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Windows 7: Reinstalling Win7 on a system with dynamic disks with no install DVD

15 Jan 2011   #1

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
Reinstalling Win7 on a system with dynamic disks with no install DVD


I have a custom built HTPC running Windows7 Home Premium 64 bit that I bought from a tin-pot PC building firm last year. It has 4 physical drives in it. The first is configured as a "basic disk" with a single C:\ drive partition on which windows 7 is installed. The other three are configured as a RAID1 "dynamic disk" that present themselves in Windows as a single logical drive (E:\) and that's where all my data lives.

Windows Media Centre has now stopped working properly and I've tried everything to fix it (Any ideas on this also appreciated, in case I can avoid a reinstall!... mcupdate.exe always crashes (with System.IO.FileNotFoundException): I can't update TV signal set-up or guide data ) so now I need to reinstall windows. I'm an IT professional and I've installed many prior versions of windows in the past, but never Win7 so I have a few questions I'd be very grateful for help with:

1) If I reinstall Win7 on my C:/ drive, will the E:\ drive be left unaffected and the fresh install of windows will still be able to see the E:\ drive and access all the data on it without any permissions issues?

2) The company that I bought the HTPC from neglected to give me a DVD with the Win7 installer (and prod key) on and they went out of business a few months ago, so I'm feeling a bit stuck. I've used a free tool to extract my Win7 product key from the registry, and borrowed a Win7 DVD from a friend. Will reinstalling from this DVD with the product key I've extracted work, or is the product key tied to the physical DVD (or does it just need to pass a checksum algorithm?) If I use my product key to reinstall, will I also be able to re"activate" Win7 or will it now think it's a dodgy copy? My current install says it's an OEM version (when I tried to get support from, but my friend's DVD is a full retail one - is that a problem too? What options do I have here? Can I, for example, create a copy of my friend's DVD and amend the prod-key in the poduct.ini file to be mine in the "HomePremium=" entry?

3) Before I attempt anything, I'm keen to do a full system backup. I've done this with the Win7 system image tool and have a 154 GB file that I've copied to an external USB hard drive, and I'm going to create a restore boot "disk" on a CD. However, If I need to do a restore, can the restore app read from a USB HD or not? I assume it can't read from the dynamic disk E:\ drive? Or can I just keep it on the C:\ drive, or will this get wiped completely when I reinstall windows, thus losing the image file?

Any/all help very gratefully received!


My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jan 2011   #2

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient


Q1) You may lose your Raid, make sure you backup.

Q2a) You can use your friend's dvd, if you have a product key on the side of the unit.
Q2b) OEM product keys are locked to the hardware.

A "Must Read" for OEM license users

SSD / HDD : Optimize for Windows Reinstallation
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jan 2011   #3

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit

Thanks for the speedy reply, mate.

When you say "may" lose data on my dynamic disks... do you mean that everything *should* work fine and the E:\ drive will be visible and data preserved as normal post reinstall, but if something goes wrong, I might lose it? Or will I definitely lose it and have to start again cos Win7 definitely won't detect it properly?

The chumps I bought it from didn't put a sticker on it either... So I used this to extract the prod key from the registry... WinKeyFinder - Free software downloads and software reviews - CNET Should be ok to use that as I'm reinstalling on same hardware, yep?

My System SpecsSystem Spec

15 Jan 2011   #4
Microsoft MVP


Confirm the Product Key with Belarc Advisor which is best at this.

You can copy your friend's Installation DVD using ImgBurn to save image file, then write it to DVD at 4x speed with verify, or to flash stick using UltraISO trial version. If you don't have exact same version unlock all versions from the image file before burning to DVD or writing to flash stick:

You need to back up your data, then I would break the RAID and install to one target HD with SATA controller set in BIOS setup to AHCI mode. Win7 is not friendly to RAID which is dated technology that offers no performance advantage and isn't even redundant since you'd lose both HD's if one fails. Instead save a Win7 backup image to a secondary HD set up for data/storage: Backup Complete Computer - Create an Image Backup

You'll need to convert the Dynamic Disk to Basic: Convert a Dynamic Disk to a Basic Disk I would wipe all HD's with Diskpart to get rid of old code.

Here are tips to get a purrfect reinstall based on hundreds done here: re-install windows 7
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Jan 2011   #5

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit

Great advice, Greg. Many thanks.

I've now reinstalled and everything working perfectly (managed to retain the E:\ drive no probs too, but think you're right about reverting to basic disks... a project for another day!)

Still can't get the bloody NVidia display drivers to work properly with a grown-up resolution, but at least my Media Centre guide works with my new TV card, so I'm fully HD'ed up, which is the main thing... I'll have to get back to the graphics drivers soon.

Thanks again for the very useful reply - much appreciated.

All the best,
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Jan 2011   #6

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

I had that happen to me. I made too many partitions on one hard drive which forced the system to go into dynamic; Therefore, when I tried to reinstall windows, it failed.

The way I got it to work was used the Windows 7 System Disk, booted into Command Prompt and did a CLEAN command on the disk using Disk Part. That reverted the whole disk back to Basic and wiped it clean with Zeros.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Jan 2011   #7
Microsoft MVP


You want Diskpart's Clean All command to wipe with zeros as merely using Clean is more limited. Other conversion methods given earlier.

Try the latest display driver from Nvidia Support Downloads webpage for your model card or chip. Google the model + Win7 to see how others may have solved issues.

Let us know if there's anything else.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Jan 2011   #8

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Yeah... I did that, all i need it to to do was convert the disk back to Basic from Dynamic and I could just delete the partitions.

Clean All takes a good bit of time on a Terabyte drive... I know my limits and patience LOL
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Jan 2011   #9
Microsoft MVP


I understand. I'm waiting for Clean All as I type this.

So you can confirm that Clean command alone converts Dynamic to Basic without also running Convert Basic?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Jan 2011   #10

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

It will but there is an easier way to convert it...

Commands to Convert Disks
convert mbr [noerr]

Use the convert mbr command to set the partitioning style of the current disk to MBR. The disk may be a basic disk or a dynamic disk but the disk must not contain any valid data partitions or volumes.

convert gpt [noerr]

Use the convert gpt command to set the partitioning style of the current disk to GPT. The disk may be a basic or a dynamic disk but it must not contain any valid data partitions or volumes. This command is valid only on Itanium-based computers; it may be unsuccessful on x-86-based computers.

convert dynamic [noerr]

Use the convert dynamic command to change a basic disk into a dynamic disk. The disk may contain valid data partitions.

convert basic [noerr]

Use the convert basic command to change an empty dynamic disk to basic.

A Description of the Diskpart Command-Line Utility
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Reinstalling Win7 on a system with dynamic disks with no install DVD

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