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Windows 7: Align partition containing Windows 7 system = huge headache

06 Nov 2011   #1

Windows 7 Professional SP1 32-bit
Align partition containing Windows 7 system = huge headache

Hey folks,

I recently got a 60GB SSD to install into my PC and migrate my Windows 7 partition on the harddisk to it. But the partition needs to be aligned first.

Here's the catch.

I realize that I could clone the system to my SSD first and then use an alignment tool. However, I want my system to be fully encrypted with TrueCrypt, and from what I understand, if I encrypt it in-place on the SSD, some blocks containing unencrypted data may still remain due to the way SSD block allocation and wear leveling works.

For this reason, I want to encrypt my partition on the HD before cloning it to the SSD.
For now my system is unencrypted, since I need to align it first - an encrypted partition is impossible to move for obvious reasons.

I just can't seem to do it. I've tried imaging the system, creating a new partition on my HD with an aligned offset and restoring the image to it - the alignment was lost and the offset changed to an odd number.

I tried using Macrium's RoboRestore tool which works with Microsoft's robocopy command - it writes files from an existing image to a new, formatted partition and then makes the partition bootable. For reasons I can't figure out, RoboRestore simply doesn't work.
The newly created system fails to boot and BSOD's with a Session Manager Initialization Error and the error code 0xc0000034. Attempts at startup repair have no effect.

Then I tried a freely available alignment tool from Hitachi - it simply claimed no alignment was necessary and offered no option to go ahead anyway. Makes sense, since I was trying to align a HD and not an SSD.

So, I'm stuck...what can I do from here? Again, my goal is to have the system partition aligned, then encrypted, before I clone it to my SSD.

It shouldn't be so hard, should it?

My System SpecsSystem Spec
07 Nov 2011   #2

Windows 7 Professional SP1 32-bit

No one has any idea?

At this point I'll just clone the system in its unencrypted state to the SSD if that's what it takes - as long as I can somehow get it aligned on the SSD. I can't find any software (I mean free software) that can do just this.

I don't get why this is so damn hard - moving/resizing partitions is trivial nowadays, why doesn't anything let you move partitions to a precisely specified offset?

My System SpecsSystem Spec
07 Nov 2011   #3
Microsoft MVP


Let's ask Wolfgang who is an expert on this.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

07 Nov 2011   #4
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8

You have to align the SSD, not the HDD (that won't help). Have a look whether you can do it as described here: SSD Alignment
My System SpecsSystem Spec
07 Nov 2011   #5

Windows 7 Professional SP1 32-bit

Thanks, but that doesn't help me much. I need to align an existing system partition. Reinstalling Windows is not an option.

I've googled my heart out and every trail I follow leads back to the same thing... Paragon Alignment Tool or nothing. *sigh*

Then I noticed Paragon Partition Manager 11 Personal Edition - which is supposedly capable of auto-aligning partitions while copying them - and saw they have a 10-day license special on it. I figured "ok, $9.95 isn't too bad" and went for it. Got the setup downloaded, got the key.

And what happens? To add insult to injury, it refuses to install. Simply says "setup was interrupted etc." and then all I get to do is close it. WHAT THE HELL
(I did send a support ticket to Paragon; waiting for their reply which I hopefully get tomorrow.)
My System SpecsSystem Spec
07 Nov 2011   #6
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8

There is something I do not understand. I thought you had an image of your original installation. Why can't you just dump that into an aligned partition.

Btw: the Paragon tools are good - but you should be able to work without them. Let's work that a bit.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
07 Nov 2011   #7

Windows 7 Professional SP1 32-bit

Because Macrium Reflect destroys the alignment of the (newly made, aligned) partition once I write the image file back with it.

I did find one program called Drive Snapshot which can backup partitions into images and restore the images into new partitions, preserving their alignment. However, Windows fails to boot miserably if restored this way. Startup repair does nothing to help it (doesn't even find problems).

That gave me a crazy but ingenious idea: What if...what if I were to clean my SSD with diskpart and then just use my Windows DVD to install a fresh copy? In fact I did just that and - as expected - ended up with a 100MB system partition and a large Windows partition.

And this is where my existing Windows image comes in (it already contains all the boot files so there's no system partition to go with it) - I simply restore that image into the new Windows partition, overwriting it in the process. But the trick here is to use the system partition to get the booting process started, not the boot files in the restored Windows partition.

Now I'm in the process of fixing up the BCD store to get it to recognize my restored image as C: and boot it. (I had to disconnect my HD before trying to boot the SSD for the first time after the restore, and that's where I'm at now.)

I'm feeling like a mad scientist LOL...but I may be close to a breakthrough here.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
07 Nov 2011   #8
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8

Because Macrium Reflect destroys the alignment of the (newly made, aligned) partition once I write the image file back with it.

This is not true. If you dump a Macrium image into an aligned partition on the SSD, the alignment will stay. I have done that many times on some of my five SSDs. But I have the feeling that you keep trying to align the original partition on the HDD - this, of course, is useless.

If you now try to dump the image into a C partition that stems from a prior Win7 installation, that is OK - provided the C partition has at least the same size as the originating partition on the HDD. All you need to do then is to deactivate the 100MB partition and activate the C partition. You can do that with the bootable CD of Partition Wizard (last entry on that webpage).

Here is the data of the SSD on this system as of today. And this Win7 was restored from a Macrium image at least 4 times. My original alignment of 1024 has never changed.

DISKPART> list disk
Disk ### Status Size Free Dyn Gp
-------- ------------- ------- ------- --- --
Disk 0 Online 232 GB 3072 KB
Disk 1 Online 232 GB 1024 KB
Disk 2 Online 59 GB 0 B
Disk 3 No Media 0 B 0 B
Disk 4 No Media 0 B 0 B
Disk 5 No Media 0 B 0 B
Disk 6 No Media 0 B 0 B
DISKPART> select disk 2
Disk 2 is now the selected disk.
DISKPART> list partition
Partition ### Type Size Offset
------------- ---------------- ------- -------
Partition 1 Primary 59 GB 1024 KB
My System SpecsSystem Spec
07 Nov 2011   #9

Windows 7 Professional SP1 32-bit

You still don't seem to understand - the partition I imaged with Macrium was never aligned. It just wouldn't come out aligned no matter how I go about restoring it. Also, I wanted to have my system aligned on the HD first, but already said I gave up on that idea.

Which version of Macrium Reflect are you saying keeps the alignment of existing partitions when restoring images to them? Mine simply doesn't - I have the paid version of the latest v4.2 and restore using the WinPE disc that came with it.
If you're saying v5 can do what v4 won't...well, then I sure wish I'd known sooner.

Anyway, good news: My mad trick worked. I restored my Windows image to the new partition created by the fresh install - the actual Windows one, not the 100MB system partition - I left the system partition active and then edited its BCD store to match things up.
Disconnected my HD, booted from the SSD, and it fired right up. Alignment verified at 1024KB (2048 sectors) for the system partition and exactly 101MB (206848 sectors) for Windows. Beauty!!

Problem solved. Human ingenuity wins once again.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
07 Nov 2011   #10
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8

My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Align partition containing Windows 7 system = huge headache

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