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I am trying to startup the computer with two drives; one is connected with SATA(Windows XP, 40G) and the other with IDE(blank, 80G). With just the SATA drive, it boots fine, but when I add the other drive and change the BIOS to boot with the originally one (it automatically switches to the IDE one by default), all I get is a black screen with a grey flashing cursor. It will stay that way for hours. I am looking for a way to fix it so that it will boot with both drives OR recognize the IDE drive if I plug it in after startup.

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Which motherboard? – Karan Feb 18 '13 at 3:09
As mvp states, change the boot order if possible. – Gunnish Feb 18 '13 at 10:06
The computer is a Gateway E2500 SlimLine – Ian Feb 18 '13 at 16:45

If you can tweak the BIOS to change the boot order - great, it will solve this problem for you.

However, for some older stupid BIOSes, this is not always possible.

To bypass this, you can use excellent tiny bootloader used by FreeBSD called BootEasy.

BootEasy simply replaces standard MBR bootloader, and it is effectively equivalent to it with one exception: standard MBR bootloader simply scans primary partition table and if it can find active partition, it will boot from it.

BootEasy does the same, but it also gives you an option to immediately change which partition is active, as well as to boot from next drive - it does not have brainpower for anything more, considering that it fits into 442 bytes.

It used to be that BootEasy existed as separate utility and it had its own DOS installer. But these days simplest way to install it using FreeBSD installer as follows:

  • Download FreeBSD 9.1 bootonly.iso image (do not worry - you are NOT going to install FreeBSD or reformat your partitions).
  • Burn ISO to CD/DVD, boot from it.
  • Skip any install steps, go to Partition disks as described here Figure 3-13. Select Drive for FDisk
  • When prompted to choose drive, it will be something ad0, ad1, ... Choose one - you should be able to say which one you need by looking at drive capacity. If you chose wrong one, Esc and reselect again. At any rate, don't worry - you are not going to repartition anything, your data is safe (but see disclaimer below).
  • Once in disk partitioning screen, simply press w - it will write existing partition map without changing it, but most importantly it will ask to install BootMgr - FreeBSD boot manager as shown in section 3.6.3 Install a Boot Manager.
  • After choosing BootMgr, you are done - simply press Ctrl-Alt-Del and reboot.

Now, at boot, BootEasy will show very simple menu like this:

F1 Windows
F2 Linux
F5 Drive 1

If you press F5 (next drive), BootEasy will remember that choice and will simply start boot sequence from second HDD. If that HDD also had BootEasy installed into its own MBR, it will offer similar menu for that drive, something like:

F1 Windows
F5 Drive 0

Here you can also press something like F1 and it will remember that boot choice (by activating partition). For last drive, next drive is the very first one.

Sorry that this seems like long way to do this, but I have been using this for years on all my drives with great success. Actually, my preparation step for any new drive involves installing BootEasy - just in case :-)

Some disclaimers:

  • If you have Linux Grub installed on some drive, installing BootEasy can make it unbootable (much like installing Windows after Linux would). Easiest fix is to install grub not to drive (/dev/sda), but to partition (/dev/sda2). Then, BootEasy can peacefully coexist with Grub.
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I can change the boot order; by pressing F10 or change the defaults by pressing F2...I'll try this anyway – Ian Feb 18 '13 at 16:44
hmmmmm...I replaced the CD/DVD-ROM drive with the hard drive....there's only enough power cords to power one of them. – Ian Feb 18 '13 at 16:49
You can install BootEasy onto your drives one-by-one - boot from CD, install onto your IDE drive (that prevents it from booting further). Then you can disconnect CD and attach second HDD instead. You don't even have to install BootEasy to another HDD to fix your problem. – mvp Feb 19 '13 at 3:19

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