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Windows 7: I can't install 7 unless I unplug all other drives

16 Nov 2013   #1

Windows 7 64 bit Home Premium
I can't install 7 unless I unplug all other drives

After having wasted almost a month with Windows 8.1 and getting fed up with it, I decided to go back to Windows 7 Pro 64 bit. I backed up everything to another drive, wiped the drive Windows 8 was on and installed Windows 7. The problem is that after the first installation reboot, Windows 7 doesn't continue installing, but gives me an error screen saying it can't load winload.efi. It tells me to do a startup repair, which I tried but it doesn't fix the problem.

After some trial and error I realized that the only way to install Windows 7 successfully is to unplug the other two drives. Plugging the other drives back in after Windows 7 is already up and running works fine. However, I'm one of those really geeky anal dudes that want everything straightforward, so ideally I would prefer to have all the drives plugged in when I do the installation, in part because I also have two Blu-ray drives and a card reader that ads like five extra drive letters, so if I install without two hard drives plugged in, I end up having to change about seven drive letters in order for the two other hard drives to be D and E. But also I want to find out a way to solve this so in the future I don't have to unplug drives every time I have to do a Windows install.

Inside the computer I have three drives, two Seagate Barracudas 3 TB each, same model and one WD 1 TB. I'm pretty sure that the problem is being caused by the second Seagate, because at one point I there was a Windows installed in it, I can't remember if it was 7 or 8.1 Preview, but I'm guessing one of those two tiny partitions might have something that confuses the windows boot manager. The fact that if I unplug this drive the installation goes fine tells me that the UEFI is getting confused.

Earlier today I figured that one way to solve this problem was to copy every single file from the second Seagate onto the first one, then wipe it out with diskpart, then copy all the files I had copied before back onto it and finally try the Windows 7 installation once again. The problem with this method is time, as it would have to copy 2.24 TB of files, some of which are large and will use the whole disk bandwidth, but also hundreds of thousands of small files that will not. So the whole operation would take several hours each way, probably ten hours or so.

So I want to find a simpler and faster way to do this, which is why I'm asking for help here. So to make it easier I'm going to detail my steps as good as I can remember:

1) boot from Win 7 Pro DVD
2) open a command prompt and go to diskpart
3) I select the disk that I want to wipe out (a pain in the ass in diskpart since I have two Seagates that are exactly the same model and size, so I have to do a "select partition" and "detail partition" to make sure I don't wipe out the drive with all my files)
4) type CLEAN
5) type convert GPT
6) type exit
7) reboot from Win 7 install DVD
8) choose a custom install and select the drive I just wiped out
9) click Next and let it install
10) at the first reboot, it stops right after POST with the winload.efi error. That is if all three drives are plugged in, if only the system drive is plugged in then it continues without problem.

So the goal here is to somehow safely modify the second Seagate drive to avoid Windows Boot Manager from messing up and giving me the winload.efi error. Is that possible without having to do the giant file transfer? I was tempted to go into diskpart and delete the two small partitions in the second drive, but my gut tells me that would be a catastrof**k. My motherboard is an Asus P9X79 Pro in case it makes a difference.



My System SpecsSystem Spec
16 Nov 2013   #2
Microsoft MVP


You should have Win7 HDD plugged into DISK0 if at all possible so no preceding Primary Partition can steal the boot files during install or repairs. If this is not possible make all but the Win7 target partition Logical data partitions so they cannot host boot files: How to set partition as Primary or Logical.

Boot the Win7 DVD, at first screen press Shift + F10 to open Command Box, wipe the Win7 target HD using Diskpart Clean Command, create a Primary Active partition for install using Step 2.2 in SSD - HDD Optimize for Windows Reinstallation, then close Command Box, click Install Now to Clean Install Windows 7
My System SpecsSystem Spec
16 Nov 2013   #3
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8

When you install Windows7, you should always unplug all disks that are not the installation disk. Else your bootmgr is liable to end up on another disk.

In your case I suspect that this is what happend and the disk with the bootmgr had some problem - probably because it was not in NTFS format.

Next time you may chose top prepare the installation disk with the bootable CD of Partition Wizard. Define a primary, active NTFS partition to which you can install.
My System SpecsSystem Spec


 I can't install 7 unless I unplug all other drives

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