Stormy seas ahead for installing Linux with Vista (Or BSD)

Hey there!

ok, so I bought this new laptop at the weekend and I got it home, wow, it’s amazing, a HP Pavilion DV2570es (dv2000 on the front, what I said on the bottom).

Dual core T7100 (1.8Ghz per core), 2GB of DDR2 memory, 160GB SATA hard disk, PCIExpress, Geforce 8400M GS graphics, 1280×800 14inch screen.

All for 999 euros, which is like, 750 pounds in real money. So bloody cheap for what you get. Anyway, so it comes with Vista Home Premium installed, along with the customary HP software which most people just ignore and I uninstalled most of it :D

Took a DVD backup of the system, for the restore disks and decided that I would transplant my linux installation from my old laptop to the new one. No probs I thought, hook up Clonezilla, backup to my portable hdd, use Clonezilla to restore from the portable hdd in the new laptop.


As soon as I reboot, I get the dreaded:

“unable to access \windows\system32\winload.exe”

So, not a happy chappy right now, I’ve just busted my brand new laptop. So, hours of reading the forums, asking for help in IRC, etc, etc, led me to this page: FreeBSD & Windows Vista

Now, I know linux and bsd are not the same, but ultimately, if you see past this difference, you can see that there is no real difference in our situation.

The crux of the problem

The problem is that little number in the MBR called a UID which linux overwrote with it’s bootloader, now thats it’s gone, I cannot boot windows, omg, I just paid for a legal version of vista, yet now, it’s gone. basically windows vista required a UID number in the MBR to remain in order to boot, this method is DEFAULT, I mean, who’s fucking idea was this?

Why Why Why!!!

Vista needs to know which disk is the one which contains windows, ok, so the first disk right? Aha! no, in some systems, the boot disk moves around, I for example, could install another hdd, then vista wouldnt know which disk to boot from.

Take a look at that statement and figure out why it’s not unreasonable to think that the default behaviour is stupid.

The reason is, because 99% of people, who have vista anyway, which is what, 1% of people who have computers :D :D don’t actually change the hdd’s around, most people, don’t touch the internals of their systems, we techies, are not the mainstream, we are the unusual 1% who like to tinker. But the default method of identifying hdd’s, is the one which techies would use the most, 99% of people would never use, or see the reason for it’s use, put into action. So why do it?

Reasonable Reasoning

Why do you think Microsoft made it so that a UID in the MBR would be required to boot vista, even though it can boot without the UID perfectly well, even though the technique to identify the drive, would only be used by the minority of people and this method of relying on a UID in the MBR area of the disk could easily be used as a “fallback” if the dumb “use the drive the computer booted from” method didnt work.

Who installs bootloaders? (they are pieces of software which overwrite the MBR with a program which lets you boot alternative operating systems). Answer that question and you’ve got yourself a good answer as to why they made this technique of using the UID default. I mean, below, I explain how you can turn this off, so it’s obviously NOT REQUIRED.

So if you install a new bootloader, you’ll break your vista installation and have to repair it. Do you even know how? Do you have a restore disk? (you did make one, right?) Do you have a vista install disk? Do you know how to use a text console, which is required when you want to use the Recovery Environment? If you don’t know, you’ve just broke vista and you don’t have the knowledges you need to fix it. Better call your clever techie friend for some beers and a “hey, whilst you’re here, you could look at my computer for me?”

Not completely gone

I know I can restore the system from the restore disks I made.

yes, I was lucky in thinking that I should buy DVD’s at the same time and therefore had enough spare to make disks, if I didnt buy those, I wouldnt have had the disks, so I would have just said to myself “nevermind, I’ll buy some more on Monday and make the disks then” which would have left me high and dry

However, it’s a little bit of a funny story, you see, I live in spain, barcelona in fact, where I got the laptop from, I bought a spanish laptop, so everything is in spanish, I tried the restore disks at first, looking for Windows Recovery Environment, which the restore disks don’t have. I didnt see a difference whilst translating the Spanish, between

  • System Restore
  • System Restore Point

To me, they looked the same, so I was trying to restore my MBR by telling windows to migrate back to the last system restore point, which doesnt work of course, because my windows cannot boot, nevermind use restore points. So I convinced myself that the disks don’t work, they did, in the end, I found that there are advanced options and I just reformatted the entire laptop back to the factory specs.

The Warning

The basic premise is, don’t install linux on top of vista without doing something in vista first, if you do, you’ll make your vista unusable and if you don’t have a vista install disk, you’ll have to resort to using the restore disks and you might lose data. Follow the instructions at the bottom of here, in vista, THEN install linux as much as you like

The Solution

  1. Boot vista
  2. Open a Command prompt, AS ADMINISTRATOR
  3. Type the following
    • BCDEDIT /set {bootmgr} device boot
    • BCDEDIT /set {default} device boot
    • BCDEDIT /set {default} osdevice boot

Now, I don’t know what the link from was talking about when they mentioned the Ultimate Boot CD as a method to do this, because I downloaded it and I was not able to get this working. However, I did try the Windows AIX to create a PE environment disk, which also failed as well, I don’t know why, just black screen, no boot.

You type those commands into vista, once they are done, you can install whatever bootloader you like and vista won’t complain, or know, or care, I did, I’ve got grub installed again and my life is as it was before I even touched vista.

See you soon, Take care, I hope you don’t break your laptop as quickly as I broke mine!


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