Multi-boot with OEM Vista - Cannot log on ???

Discussion in 'Acronis True Image Product Line' started by JustAnotherNoob, Mar 9, 2008.

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  1. JustAnotherNoob

    JustAnotherNoob Registered Member

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    Hello,

    A while ago, I bought a new laptop with Vista pre-installed. Because my previous laptop still works, I decided to take the time to get things "just right" on the new machine before making it my main computer (I'm a student, and I need one computer I can really rely on). Before installing software, tweaking Vista, etc. I wanted to configure the "big picture" first, i.e. setting up the partitions & a multi-boot environment. The reason for the latter is so that I could use one Vista system for daily use, and one or two other for testing purposes. And, maybe one day I might get tempted to try Linux ...

    I have had good experiences so far with Acronis True Image and with Disk Director, so I figured I would use the newer versions of those on my new computer. Multi-booting is new to me, so I decided to read up on it - that's how I encountered this forum, where I have learned a whole lot ... I thought I had it all figured out, tried it today ... and failed. I'm usually persistent in experimenting until I figure it out, but now I have no clue, so I decided I'd share it for the benefit of all of you (and in the hope of receiving some tips from the great minds on this forum, of course ;)

    Sorry, this is going to be a long story - just trying to give you all the right info from the start. So, what do you need to know ?

    1. It's a HP Pavilion dv9540 with two 160 GB HDD factory installed, but there is no RAID-controller or anything; disk 2 is just meant for storage, it is not bootable from BIOS.

    2. Disk 1 came preloaded with Vista Home Premium and two primary NTFS partitions, a big one for Vista, followed by a small one (6 GB) for a HP Recovery partition. PTEDIT32 revealed that the Vista partition had a 63-sector offset, not a 2048 as I had expected. Disk 2 came formatted as one big empty primary partition.

    3. I installed Disk Director 10.0 (build 2163) and True Image 10 (build 4942), and created a bootable "Acronis Media" CD containing both programs (if the build numbers seem a litte strange, may be that's because they are Dutch language versions distributed by a local reseller called Easy Computing).

    4. On an even older laptop, I tried to setup a dual boot XP / XP with OS Selector. Because that didn't succeed, I decided to read up on boot managers, and became even more reluctant to use OSS. I decided to use GAG ("the Graphical Boot Manager") instead - I like the fact that it installs in MBR / track 0, rather than in one or more partitions. But as I'll explain later, my problem is not with the boot manager (I think).

    5. Back to the new HP: to undo some initial fiddling and to actually be sure that the HP Restore process works, I restored it to factory state using the recovery DVDs I had previously burned myself from the HP Recovery Manager. Restoring from these DVDs went without a problem.

    6. From ATI on my Acronis Media CD, I made image "X" of the entire disk 1 (i.e. MBR + Vista partition + HP Recov. partition)

    7. From DD on my Acronis Media CD, I shrunk the Vista partition to 49 GB, and used the free space to create two new primary partitions (of 47 GB and 45 GB, to be able to distinguish them later on) on disk 1 - I left the HP recov. partition as it was. On disk 2, I shrunk the primary partition to 28 GB, and from the free space created an extended partition with a few logicals. In the remainder of this story, disk 2 will not be involved in any way (except as a storage place for ATI images).

    8. From ATI on my Acronis Media CD, I made image "Y" of the resized Vista partition (i.e. MBR + Vista partition)

    9. In the Vista partition, I uninstalled a few items (nothing critical), then edited the bcd file exactly following MudCrab's excellent description here
    (even though it may not have been necessary given there was already a 63-sector offset, I did it anyhow for good measure). I checked bcdedit's output before and after, and all relevant items were identical to the ones in the thread mentioned.

    10. From ATI on my Acronis Media CD, I made image "Z" of the resized Vista partition (i.e. MBR + Vista partition) with the changed bcd settings.

    11. From ATI on my Acronis Media CD, I "restored" image "Z" to (in this order): the 2nd, the 3rd and the 1st primary partition on disk 1. For each of these, ATI offered me the choice between restoring them as either Active or Logical (Primary was greyed out) - I chose Active. Restoring the 1st partition (with on it the Vista from which that same image was made) maybe wasn't necessary, but that way I've tested that as well, and I was ensured I ended up with the 1st partition being the active one.

    12. I booted into Vista on the first partition - no problems.

    13. I installed GAG and configured it so it could boot to each of the three Vista primary partitions on disk 1. As a result, at boot-time, GAG will set the chosen partition active, and hide the other primary partitions on disk 1.

    14. From GAG, I booted into Vista on the first partition - no problems.

    15. From GAG, I booted into Vista on the second partition - here's where things did not go as I had hoped (unfortunately I did not record exactly what happened). After a reboot, from GAG, I again booted into Vista on the second partition. Vista did appear to boot shortly, then displayed the message "Preparing your desktop ..." for about two minutes, then showed a light blue screen, with no activity whatsoever. I could still access all the options you have when you press Ctrl+Alt+Del in Vista, such as Task Manager and a clean shutdown.

    16. From GAG, I booted into Vista on the third partition - same logon problem.

    17. From GAG, I booted into Vista on the first partition (just to check) - no problems.

    18. From ATI on my Acronis Media CD, I again "restored" image "Z" to the 3rd primary partition on disk 1 - that succeeded but I got stuck on the same logon problem.

    19. Because I figured that the problem might be related to the edited bcd file ( step #9 ), I "restored" image "Y" ( step #8 ) to the 3rd primary partition on disk 1. To my surprise, ATI now offered me the choice between restoring it as an Active, Primary or Logical partition ( differs from step #11 ) - I chose Primary. The restore was succesful, but the same logon problem emerged again.

    20. Finally, I thought I could try using DD (on my Acronis Media CD) to copy the 1st partition to the 2nd or 3rd. Copying went fine, but booting into it yielded even more problems than before - definately not the solution to my problem ...

    One final bit of information: after the failed logon, when the light blue screen emerges, and I invoke the Task Manager (from Ctr+Alt+Del), it shows just three processes: csrss.exe, taskmgr.exe & winlogon.exe

    So there you have it. I really have no idea what I should try next. I consider myself a moderately experienced computer user (I doubt real beginners will want to mess with partitions ...), but I have no insight in the intricacies of boot records, Windows logon procedures, etc. From my layman's perspective, I would think that the multi-booting part is working OK: GAG seems to correctly transfer control to Windows, and on the "original" (but already restored with ATI) 1st primary partition this happens flawlessly. On the 2nd & 3rd, there is transfer to Vista as well, and some functionality is there (e.g. Task Manager, shutdown options), but the logon process halts. Could it be that I still need to change something in Windows to make it fully independent of its original partition ??

    Any tips would be very much appreciated ... I'm very willing to experiment, as the machine is not "mission critical" yet, and I have a full set of recovery options at my disposal. It isn't urgent either, but I'd like to get this issue over with, so I can actually start USING my new laptop !! :mad:

    Anyway, thank you for reading my loooong story ...

    Cheers,

    JustAnotherNoob
     
  2. K0LO

    K0LO Registered Member

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    JustAnotherNoob:

    I think that you are 99.9% of the way there. The symptom that you observe is what happens when Vista does not boot up with the same drive letter (I assume C: in this case) as it previously had.

    Vista keeps track of partitions by GUID (Globally Unique Identifier). The GUID is formed from various pieces of data, one of which is the starting sector of the partition. In your case, since you restored images of Vista partition 1 to the other Vista partitions, the GUIDs in the registries of Vista2 and Vista3 will point back to the Vista1 partition, reserving the C: drive letter for this partition. Thus, when Vista2 or Vista3 try to boot, they will see that C: is already reserved and will choose another drive letter.

    Here is a way that I think will fix this but I have to caution you that I haven't tried it so I could be all wet. However, you have nothing to lose here.

    1. Boot into the working Vista and start regedit. Go the the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\MountedDevices and save a copy of this key, which contains all of the drive letter assignments for Vista1.
    2. Delete all of the entries in this registry key
    3. Now create an image of the Vista1 partition with the MountedDevices registry key empty.
    4. Using your backup copy of the registry key, restore the MountedDevices key by double-clicking on the backup file.

    Now you have an image that has no predefined drive letters identified in the registry. Restore this new image to the Vista2 partition and then try booting into Vista2. Windows, on first boot, should then assign the C: drive letter to the new partition and Vista should boot up normally. Repeat for Vista3.

    By the way, in Vista's current crippled state you can navigate to Task Manager and find the RUN box. Type in "Explorer.exe" and hit Enter and Vista should display a rudimentary desktop environment from which you can verify the drive letter that is being assigned to the current partition. This step can be used to confirm if my hunch is correct.
     
  3. JustAnotherNoob

    JustAnotherNoob Registered Member

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    Mark,

    Thank you for the speedy and insightful reply.

    Obviously, that's what I was secretly hoping for ... :D

    I understand the big picture about the registry issue you point out, but I'm wondering about two things:

    1. I just checked on both my (old) XP and my (new) Vista, and for both that registry key contains three types of values:
    * (Default) REG_SZ (one)
    * \??\Volume{...} REG_BINARY (several)
    * \DosDevices\C: \D: etc. REG_BINARY (several)
    Just to make sure: in my "source" Vista I'm supposed to delete all the "Volume" and the "DosDevices" values ? Or even the (Default) ?

    2. After making the image with the empty registry key, I'm supposed to restore the registry to its original state by re-merging the back-up. Do I have to repeat this again after booting into Vista2 and Vista3, or is there a reason why it would be different for those as compared with the "source" Vista ?

    Wait a minute ... Oh, this is just plain ridiculous! I've just booted into "Vista3" to check your hunch about the drive letter assignment, and to my big surprise ... I get a perfect boot into a fully functional Vista ... on partition 2 !!! I have a vague idea what happened, though, it's probably related to what I did in step #20, which triggered a Windows Startup Repair that might have been partially succesful. So the good news is that I've now for the first time seen that I am indeed very close to a working multi-booting Vista, but I still don't have it fully under control.

    Unfortunately, it's already way past bedtime in my part of the world, so I have to postpone all further testing. But I will try again, taking into account the registry issue, and I will post my results here within a day or two.

    Thank you & goodnight,

    JustAnotherNoob
     
  4. K0LO

    K0LO Registered Member

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    It won't hurt to delete all of the entries except the "Default". Windows will just create new entries upon first boot.
    No, just start up the first time with an empty MountedDevices registry key and Windows will fill in the blanks.
    Yes, each Vista partition will have a different GUID to identify the C: partition; it won't be the same partition being referenced each time so you need to just let Windows rebuild the entries.

    I'm not sure what's going on there!
     
  5. JustAnotherNoob

    JustAnotherNoob Registered Member

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    First of all, my apologies for not replying earlier. I have been caught up in schoolwork all week, and only today have I been able to return to my multi-boot testing. Well, in short, it works ... As far as I can tell, I now have a fully functional multi-Vista-booting laptop ... :D

    The drive-letters-in-the-registry issue was easily fixed. As you said, it sufficed to remove (parts of) that registry key. When you think of it, it's actually quite logical (in a Microsoft sort of logic ...). I learned a lot by reading some of the material here and here. One problem though: I was planning to repeat the cloning process on a regular basis. I was hoping to install software, MS Updates, apply tweaks etc. only in my main Vista, and regularly clone this (updated) main Vista to the two other partitions, which I planned to use for limited testing purposes only. In that respect, I wasn't thrilled about having to dive into the registry on a regular basis. However, I think I have found a procedure that makes it almost completely automatic, which I think is quite neat. I'll be glad to share it on this board, but I would like to test it a little bit more myself - I expect to post it by next weekend ...

    While the registry issue was fixed fairly easily (well, once I had all the information ...), I still spent all day on getting the multi-boot to work in a reliable way. My main problem today was that when "restoring" a partition from an image containing an active OS, ATI often insists on re-ordering the Master Partition Table, making the newly restored partition active and putting it in the first position of the MPT. Which in itself isn't really important (although I don't see the purpose of ATI doing this either), but it makes a difficult combination with a boot manager that relies on the position of partitions in the MPT for its configuration ... I've really learned to appreciate that litte application called PTEDIT32 today !!

    Mark, thank you again for providing me with a diagnosis and a remedy. :thumb: It all makes sense now, but a week ago I really didn't know where to find the answer ... Well, that's sorted out now, so maybe this week less PC administration and more PC use. Oh, I forgot, Vista SP1 is supposed to arrive this week ... (deep sigh)

    JustAnotherNoob
     
  6. K0LO

    K0LO Registered Member

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    Those are excellent references. Both Dan Goodell and McTavish really have put a lot of effort into understanding the boot process and explaining it well.

    Please do! Looking forward to that.

    Yes, that is a darned annoying trait of TI 10. I'm not sure if TI 11 still does that, but I hope not. They did it so that if you restore a Windows XP partition to a different location then you won't have to go change the boot.ini file, but I think in solving that minor inconvenience they've introduced more problems than it is worth.

    I'm glad that worked for you and I'm looking forward to Vista SP1 with great anticipation. I've been running Vista for a year on my work PC and really like it, and have been waiting for the SP1 DVDs to be released before converting the home PC from XP to Vista. It's identical hardware and Vista runs so nicely on it. Can't wait!
     
  7. MudCrab

    MudCrab Imaging Specialist

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    Regarding TI 11 and reording the partition table, it seems to leave the order alone. This is a big "fix" in TI 11 that gets very little notice (except by me, I guess).

    TI 9 (build 3,677) was the last version that didn't scramble the partition table when restoring.

    -----------------------------

    JustAnotherNoob,

    If you want to read up on this, there is an entire thread detailing the problem: TI Restore Changes Partition Order in Partition Table
     
  8. K0LO

    K0LO Registered Member

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    Great to know! Another reason to upgrade to TI 11 (eventually, when support for Intel RAID is working).
     
  9. JustAnotherNoob

    JustAnotherNoob Registered Member

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    Mark and Mudcrab,

    thank you for the replies and the extra info on the Master Partition Table reordering. Although I can understand why Acronis may have decided to do it this way, I agree that it probably causes more problems than it solves. Ideally, ATI should offer you the choice of whether you want to do this, maybe with a recommended option for inexperienced users.

    Well, with another week of delay, I managed to post my procedure for "Drive letters and repetitive cloning for multi-booting Windows (Vista)". I'm afraid it has become again a rather lengthy text, having chosen completeness over conciseness ... But I hope I have managed to compile "most" of the problems + solutions a typical user would encounter when trying to set up the particular kind of multi-boot configuration I use. Whether that is the case, will have to be judged from the reactions (if any) ...
     
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