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Until several months ago, I had a 64-bit installation of Windows 7 running very smoothly through Boot Camp on my iMac (iMac7,1). I was going to give the computer to my parents, and to spruce it up, I decided to swap out the internal HDD with a small (60GB) SSD (the operation went well, and the computer runs great). I stuck the old HDD in an external enclosure and stowed it away.

Now, I got my computer back from my parents, and it's still running on the SSD, which is great, except I don't have room to reinstall Boot Camp, and I can't use the old Boot Camp partition I had made (as far as I can tell, you can't boot Windows 7 off of an external USB drive). So, I installed VMware Fusion to at least attempt to virtualize the old drive, except that the partition seems to have lost its bootability, for whatever reason. I cannot boot up the Windows installation in VMware Fusion - it simply gets stuck trying to load SATA drive 1, and I cannot boot it up through the normal ways (System Preferences doesn't list the partition as bootable, and pressing option at boot up only gets me stuck at the No bootable device stage).

After spending a full day attempting to repair this Windows 7 installation (the farthest I got was a tip about booting the virtual machine from the Windows installation CD and through the command line running bootrec.exe /fixmbr, but Mac OS X has a security feature which disallows VMs to change their boot sectors, and I couldn't find any sort of way to disable that), I realized I would just have to salvage my files from the partition into a VM. (I had also tried using the recovery tools on the disc, but none helped).

Cherry-picking and manually transferring files and folders will not only take forever, but I'm sure to miss something. Unfortunately, every migration tool I could find (including Microsoft's own easy transfer and VMware's conversion tool) requires launching a client on the old drive, which isn't possible since the drive is no longer bootable.

It's incredibly frustrating, but is there a way I can salvage my files without having to transfer them individually?

(For completeness, just going to mention what I've tried: rEFIt, which didn't change a thing; importing the Boot Camp partition into Parallels Desktop - which couldn't boot it up either, and failed anyway; running the recovery tools while booted up from the Windows 7 installation CD, which says that the recovery tools differ from my installation of Windows and that I cannot use them - strange, since the problem isn't presented when operating in VMware; playing around in VMware even trying to get it to register the drive as a possible source for a VM, which it refuses to do; banging my head against the table, which was simply detrimental.)

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Is the partition encrypted or anything, or it is just as it was when it was under bootcamp? – soandos Dec 22 '11 at 7:56
It was completely untouched. – Itai Ferber Dec 22 '11 at 14:29

Assuming that the only problem with the partition is that it is not bootable:

If all you want to do is save the user preferences and settings, along with your files, documents, things like that, you can do the following.

On the machine/installation, etc that you plan to use in the future, create a clean user, and log on with it (this will create all of the files that will need to be overwritten, and prevent the copies that you want to stay to stay).

Then, on a separate account, copy over the entire directory structure, making sure that it is overwriting files, including those in subdiectories etc.

Confirm that the version of ntuser.dat that is in place now (in c:\users\<user name>\ is the one from the broken partition (via datastamp, size or something else). If it is not, then you probably did not copy all of the hidden files, and you should start over (making sure you can view the hidden files solves this issue).

That should migrate your profile.

Note: This should be done to a clean user, both to minimize possible fallout, and to prevent accidental data loss (two files with the same name and path on the old and new drives will cause this).

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Unfortunately, the bounty left me without any reputation to up vote your answer, but this is essentially what I ended up doing. – Itai Ferber Dec 22 '11 at 14:29
It would be appreciated if you would award the bounty then. – soandos Dec 22 '11 at 14:31
Alright. I awarded you the bounty even though I solved my own problem before I saw your answer. But I appreciate it anyway. – Itai Ferber Dec 22 '11 at 14:39
Very much appreciated. – soandos Dec 22 '11 at 14:39

I've done this before successfully with VirtualBox, it was an earlier version, and I stopped using it, because I didn't need Windows. Here is a guide that points to one I use and tackles a few more issues

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Sorry, but this isn't what I'm trying to do. – Itai Ferber Dec 22 '11 at 14:40
up vote 0 down vote accepted

In the end, what I ended up doing was replacing the internal hard drive on my computer again. Not being able to use Boot Camp was the straw that broke the camel's back, and I simply decided the SSD didn't fit my needs.

Prior to replacing my hard drive, I created a clean VMware Fusion VM and installed Windows 7 on it. I shared my Boot Camp partition with the virtual machine and simply copied all the files I needed over, manually, and made a list of installed applications I would need to reinstall. There didn't seem to be any automated ways to do this. I then deleted the old Boot Camp partition.

After replacing the internal hard drive (and transferring Mac OS X and files onto it), I created a Boot Camp partition on it and installed another clean copy of Windows 7. I then used VMware Fusion to load Boot Camp as a VM, as well as the other VM (having both VMs running made the computer incredibly slow, but my 6GB of RAM certainly helped - your results may vary) and I initiated a Windows Easy Transfer between them over a network (because they're on the same virtual network, the files simply transfer on the hard drive, and not over a network - it's very fast).

After that was done, I reinstalled all my old applications manually, and now everything works great. Yes, it was a bit of a radical move, but there didn't seem to be many other choices.

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