First off, I am new to SU so please be understanding (I don't know if the question is relevant to this forum)

Here is the situation :

- I have a Windows Server 2008 R2 machine, on one Hard Drive, HD ZERO.
- I have a second Hard Drive, HD ONE, with an empty partition, ready to welcome a fresh Windows Seven install on it, so I can have dual boot.

This may sound simple, but I already spent horrible sleepless nights with damaged/corrupted MBR and BCD, So I am willing to be very careful this time.

What I would like is the two disks/ OS's to be TOTALLY independent :
I would like to be able to
- Plug disk ZERO only and boot on W2K8
- Plug disk ONE only and boot on Windows Seven
- Plug Both and have OS Boot choice.


I want to get rid of the W2K8 System after I made sure I have transferred all I needed (user prefs, utils, and stuff). So I'll use dual boot temporarily along with seven during a shifting period, and after that I'll just totally format disk ZERO.

Here is one danger point (among others)
I have noticed Windows allocates a 100 MBS System reserved Partition (presently on the ZERO Disk). If the MBR/BCD is there, Boot infos for both OS's will be wiped out if I decide to format disk ZERO.
I would prefer these infos to be on Disk ONE, as it is the one that will be lasting.

Another point is the partitions being marked Boot, or System...
My knowledge on the best configuration to avoid screwing up while doing what I have to do is close to zero.

So here it is. If anybody has guidelines I am ready to read relevant resources and understand what I have to do before I end-up calling my wife to cancel dinner and order pizza at the office.


You need to use a boot manager to do this. I use Terrabyte's BootIT NG but I think there are others. http://www.terabyteunlimited.com/bootit-next-generation.htm With this setup have Win7, Linux, Server 2008, Vista. The boot manager allows you to select the boot partition at startup and it sets that partition as active. Each OS install acts independently and has it's own boot files. One thing I have not setup with this is Bitlocker. If you need to use that bitlocker actually requires a separate small partition to boot the encrypted system drive since Windows cant boot from encrypted bootloader.

  • Thank you for your answer. I've came through many posts where people were having serious problems with bitlocker so if I can avoid that I'll do it. So basically, the boot manager explores the different bootable partitions at each boot, without storing the data on any disk ? If it's the case it's the safest configuration IMHO – Mika Jacobi Apr 10 '11 at 11:24
  • Yeah when you boot it goes into the custom boot manager (in my case BootIT) which sets active partition then transfers control to that partition. The other advantage is in some dual boot setups windows updates stop working. This setup allows the partitions to behave independently. You can also choose to hide the other partitions from the active one if you like. GAG is a open source boot manager - see gag.sourceforge.net. I haven't used this but process should be similar. – jtreser Apr 12 '11 at 12:20

This is not possible. You can only have one Master Boot Record, located on the first sector of disk Zero. If you remove that disk from the system, the MBR goes with it.

I suppose you could install Windows 7 on the second drive, but with the first one ALREADY REMOVED. Then you could plug the first one in and rewrite the boot record goodie to point to that partition with a dual-boot scenario (using BCDEdit).

But that's not necessarily going to work, because your drive numbers will change and it could cause issues.

Personally, I wouldn't have both drives connected at the same time if I wanted to achieve this.

  • Thank You, that was very insightful. Sorry I can't upvote yet. Could you tell me more on how to proceed to "rewrite the boot record goodie to point to that partition with a dual-boot scenario" ? Besides, What would happen if after installing win7 I plug back disk Zero/2k8 (without changing anything) ? there would be 2 MBRs, how would the bios make the default choice (or will it just bug?)? – Mika Jacobi Apr 10 '11 at 11:29
  • I've updated my answer with a name and a URL for BCDEdit. – user3463 Apr 10 '11 at 15:32

Transferring files from one operating system into another is always risky. Windows Server has many more user policies than Windows 7 to begin with and that could cause lots of unusable files.

Now, if you really want to do this I suggest the following:

  • Unplug the drive with WS2K8
  • Install W7
  • Plug the WS2K8 drive
  • Reboot and fix the non-booting issue using the installation DVD

After that, you should have a dual booting system.

To allow your W7 to copy data from your WS2K8, administrative accounts in both systems should have the same user and password. Of course, all applications will need to be reinstalled in W7 so be sure that you are using W7 apps and not WS2K8.

User profiles and configurations will have to be recreated manually but most tasks should be straight forward. Problems will arise, but since you still have a dual boot machine, you can sort those as need arises.

Good luck.

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