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Will a backup copy/image created by Norton Ghost on a second hard disk drive be bootable when the drive is installed as the boot drive?
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My beloved home-built PC runs Windows XP Home and has two 160GB IDE hard disk drives installed. I use Norton Ghost 2003 to create an image of the boot drive on the second drive on a regular basis. Then, if the main drive fails for some reason, I plan to replace the failed drive with the drive that has the image of the system on it. However, I can't find out how to install the boot files to the second drive that would make it bootable. With Windows 98, there was an option to format the drive and install the system files that would make it bootable, but Windows XP doesn't provide that option.
Windows XP makes any hard disk drive potentially bootable by default (you don't have to make the choice), so if you use the default options in Norton Ghost, the image should also be bootable, because it is an exact clone of the imaged drive. To boot the system from the hard drive with the image on it, you should just have to connect it to the same IDE connector on the motherboard that the present drive is connected to.
However, things can go wrong, so it is best to test the image by attempting to boot from it. That way, you'll know for sure that you can rely on the copy on the second drive if disaster strikes.
How the boot process works in Windows XP
To understand what can go wrong, you have to understand how the boot process works.
In Windows XP, the BIOS setup program loads the data on the first sector of an IDE hard drive installed as the master drive on the primary IDE connector on the motherboard. There is a primary and a secondary IDE connector. The situation if a little different for other types of hard disk drive. If a computer has a combination of different types of drive controller (IDE, SATA, SCSI, or PCI or PCI Express adapter cards for IDE or SATA drives), the first controller is usually determined by an option setting in the BIOS. Most current motherboards have a BIOS option that can also make an external USB hard drive the first bootable drive.
That is not the case with your setup. You only have two IDE drives that use the IDE controller on the motherboard, so merely replacing the drives should make the drive with the image bootable.
To be bootable, a hard drive must have at least one primary partition, which must be marked as active. This is usually the case unless you formatted the drive and chose the Extended instead of the Primary option as the partition type, in which case the drive will never be bootable.
Moreover, if a drive contains more than one partition (the PC manufacturer might have added a partition that contains recovery files or utilities), make sure that the partition with Windows installed on it is the active one. To do that open Disk Management by entering diskmgmt.msc in the Start => Run box (or go Start => All Programs => Administrative Tools => Computer Management => Disk Management). Right click with the mouse pointer over the area designated for the drive you want to make active and choose Mark Partition as Active.
The boot drive, which is usually the C: drive, should be described as Healthy (System). If another drive is active, it has the description Healthy (Active). Non-active drives are just described as Healthy. With only one operating system installed, only the system drive will boot. Your second drive should be an active drive that will become a system drive when it is installed as the master drive on the primary IDE connector. If you have the drive set as a slave drive on the secondary IDE connector, make sure that the drive is jumpered to make it the master drive.
Visit this Build Your Own PC section of this website if you need to know how to install an IDE (PATA) hard drive with the master/slave or Cable Select methods. That page also shows you how to install an SATA hard drive, which doesn't require the master/slave or Cable Select methods, because each SATA hard drive has its own cable, whereas most IDE cables can accommodate two drives each (two hard drives or a hard drive and a CD/DVD drive, etc.)
The data on the first sector of the drive contains the Master Boot Record (MBR) , which, when accessed, finds and loads the boot sector of the active partition. The boot sector looks for and loads the hidden file called NTLDR, which loads the NTDETECT.COM file (also hidden; a search for those files won't locate them), which then uses a file called Boot.ini to locate the operating system (Windows XP).
Note that if you don't want the system files to be hidden, in Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7, open Folder Options in the Control Panel, open the View tab and enable the option called Show hidden files and folders.
Windows NT startup process -
"The Windows NT startup process is the process by which Microsoft's Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 operating systems initialize." -
The boot process is different in Windows Vista and Windows 7. If you want to see what it involves, visit this page:
Windows Vista [and Windows 7] startup process -
How does the boot-sector code locate the NTLDR file when the operating system (Windows XP), which usually handles finding files has not yet loaded?
There is a small amount of code in the boot sector that can't handle the complex NTFS file system that is native to Windows XP, so it is programmed to search a fixed location on the drive. Unfortunately, when Microsoft's programmers wrote the boot sector program, they used cylinders, drive heads (which search the disk) and sectors of the drive as reference points. This was the way in which floppy disk drives and the earliest hard disk drives in the late 1970s described locations on a hard drive. Cylinders, drive heads, and sectors are no longer used to locate points on a drive, because a system called Logical Block Addressing (LBA) is used instead.
Therefore, in order to make the two addressing systems work together, the hard drive and the BIOS create a fictional division of the drive space into cylinders and heads. However, the number of heads and cylinders is determined by the particular BIOS and hard-drive firmware being used. Therefore, if you change the motherboard, you change the BIOS, or if you change the drive, you change the firmware. If the compromise between the two addressing systems is changed, the cylinders, heads, and sectors shown in the Master Boot Record won't agree with the information in the boot sector, and they must be made to match each other. This can be rectified by repartitioning the drive.
Fortunately, you can fix the problem more easily if your computer has a floppy disk drive, which many current desktop and laptop PCs no longer have. You format a floppy disk using Windows XP by right-clicking on the A: drive in My Computer with the disk inserted in the floppy drive, and then choose Format.... Next, open Windows Explorer, click on the C: drive, and copy the following files to it (which are in the root directory (C:\): NTLDR, NTDETECT.COM, and Boot.ini.
Note that if the computer has an SCSI or some other non-standard drive controller that the BIOS does not support, you must copy the device driver for that controller to the floppy disk and then rename it ntbootdd.sys.
Next, boot the system with the floppy disk. You may have to set the floppy disk drive as the first boot device in the BIOS. The operating system on the drive will be loaded from its location after the relevant information has been accessed in the Boot.ini file.
The Boot.ini file provides the location of the operating system, which is Windows XP. In Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Windows XP, the file specifies from which drive on which controller the operating system should be loaded. This makes it possible to install those versions of Windows on any partition of any drive, using any controller, even though the first stages of the boot process will always use the master hard drive installed on the primary drive controller.
Since you have two IDE (PATA) drives, the drive containing the Norton Ghost image contains a copy of the boot drive's Boot.ini file, so you can just remove the failed drive and replace it with the drive with the image on it. It must be set as the master drive, or installed properly using the Cable Select method. However, if someone has two different types of drive, such as an IDE drive and an SATA drive, you can try changing the boot order in the BIOS (make SATA the first boot option if the image is on an SATA drive), or try editing the information in the Boot.ini file.
The Recovery Console has a bootcfg /rebuild command that locates the operating system and modifies the Boot.ini file automatically. Click here! to go to page that links to information about the Recovery Console on this website. (The Recovery Console is not available in Windows Vista and Windows 7.)
Note that Windows XP will not boot from the image unless it has the same drive letter as the original boot drive. This is not an issue with the DOS-based versions of Windows - Windows 95/98/Me - because the active partition on the primary drive is always given the letter C:, but Windows XP handles removable drives differently by giving a drive the same drive letter every time it is connected. This can make strange things happen when copying/imaging from one drive to another. For example, it is common to find, having performed a repair installation of Windows XP in order to put things right after a backup of the system has been restored, that the system drive has become drive E: because Windows XP is programmed to think that the C: drive already exists.
The change of drive letter from C: to E: (or any other letter) shouldn't prevent Windows XP from booting properly, because it reads the path to the system drive from a variable that is set during the boot process. Unfortunately, Microsoft's programmers could be sloppy and have often used the letter that the system was installed on instead of the variable, which means that Windows XP won't work properly unless the drive that contains the copy is allocated the same drive letter as the original drive.
If you want the copy to be given the same drive letter as the original drive (usually C:), make sure that you use the option to clone the drive in Norton Ghost, not the other options for copying data drives, because the other options won't copy the serial number that is set when a drive partition is formatted. This is because the drive letter is assigned in the Windows Registry according to the drive serial number. You are going to replace the failed drive with the drive containing the image of that drive so you won't have two drives installed that have identical serial numbers. In any case, although technically illegal, it isn't usually a problem to have two drives installed with identical serial numbers. Windows XP will make the boot drive the C: drive and then allocate another drive letter to any other hard drive that is installed.
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