Pragmatic Development Notes


Vista Dual Boot Nightmare

Filed under: Vista — Boško Ivanišević @ 9:44
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Three days ago Vista started to act like crazy on my HP Compaq 8710w. Screen was flickering, after logging in computer restarted – in a few words system became almost unusable. Somehow between those flickers and automatic restarts I’ve turned off famous Aero and it looked like everything will be fine. Unfortunately I was very wrong.

Next starting surprised me completely. Instead of normal boot, HP Recovery Tool was started. I didn’t want to perform restore of factory state, so I just pressed cancel and after that my Ubuntu dual boot menu disappeared for ever.

It was time to entry the darkness of Vista’s booting procedure. For some reason Microsoft has decided to replace pure text boot.ini file with binary version and terrible tool to edit boot entries – bcdedit. After reading documentation I’ve decided to try to add new boot entry. I have decided, but Vista didn’t – bcdedit printed out horrible message that it cannot read the store because something has changed it and it cannot work with it any more. That was weird. I never write on Windows partition from Ubuntu and I certainly do not mess up in Vista’s boot folder. Only source of changes could be in Vista itself. And it did it perfectly (wrong) – now it cannot read its own changes.

I’ve chosen to switch to friendlier way of editing boot entries and installed EasyBCD. Surprisingly it has read the boot store and displayed entries correctly. At least some light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve added new entry for my Ubuntu, but EasyBCD could not save it. Again at the beginning. It was late and I’ve turned off laptop and went to bed. Luckily, because if I knew what will happen on the next boot I would not have been able to sleep.

Next day I’ve realized that I was not able to boot even Vista any more. Every restart finished in the HP Recovery Tool. Horrible. I’ve almost made up with the fact that I will have to reinstall everything from the beginning, but before that I wanted to search a little bit over the net. Time to use my daughters’ computer. After few minutes of searching I’ve found that I can use Alt-d in HP recovery tool to start console. As you can imagine old recovery console was also changed in Vista. All well known commands were missing.

Microsoft has removed these commands because they were hoping users will not need them any more. Excellent idea, isn’t it? Anyway they implemented something they call Recovery Environment and luckily they really did a good job. Although commands are different you still can perform lot of tasks and recover your system if needed.

First thought that came on my mind is to fix MBR. In Vista RE you will do it with:

bootrec /fixmbr

New restart, same result and back to the console. Few more tries with following commands:

bootrec /scanos
bootrec /fixboot
bootrec /rebuildbcd

Still nothing. Every restart finished in the HP Recovery Tool. Problem obviously was not neither in the BCD nor in MBR. Logical conclusion was that something went wrong with disk partitions and I had to find what it was.

In Vista’s Recovery Environment you can examine your disk with diskpart. It is not single line command utility. After you start diskpart you will see its prompt and will be able to issue commands.

So I first selected the one and only hard disk I have:

select disk 0

After examining it I’ve found out that no partition on it was active and it was the reason I couldn’t boot neither Vista nor Ubuntu. Fortunately it is very easy to fix this with diskpart:

select partition 1

This time reboot was successful. Although Ubuntu’s dual boot menu was still missing I’ve been able to log in into Vista. This time everything worked fine and I’ve added new boot entry with EasyBCD.

I still do not know how and why Vista removed my dual boot menu. Moreover I do not know how active flag was removed from my primary partition. Nevertheless with Microsoft’s new Recovery Environment I was able to recover system without any damage. I have to say: “Good work guys.”

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