Dual and Multibooting with Vista

This site’s main aim is to understand Vista’s boot requirements,
particularly with regard to third-party boot managers and cloning.
Site Motief

Vista Quirks and Bugs
Vista's new Partitioning
Vista's MBR DIsk
Vista's Boot Files
bootmgr and BCD
Installing Vista
Cloning Vista
Drive Letter Problems
Vista Tested
Boot Managers
Vista Boot Floppy
The Multiboot Process
The Windows System
and Boot Partitions

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Much of the Vista material on this site will apply to Seven, but there have been a few notable changes which can make some of the information here not applicable or not entirely safe for use with Windows Seven. See the new Win-7 page for current updates.


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    Vista's Quirks and Bugs.
  Multibooters - February 2008

Page reviewed or updated - Feb 2014.


Warning icon DISCLAIMER:
 The information on this site is offered in good faith and no responsibility can be accepted for misuse that leads to loss of data or damaged hardware. There are any number of ways that the slightest mistake in procedure could trash a system. If you have a mission critical OS that you cannot restore, or data that is not fully backed up, then you should not be experimenting with such things.

Info iconThis web site was never intended as a complete how-to guide on the subject of multibooting or cloning. The focus has been to publish information about Vista that was not seen elsewhere. Effort has been made to keep articles as non-technical and concise as possible.


Vista's Quirks and Bugs

A few things that might catch you out.
Some are just annoying, some can delete partitions.

logo-7The information on this page also applies to Windows 7 - except where indicated.
Also see the Win7 page for a few quirks specific to Windows 7.


Quirks & Bugs

Disappearing partitions
Vista is creating partitions to a new plan that is not entirely compatible with previous versions of Windows, see Vista’s New Partitioning Rules. The biggest problem seems limited to only logical partitions, with both XP and Vista in certain circumstances deleting partitions that were created by the other. If you have conventional partitions and you delete the first logical in an extended partition and let Vista recreate it during the install of itself, then any other logical in that extended partition will most times be deleted. Using the Vista partitioning tools manually can also sometimes produce the same result. (Vista SP1and 2, Server 2008 and Windows 7 final public release have not fixed this major bug).

If you have Vista made logical partitions and you use XP tools to create a new logical after a Vista one, then you will lose all Vista logicals back to any other old style logical or to the start of the extended partition, (XP SP3 has not fixed this). I’ve seen a few other circumstances where logicals disappear, so advisable not to mix and match at all.

Third-party partitioning, imaging and cloning tools.

Some popular pre-Vista tools are not fond of the new partitions, but the majority will just ignore the different alignments and simply convert the partitions to conventional ones during any operations. This can cause boot problems for Vista but you can repair or even prevent this by editing the BCD – see Vista's Boot Files and Cloning Vista. Some tools won’t accept Vista partitions at all and will report them as invalid or as having errors. Most notably PowerQuest's Drive Image and Partition Magic will damage Vista if you let them attempt to repair what they see as errors. All updated tools I’ve looked at so far do not maintain Vista partitions during operations but compensate by auto editing the BCD for you.

Hard drives can be numbered out of sequence.

Vista has a problem correctly enumerating both IDE and SATA hard drives in the same order as the computer’s bios sees them. The displayed order can even change on successive boots, so you can never trust what Vista is telling you from one minute to the next. This is not only an issue when installing Vista but also applies when using Vista's Diskpart and Disk Management tools and even most third-party Windows running apps that take their reference from the way Vista sees things. Before doing any partition work you need to double check you are working on the intended hard drive. Windows XP also has a problem with SATA drives on more recent hardware, but is usually correct with IDE drives. (Neither SP1-2, 2008 or WIndows 7 final release have changed any on this issue).

Vista may unexpectedly take the C: drive letter as its own.

If you are only accustomed to using the Microsoft bootmanager to handle your dual or multiboot setup then you will probably expect a new install of Vista to retain the system partition as C: and assign itself some other letter. If you start a Vista install from inside another booted Windows OS then this is indeed what will happen, but if you install by booting the computer from the DVD then Vista will always take the C: letter for itself and any current system partition will then become the D: drive. Other partitions can also not retain the letters you expected and I have read stories of people consequently deleting or formatting the wrong partition.(Drive letter allocation routines have change in Windows 7 and 8).

System restore points.

In a dualboot machine with Vista and XP you will lose all Vista restore points every time XP is booted. If you are using a third-party bootmanager that can hide the Vista partition from being seen by XP then you won’t have this problem. If you are using the MS bootmanager then of course you can’t hide partitions. Microsoft did say they were not planning to do anything about this issue and SP1 has indeed not fixed it, but they did recently offer a couple of workarounds. (Apparently this is the same with Windows 7 but we have not tested it).

Vista prefers creating logical partitions.

During the install of Vista or even when using its tools to create partitions you are often not given a choice of whether you get a primary or a logical partition. If you already have one primary on the drive and you are not given a choice then I’ve found it means you will usually get a logical (and a new extended partition of course if you don’t already have one). Your options are to use previous Windows tools or third–party apps. Windows 7 on the other hand seems to always create primary partitions, the one exception being if you point an install to free space inside an existing extended partition. See the Win7 page and Creating and Deleting Partitions.

You may see several primary partitions on a drive.

Logical partitions that are either hidden or of an unsupported file system will show up in Vista’s Disk Management utility as primary partitions. Not only that but the extended partition can appear to not include these logicals. It can be confusing the first time you see it and can make you think you have a corrupted partition table. The drive shown here has three primary partitions and one extended with six logicals inside it. All but the third and sixth logicals are hidden. Most third-party apps running from inside Vista will see things correctly. (SP1-2, 2008 and Windows 7 have not rectified this issue). Click image below for larger version or zoom-in with your browser.

Disk Map Screenshot

Windows Setup [EMS Enabled]
If you see this as a startup option when booting from the DVD then it probably means you pressed the space bar or the enter key more than once when instructed to “press any key to boot from the DVD”. Another thing that can trigger its appearance is if the DVD setup detects an unbootable previous install of Vista somewhere on the hard drive. If you just press Enter then setup will continue as normal. The letters EMS mean in this instance Emergency Management Services and it is a function for use with Windows server. Whether it can be used with a standard Vista OS I do not know and I cannot find any Microsoft comment on this.   Also see "Space bar is the new F8"




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These pages are not guaranteed to be free of errors. I cannot offer support but if you can answer any of the questions on this site, or correct any mistakes, then please let me know by using the feedback form.   McTavish_January_2007
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