition Scheme With SSD

16 Jan 2016   #1
thomnet

Windows 7 Ultimate x64, Windows 7 Home Premium x64
 
 
Pros / Cons of Multi-boot, Multi-Disk Partition Scheme With SSD

Hello everybody,

I'm reletively new on this forum and I've spent a lot of time reading posts here concerning innovative installation methods and various approaches to partitioning. This forum really has some great info and users!

I'm an old school guy going back to the days before PCs even existed. Electronics has always circulated in my bloodstream. I'm an old dog but open to new tricks.

I decided to overhaul my primary workhorse computer (See this thread for full description) by adding an SSD and rearranging my drivespace, as one of my drives was failing. I had an 80GB Vertex2 SSD scavanged from another system and thus I hatched my new partition scheme to use it.

Long story short is that after multiple trials I came to the conclusion the SSD was causing me much trouble, probably failing due to it's age. 80GB was a mighty tight fit anyway to boot 3 operating systems. So today I ordered a new SSD, a low cost 120GB Sandisk Plus from Amazon, paying less than $40 including shipping by using a discount coupon I had.

At this point I'm asking myself whether I should scrap all of the MBR partitioned disks and use only GPT disks. In reading this thread I see it's now possible to boot Windows installed on GPT using a non UEFI, legacy BIOS, which is good b/c that's all my mobo supports. That thread also requires at least a minimal MBR image, be it on a floppy VHD or other virtual image, or via some other clever "trick" to allow either winload.exe or bootmgr to live in the MBR world but still be able to find the %SYSROOT% partition on GPT media.

I think this reboot.pro post is the approach that best matches my requirements and I am going to use it if I can. It's a matter of whether I can obtain all of the pieces, like the modified wimboot. My days of Windows development are long gone, and I am no longer familiar with the tools. Almost everything is .Net now. Linux, on the other hand is where any dev work I do takes place. I'll have to look at the github info and see if the changes to wimboot are within my skills and desire to do.

On the other hand I could stick with the simple MBR scheme for the SSD as I began with, and avoid the need to use clever tricks to boot Windows 7. That won't work to boot Windows 10, I'll need to use the bag of tricks for that. So that being the case why not go GPT all the way?

So I'd like to hear from any of you out there who have built a similar multi-boot system and have input as to the pros and cons of a GPT only vs mixed MBR + GPT partitioning scheme, or if you have any words of wisdom regarding optimmizing Windows for use with an SSD. I've been reading those threads here too, good info for sure, but if you have anything to add I"m all ears.


My System SpecsSystem Spec
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16 Jan 2016   #2
Layback Bear

Windows 7 Pro. 64/SP-1
 
 

To the best of my knowledge MBR will work just find for drives smaller than 2 TB.
Drives bigger than that need to be GPT.

A little info from Microsoft.

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/2581408



Quote:
In order for an operating system to fully support storage devices that have capacities that exceed 2 terabytes (2 TB, or 2 trillion bytes), the device must be initialized by using the GUID partition table (GPT) partitioning scheme. This scheme supports addressing of the full range of storage capacity. If the user intends to start the computer from one of these large disks, the system’s base firmware interface must use the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) and not BIOS.

More helpful info from one of Brinks tutorials.

Hard Drive - GPT or MBR

More information if need be.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
16 Jan 2016   #3
Layback Bear

Windows 7 Pro. 64/SP-1
 
 

Please use this tutorial by Golden and post the picture here so we can have a look.

Disk Management - Post a Screen Capture Image
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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16 Jan 2016   #4
thomnet

Windows 7 Ultimate x64, Windows 7 Home Premium x64
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Layback Bear View Post
Please use this tutorial by Golden and post the picture here so we can have a look.

Disk Management - Post a Screen Capture Image
I have backups of many stages and incarnations of my setup. Right now I have removed the SSD as it was definitely causing weird issues. The system is much more stable as a result. What I am currently running is attached, but it too has some issues.

This current setup (see attached) was restored from backups most recently created from a 3 volume image taken from the new 1TB drive. Those 3 volumes originally came from 2 drives, the SSD boot volume and 2 partitions from a GPT drive containing P: (for Program Files) and U: (for user profiles). The only difference between my current setup and the original is that the SSD has been replaced with the 1TB drive. It went through an intermediary stage however.

After using Macrium 6 to restore the partitions, it is necessary to fix the drive letters so the junctions on the boot drive match the locations on the new partitions. When I boot and use F8 to select "Repair Computer", the C: drive did not appear as C:, nor did the P and U drives show up as P and U. So I booted to safe mode, and after logging in and seeing "Preparing your Desktop", I used ctrl-alt-del to bring up task manager, which allows me to start disk manager and reset the drive letters. Upon reboot the drives all match those of the backup and all is well, at least it was when I only had the 1TB drive in the system. Not so when I wiped 2 of the 3 volumes (P & U) from the 1TB and attempted to use them on the 680GB drive, which were restored from the exact same backups. That's my current setup and how I got here.

I initially restored all 3 volumes from those backup images onto the new 1TB drive. I used junctions to separate the C P and U drive elements (see attachment). This restored system all on the single 1TB drive split into 3 volumes was stable and worked well, so that should be a solid base upon which I can move forward.

However, the current setup uses the GPT disk for the P and U volumes, which were restored from the very same backup used to create the 1TB system I just described. I expected the same stability, but it was not so. It's not clear to me right now why that is. I do know the SSD has failed, and it has been removed from the system. It will be replaced next week when a new SSD arrives. Until then I would like to make some progress toward what I ultimately plan to achieve, using an external 3TB USB drive for backup images and the 1TB and 680GB drives. I've created many backups, but I still have almost 1TB of space available on the USB backup drive. I'm sure I could free up more of it if needed.

So after posting this I am going to disconnect the 680GB GPT drive and restore the 3 volume set back onto the 1TB, verify that it is stable and if so proceed to install a bit more software. If not then I will try to decide what my next step will be.

Thanks for your replies @Layback Bear, I didn't find the GPT/MBR tutorials very useful, pretty much know the differences. Plus those were rather old, and new ways to boot Windows on a non-UEFI (i.e. BIOS) system with GPT partitioned drives have been discovered now.

The GPT partition format is technically superior to the ancient MBR scheme, so I would like to use that on all of my drives. It's a matter of learning all of the techniques and tools required to do so. However, if someone here provides a strong compelling reason why that will lead to trouble, I am open to hearing about it.

One thing I hadn't looked into much which I can credit you @Layback Bear for, is the new possibility of using "dynamic disks" in my setup. I knew nothing of them before I read some of the links you provided, and they seem to have some important advantages for managing drive space across several physical drives. I will need to study more before I decide if they merit use in my system.


Attached Thumbnails
Pros / Cons of Multi-boot, Multi-Disk Partition Scheme With SSD-split2drives.png   Pros / Cons of Multi-boot, Multi-Disk Partition Scheme With SSD-sysroot.png  
My System SpecsSystem Spec
16 Jan 2016   #5
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

This is what I would call a healthy mess on disk0. Why all these partitions.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
16 Jan 2016   #6
thomnet

Windows 7 Ultimate x64, Windows 7 Home Premium x64
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by whs View Post
This is what I would call a healthy mess on disk0. Why all these partitions.
Apparently you didn't read my previous posts. I have a multiboot system that (soon will) run 3 flavors of Windows and 3 flavors of Linux.

However, after reading up a bit more I have made some mistakes, particularly regarding reserved partitions. I prefer the linux tools over Windows, and so I use GParted to partition the disk before starting the Windows installation. The next time I will use a different approach.

I just don't like being locked into doing things b/c that's how Micr$soft says that's the only way to do it. However, "going rogue" as many certified MS people may call it has it's risks. Sometimes I don't have all the info I need to get the job done right. That can happen in any environment, it really has nothing to do with MS / Linux / OSX. But if you're honest you'll admit that Micro$oft doesn't exactly embrace standards and work cooperatively to facilitate multiboot systems. Can't say that I totally blame them for that, but I wish it weren't so, it would make my life a lot easier.

Then to complicate matters even further, are the hardware failures that can rear up and fog what's going on.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
16 Jan 2016   #7
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

I understand that. But it still leads to a healthy mess. Note - I said "healthy". If anything happens to that disk, you have your work carved out. I recommend to image that disk as often as possible.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Jan 2016   #8
Layback Bear

Windows 7 Pro. 64/SP-1
 
 

Well I don't know whether that mess is healthy or not.

The thread topic.

Quote:
Pros / Cons of Multi-boot, Multi-Disk Partition Scheme With SSD
Then in your post #4 you say you already new the all that information.

Quote:
Thanks for your replies @Layback Bear, I didn't find the GPT/MBR tutorials very useful, pretty much know the differences. Plus those were rather old, and new ways to boot Windows on a non-UEFI (i.e. BIOS) system with GPT partitioned drives have been discovered now.
I have read your post several times and I'm still lost exactly what you are trying to do and why. If your post were shorter and more exact may maybe I would understand. Then again I don't need to understand; you do.

A ssd is like a hard drive it doesn't care whether you use GPT or
MBR as long as the drive is under 2 TB.

Having several operating systems on on one computer is not a problem; many do such a thing.

I personally would not have more than one operating system on one drive. If that drive takes a dump you are in a world of do do.

I would not trust a back up of disk "0" with all those partition to save me if a disk failure happened.

Please note:
What ever you have your drives or partition labeled in Windows 7 might not have the same labeling using a 3rd party program.
Because of that it's easy to make mistakes.

To my knowledge Microsoft doesn't care how many of their operating system you have installed on one computer as long as they are activated properly.
In simple terms. They want paid for every one of them.

Because you are in a partition world I have never been in or will ever be in, I will just have to set back and watch this thread.

Sorry I wasn't more helpful.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Jan 2016   #9
thomnet

Windows 7 Ultimate x64, Windows 7 Home Premium x64
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Layback Bear View Post
Quote:
Thanks for your replies @Layback Bear, I didn't find the GPT/MBR tutorials very useful, pretty much know the differences. Plus those were rather old, and new ways to boot Windows on a non-UEFI (i.e. BIOS) system with GPT partitioned drives have been discovered now.
I have read your post several times and I'm still lost exactly what you are trying to do and why. If your post were shorter and more exact may maybe I would understand. Then again I don't need to understand; you do.

A ssd is like a hard drive it doesn't care whether you use GPT or
MBR as long as the drive is under 2 TB.

Having several operating systems on on one computer is not a problem; many do such a thing.

Sorry I wasn't more helpful.
No need to apologize. If anyone might have the need to it's me for writing such long posts
Rest assured I am well aware of the basics you refer to, such as differences between MBR & GPT, SSD drives etc. I've been around computers and using Windows and Linux for decades.

What I'm trying to accomplish is this:

1) I want all of my drives to use a GPT format b/c it's superior and will eventually replace MBR. Also for these reasons.
2) To be able to boot 6 OSs (3 Windows, 3 Linux), all using the grub2 bootloader
3) Optimize the Windows Ultimate OS for use on a SSD (2 Linux OSs will also use the SSD drive)


That's it in a nutshell. Why? No need to waste space getting into that here. PM me if you're so inclined & I'll tell you.

Simple? Definitely not! If it were I probably wouldn't be asking questions here. Is this doable? I am highly confident it is, based on reading various threads here & on reboot.pro which I've linked elsewhere. As far as recovering from a disk crash I see no problem. That's a matter of having a good backup recovery plan. For me, I like Macrium Reflect.

Current Status

I just received by new 120GB SSD, but until I can successfully boot Windows 7 on a GPT drive the SSD will remain in the box.

Last night I followed this post and came close to success installing and booting Windows Ultimate on a 1TB GPT HDD. Grub worked, which successfully booted memdisk. The last line of memdisk's output was: "found boot sector... booting..."

From memdisk's output I can see I got grub installed correctly. I have never installed grub that way before or used a grub.cfg with only a single menu definition but it worked. It displayed the menu and invoked memdisk, but memdisk was unable to boot Windows.

Analysis

The PE environment I used was the Macrium 6 Rescue ISO supposedly built for 64 bit. I boot the system with that ISO from a USB 3 HDD created with easy2boot. Not sure which PE version that ISO is based on but I believe it's v3. I had to supply the imageX.exe as it was not included on it. I used the July 2009 version (presumably for Windows 7) not the 2008 version. This is Not the version referred to in milindsmart's OP, so this may be a problem. I used the newer version thinking it was correct for Windows 7 as the date correlated with Win 7 release. 2008 might be Vista, tho the OP called for the earlier imagex. Which of the 2 versions used may be entirely irrelevant.

There were no issues or errors installing the Win 7 Ultimate wim file onto the 4th partition of the GPT HDD; it took 6 minutes.

Questions

1) What are partitions 2 & 3 and their size?
Sascha Weaver's post didn't explicitly mention what he used partitions 1 - 3 for. It was implied that partition 1 is the "BIOS Boot" partition he referred to here. The grub /boot partition has to go somewhere (separate from where it's core.img goes) so I used partition 2. In conformity to Micro$oft's conventions I allocated a 128MB msftres / MSR partition 3.

2) What is the correct parted command to create the BIOS Boot partition conforming to GPT alignment conventions?
It's only a question of alignment and may not be important. The size of my BIOS Boot partition is 1MB and starts at sector / block 34 as the ArchLinux page described. However, that violates GPT alignment conventions which parted warns of. Not sure of the correct parted "last" parameter to end the partition at sector / block 2047. 1MB size ends at 1900 or so. Interestingly the parted warning goes away when the "last" parameter is set to 2047, but that creates a 2GB partition!

3) Which version of bootsect should be used?
I used the one from Windows 7 Ultimate CD since the Macrium ISO did not have one. However, I got an error saying it wasn't compatible with the current OS. That seemed odd. The Macrium rescue was built for 64 bit, but was it indeed a 64 bit PE? I pulled bootsect.exe from a Windows 7 32 bit RTM disk, and that worked, I was able to write the files to the vdisk.

Conclusions

Until I can investigate to confirm, I suspect that the Macrium ISO is not actually a 64 bit PE environment, and the bootsect.exe writes files which are architecture dependent. I don't currently have a Windows system with the WAIK installed, so I must use a PE from one of the many ISOs that have one.

Since I haven't created the "helper USB" or .imgPTN file yet to boot a Windows install ISO from my USB HDD, I would need to boot from DVD (slow!). Would the repair environment of the Windows 7, SP1 DVD be a PE environment all this could be done from?

As usual this post wasn't very short. There's just too much info to convey for short posts which would leave the reader with many more questions. I'm an old school guy and I don't use Twitter! I probably didn't have to tell you that

Here's a couple of screen shots booted from the Windows 10 I installed onto an MBR 80GB drive (it's old and v e r y slow!).

One thing I noticed was that the EasyBCD utility reports Drive E:\ as %SYSROOT% and F: as the vdisk boot drive where the BCD is located. I reviewed Sascha's post but I don't see where he says what drive letters are assigned to each partition. According to the BCD created by his instructions it would be F:\Boot\BCD (the MBR virtual vdisk) and E: for \Windows. If so it should boot. I may try setting the Windows drive to C:\ and seeing if that boots, but it's just a guess. I'm not sure what the fatal flaw is at this point. After reading some posts about installing Win 7-64 from a 32 bit PE I don't think the bootsect or or PE I used is the problem.



Attached Thumbnails
Pros / Cons of Multi-boot, Multi-Disk Partition Scheme With SSD-deskshot1.png   Pros / Cons of Multi-boot, Multi-Disk Partition Scheme With SSD-deskshot2.png   Pros / Cons of Multi-boot, Multi-Disk Partition Scheme With SSD-gparted.png  
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