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Windows 7: XP multiboot won't work after replacing HDD

12 Sep 2013   #1

Tower: 7 Pro; Laptop: Win 7x64/Win10x64 multiboot
XP multiboot won't work after replacing HDD

OK, this is probably stupid, but maybe someone can steer me to a solution: My main IDE HDD that has the Win 7 \BOOT folder with its BCD started failing. I was getting the "HAL.DLL missing or corrupt" error. So, in a short window where it DID work, I copied its partitions off to backup on another drive, and found an identical Maxtor to replace it with. I did the hardware swap-out and usual DVD SETUP nightmare with diskpart and reassigning letters after making the drive an MBR drive, and its primary partition startable-active. After hours of fiddling, Win 7 boots fine after a startup repair, and I restored the original drive lettering. Problem is, the XP installation won't boot. It appears in the selection screen, but when I choose it to boot, all I get is a black screen with a flashing underscore.

Here's the configuration: The system boot disk (0), the 40Gb Maxtor IDE that failed and was replaced, has the MBR. Its first primary partition, active, is I:, which has \BOOT (the second, H:SURROUND, is a scratchpad). The main disk (1) is an SSD that has partitions C:NON-OS SSD, an auxiliary; D:AUXILIARY SSD; E:XP SP3 SSD; and F:WIN7 SSD. That's unchanged from before the HD problem, when booting XP from E: worked fine.

I have a SATA drive (2) with partitions N: O: P: Q: that replicates the partition structure of the SSD exactly. Win 7 starts fine off that too, but I don't use its P:XP SP3 anymore.

XP's BOOT.INI on I:\ is as follows:

;Warning: Boot.ini is used on Windows XP and earlier operating systems.
;Warning: Use BCDEDIT.exe to modify Windows Vista boot options.
[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(3)\WINDOWS="XP on the SSD"
;yes, Win 98 SE is still on C:
c:\BOOTSECT.W98=" Windows 98SE (on 40Gb IDE only)"

That worked before. What would make XP do a black-screen startup failure now?

My System SpecsSystem Spec
12 Sep 2013   #2
Microsoft MVP


Sounds like a mess.

The Boot flag means the partition that is currently booted, either Win7 or XP. The System Flag means the partition that is booting the OS or the Dual Boot.

There is no reason to change drive letters at all. Win7 will always install to C as it should when the installer is correctly booted to install. It should have written its System boot files to XP partition if it is on the same HD; if not on the same HD then the other HD should be unplugged so it remains independently bootable.

Please post back a screenshot of Disk Management - Post a Screen Capture Image - Windows 7 Help Forums so we can help you sort it out. Tell us again what is on each partition since it's hard to sort it from your OP.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Sep 2013   #3

Tower: 7 Pro; Laptop: Win 7x64/Win10x64 multiboot

XP multiboot won't work after replacing HDD-dm-hdds.gif

The disk labels denote what they are. Diskpart reports:
XP multiboot won't work after replacing HDD-diskpart-volumes.gif

I booted off the XP setup DVD and went into the Recovery Console, then ran fixboot on the SSD's XP partition. Doesn't seem to have helped. None of the rdisk values for the BOOT.INI ARC path work, with the partition number set to 3.

Thanks for your look at this!

My System SpecsSystem Spec

13 Sep 2013   #4
Microsoft MVP


That may be the worst mess I've ever seen. Not sure why you plugged in the old HD which you are trying to replace as it confuses it even more, and it's already about as bad as it gets.

What I would do is back up your files, plug in SSD to install Win7, as its too small to have a Dual Boot and include programs which benefit most from the SSD. During the booted Clean Install Windows 7 Steps 7/8 delete all partitions and create one a new one to format for install.

Then unplug the SSD, plug in the HDD, boot the XP installer, during Install delete the nonsensical FAT32 boot partition at the front of the HD, create a New NTFS Primary partition there for XP and install it.

Afterwards plug back in the Win7 SSD, set it first to boot in BIOS. When you want to boot XP use the one-time BIOS Boot Menu key to trigger it instead. If you don't like this arrangement install EasyBCD (click Download - no Name or Email required) to Win7 to add XP to a Windows Boot Menu.

Ignore and stop messing with drive letters as WIn7 is smart enough to sort them the way it wants and always be seen as C when booted. If you have a drive letter issue ask back and we will help you resolve it.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Sep 2013   #5

Tower: 7 Pro; Laptop: Win 7x64/Win10x64 multiboot

The solution was obscure, if obvious (from MS support article, ID: 919529): the {NTLDR} object was missing from my BCD, so it was not possible to have it start XP from bootmgr. To enable it, I performed the following procedure, as customized for my machine:
  • Bcdedit /create {ntldr} /d "Earlier OSes via NTLDR" /*create boot-menu entry obj
  • Bcdedit /set {ntldr} device partition=I: /*where my NTLDR is
  • Bcdedit /set {ntldr} path \ntldr /*invoke it from the root
  • Bcdedit /displayorder {ntldr} /addlast /*make it bottom menu entry
After rebooting, it worked flawlessly. BTW, the utility ArcPaths.exe is essential to ensure that the ARC paths in BOOT.INI point to the right volumes. Google for it to download. I got it at

My three-HD system with all those partitions is to keep things organized and backed up, not a big mess. None of the BCD editing utilities I've got on my system, neither EasyBCD nor VistaBootPro, had the ability to set all these BCD parameters. They displayed them, though.

I'm closing this thread. Hope the preceding helps someone else with XP boot problems under 7, and maybe 8...
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Sep 2013   #6
Microsoft MVP


On what planet is that a solution?

I've never seen a a bigger mess and I've looked at tens of thousands of these.

Why would you have a 13gb XP partition and a 30gb Win7 partition? Or why take herculean steps to have a C partition without an OS when Win7 will configure a Dual Boot that allows XP or Win7 to be C when it is booted.

Why have the System partition on another HD booting both OS's?

These are all worst practices.

I don't know why you would ask for help here where we do 95+% of these on the web and then refuse to engage in an interaction but continue speaking a language only you hear. Are you trying to teach us something useful? What benefit would such an arrangement provide to the average consumer we help here? What use on earth is such a configuration?

Just asking...
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Sep 2013   #7

Tower: 7 Pro; Laptop: Win 7x64/Win10x64 multiboot

Please understand, Greg, and don't be so critical. I started out with Win 98SE on this machine's main IDE drive, the 40 GB, then added XP when I got the SATA HDD, which I installed on its third partition. The first two were used to keep program data and files separated from the OS. I was still multibooting 98SE so I could use it to edit a Roland MIDI module's settings with a program that XP wouldn't even run in compatibility mode. I then resized partitions to make enough space for a fourth, when I installed Win 7.

So, then, after a while, when they became more affordable and reliable, I got an Intel SSD, and cloned the SATA's installations over to it for speed's sake — which is why I have four partitions on the two HDs (data ones on the SATA are backups I'll probably get rid of soon). I seldom run XP any more except for using HP's Catalina printer-consumables engine to check toner levels, so I reasoned that I didn't need very much space on the SSD's partition for XP, and used EASUS to shrink it and increase 7's space, since that's the main OS for me now.

Yes, it's a complex setup, but there's no reason to be histrionic about that. It works fine. It was the failure of the old (2002) IDE HD that resulted in problems; but since the OSes (except for 98SE) were on other drives, the failure of the OS-starter had no bad effect on the XP or 7 installations themselves. Once I replaced and reinitialized the IDE to the former config, I was right back to my old work environment, with no fallout whatever — otherwise, hours, maybe days worth of reinstallation and reinstatement of customized stuff. I have lots of software that'd be a nightmare to reinstall from scratch & etc.

Thanks for being there to help, though I learned a lot more about bcdedit from this experience, and understand 7's boot process much better. I prefer to work with the computer, not techie stuff with OSes and hardware on it.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Sep 2013   #8
Microsoft MVP


Hey, it's your rig so knock yourself out doing what pleases you.

But a big part of what we do here is teach and this is not a teachable moment. That's all.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 XP multiboot won't work after replacing HDD

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