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How to make a hard drive bootable?

by AleyCZ / December 13, 2009 11:43 PM PST

I had XP and Vista installed on my primary SATA hard drive (on SATA0 channel). There was no space for another operating system, so I added a secondary hard drive (to SATA2 channel) and installed Windows 7 to it. It worked perfectly. After a few weeks my old primary hard drive suddenly died, and the computer doesn't boot anymore. So I put the remaining live hard drive to SATA0 channel, and bought another new SATA drive and put it to SATA2 channel. Now I need to add boot files to my drive, because both operating system and data files are there, I just need to let the computer start.

So I have one good healthy SATA drive, Windows 7 installed on it, but without boot files, because that other (now dead) drive was used to start up the computer. I though that Windows 7 Installation DVD will help, but it doesn't. When I try to use its repair disk feature, it fails to find any installed Windows, so it says there's nothing to boot to, nothing to reapir. If I use the command line utility from the same DVD, I can see both my C: and D: partitions are there, with all files, I can see all my directories, I can see Windows folder, Program Files folder etc. But what does it need to boot?

I also tried "upgrade" from W7 Installation DVD, but it says that I should run this option from inside Windows. Since I cannot start the Windows, this option isn't for me. When I tried a new fresh installation, I got a warning that all my current data will be overwritten, and that also isn't option I am searching for. Any advice?

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This issue and situation is not new.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / December 14, 2009 1:00 AM PST

You see this all the time with dual boot systems and the owner moves the drive with the OS they want to run from a slave or other position to the boot position only to discover that there is no support to get Windows running again.

Yes you can try this or that but all are a BAD IDEA if there are files and more that don't have a backup. I don't want to hand out advice if there is no backup.

What I would do. Install a new blank drive and clone that drive onto the blank. On the clone research Windows 7 REPAIR INSTALL and see if that works.

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Create a system partition on your new drive
by NoahSkier / March 1, 2011 11:14 AM PST

I had this exact problem, but my old hard drive with the boot files was still functioning properly, so I could still boot Windows 7. Windows 7 requires a system partition on your drive to boot properly. I was able to solve my problem from within Windows 7 using the Disk Management tool and the bcdboot command line tool.

If you do have another drive that can boot Windows 7, you can use the Disk Management tool to build a new system partition on your existing SATA drive. You have to shrink the existing partition, and create a new partition. Then you can copy the boot files to the new partition using bcdboot.

I found this forum post very useful:

It describes the solution to a different (more complicated) problem, but I just followed the first few steps, and I was able to boot off of my new hard drive without needing the old drive's system partition.

Remember to run cmd in administrator mode when trying to use tools like bcdboot and bcdedit:

Good luck, and make sure to back up your files before attempting anything like this!

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You saved my life
by evertith / March 14, 2011 1:13 PM PDT


I owe you a beer. I spent over 5 hours solid trying every possible solution under the sun to fix my problem. Originally I had a software mirror setup in Windows 7. Well, the primary drive died, but when I tried to boot with the mirrored drive, it said no boot device available.

I went through countless disk management software packages, rebuilt the MBR a 1,000 times, rebuilt the bootmgr 2,000 times, and couldn't get anywhere. The only way I could get booted into the OS was using Hiren's BootCD (excellent tool btw After digging through the depths of Google, I ran across this post, and your link to the Microsoft technet document FINALLY got me back up and running again.

Thank you a million times over!

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thank you sooo much for the post
by buju357 / April 26, 2011 11:10 AM PDT
In reply to: You saved my life

exact same problem , hard drive was about to crash (smart status bad and check disk reporting bad sectors)
did the first few steps :
I used "active boot disk" to image my c:\ drive and the restored image to new drive , except i had 3 partitions and i only wanted one partition.
you saved my system and a ton of work , thank you sooo much for the post
btw - don't buy sumsung drives , they don't last .........

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You saved my life too
by wademeister / March 30, 2011 12:41 AM PDT

After I had cloned my C: drive to a new drive I had installed, using Todo Backup,

all I had to do was "bcdboot c:\windows /s b:"(drive letter I had designated to partition on new drive). It apparently copied the necessary boot files. I unplugged old drive, booted to new drive, and voila! Good to go.

*!*Note*!* Save yourself an extra hour! In Windows 7, don't just type cmd or Run then cmd to get to bcdboot command. Just type cmd (NOT RUN FIRST!), then Ctrl+Shift+Enter to run elevated. Otherwise you get an error. Hope this helps someone.

Thanks again Noah, for taking the time to post.

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by jamhelmcor / March 31, 2011 3:34 AM PDT
In reply to: You saved my life too

Hello, is it possible to use a USB flash drive to boot?

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The answer is
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / March 31, 2011 3:37 AM PDT
In reply to: USB as BOOT

The answer is going to depend on what this boot is supposed to do. For example Microsoft does not offer booting Windows from USB today. Linux and a few other OSes do offer such a feature. Beyond the OS issue, the machine may or may not co-operate.

Can you complete your question?

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Windows OS
by jamhelmcor / April 6, 2011 10:13 PM PDT
In reply to: The answer is

I want to be able to install Windows OS using a flash drive. Is that posible?

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Re: install Windows 7 from flash
by Kees_B Forum moderator / April 6, 2011 10:24 PM PDT
In reply to: Windows OS
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Then get it on USB from Microsoft?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 7, 2011 1:21 AM PDT
In reply to: Windows OS
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Check out
by jamhelmcor / April 14, 2011 4:40 AM PDT

Thanks for the tips. Will check this out.

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Another life saved
by imlass / May 13, 2014 12:01 AM PDT

I have to agree with evertith, I owe you a beer. I spend 2 days trying to fix boot manager after mistakenly formatting my c: (windows on d:) and able to boot. I was told by many to give up and re-install windows after many failed attempt (bcdedit, bootsect, and many others), but bcdboot saved me.


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