Can't remove 'empty' hard drive - maybe Win7 backup related?

  JLumpy 11:52 11 Jan 2013

I'm a photographer with 3 old-tower-based PCs that I look after myself, all with Win7 and SATA2 disks. Naturally, I need ever-larger storage space. To that end I moved all the data from a 1Tb disk to a 2Tb disk, then removed the 1Tb disk intending to replace it with a 3Tb disk. However, without the 1Tb disk, this PC would not boot, and the repair disk couldn't locate any Windows OS. But the OS is on another disk entirely (that remained connected throughout all this). I re-connected the 1Tb disk and the PC booted just fine. On inspection I find that this 1Tb disk - that I thought was entirely empty - has on it a 100MB System Reserved Partition that might relate to the MS back-up system that I've never used (as Win7 seems to point to this, although telling me it's not big enough to use for a backup!) By assigning a letter to this 100MB partition, I can see that there's a handful of (normally hidden) files and a directory relating to booting the PC. I therefore conclude that the PC is booting from this partition on the 1Tb disk, even though the OS is on a separate disk. How do I get the PC to boot from the 'OS' disk so that I can exchange the offending 1Tb drive with a 3Tb one? Or is there some other solution? Maybe I just copy this partition to the new disk? (BTW, I've already registered the 3Tb disk on the system, so I've anticipated those separate difficulties relating to runnng very large disks, and so I could indeed just copy over the partition). But I'm well out of my normal depth! Thanks!

  jamieamunra 16:17 11 Jan 2013

Hi There, you might want to give this a try

Put the Windows 7 installation disc in the disc drive, and then start the computer. Press a key when you are prompted. Select a language, a time, a currency, a keyboard or an input method, and then click Next. Click Repair your computer. Click the operating system that you want to repair, and then click Next. In the System Recovery Options dialog box, click Command Prompt. Type Bootrec.exe, and then press ENTER.

  jamieamunra 16:23 11 Jan 2013
  JLumpy 17:53 11 Jan 2013

Thank you for this that I carefully followed. However, the strange thing is that when I got to the System Recovery Options it listed no Operating system, so I'm stuck.

Yet, when I boot in the normal way the PC starts OK.

Does the Windows Installation disk only search for the OS on the HDD that has the boot instructions (that I'm assuming is therefore the 'wrong' HDD)?

Anyway, any further suggestion?


  JLumpy 18:10 11 Jan 2013


I've started the Command Prompt throgh Win7, and by recalling the CD.. command I've managed to go up to the C:\ directory. But when I type in bootrec I get a 'not recognized' reply.

  lotvic 01:01 12 Jan 2013

That 100MB system reserved partition is Windows 7's boot menu. It really should be at the beginning of the harddrive that you installed W7 on. Sounds to me as if that harddrive was plugged into motherboard's first Sata connection and you installed W7 on a harddrive that was plugged into the second Sata connection.


"The System Reserved partition is always placed on the 'first physical hard drive or partition'."

"Besides being used for the Bitlocker component, the System Reserved drives main purpose is to provide a safe place to keep the boot and WinPE files that may be needed for recovery in case of a disaster. This is why it must be placed on the first drive."

  JLumpy 14:52 12 Jan 2013

lotvic; thank you for this. I think we're getting to the heart of the problem as I think I re-installed Win7 on this PC at a very early stage, and I certainly wouldn't have paid attention to anything other than just accepting the suggested Drive for the OS. I've also changed drive letters and some disks more than once.

The present structure is: Disk 0 Drive A photos / Disk 1 (the empty new 3Tb drive that's actually connected externally to where I normally connect my additional back-up 'internal' SATA disks) empty / Disk 2 Drive C OS-Win7 + Apps, including a lot of Graphic Design / Disk 3 DriveB photos / Disk 4 100MB System Reserved, plus Drive M empty. All 5 SATA slots on this board are thereby taken.

Is there any way to correct this problem?

Presumably I can't now put in place a 100MB partition on the OS drive. And I wouldn't know how to re-arrange the Disk numbers so that the OS + 100MB partition were designated Disk 0 - which I think you're saying is needed. Or could I somehow migrate just the OS to the drive with the 100MB partition, then shuffle that?

Or should I just leave well alone and just keep my fingers crossed .... ? Or maybe consider that this PC has done stirling service for some years now; on all day and every day; and it may be time to start again with a new motherboard etc etc etc ...? But that's such a long long process, much as I quite enjoy doing it. But I have photographic work to do ....

Any advice or suggestions most welcome.


  lotvic 19:27 12 Jan 2013

You do seem to have a bit of a pick n mix of harddrives/partitions there..

Unchartered waters....

Theoretically, you should be able to image the 100MB partition and the W7 partition using something like Acronis True Image and then put the images on a different harddrive. But never having attempted it I am unable to say if that would sort out your harddrives. Certainly worth a try if you have enough harddrives spare.

After properly backing up present system to a separate ext harddrive (in case it goes belly up) I would probably try moving the partitions with Free EaseUS® Partition Master 9.2.1 Home Edition which is a free program I have used to shrink my C drive successfully and it can shuffle partitions about.

There are tutorials on the website.

  JLumpy 21:02 12 Jan 2013

lotvic, Yes it's a bit of a mess that's accumulated over some years, although on the face of it it works OK. I'll take a look at what you've kindly suggested, although I'm tempted to leave it alone and put the time into getting a new system put together and shift over the hard drives once it's up and running.

So, thanks to you for trying to sort out this unusual problem; I've really appreciated the help in working through it.


  rdave13 17:56 13 Jan 2013

So the OS disk should be on the motherboard's socket '0' or '1' if numbered differently on the mobo. So C:\ drive on '0', 1 TB on '1' and 2 TB on socket '2'?

You've deleted all from the 1TB drive except the 100mb partition. Without that partition the OS doesn't work. Try , after backing up all your docs, photos etc., to remove all the drives except for the C:\ drive. Try booting up just from that drive. If it doesn't 'see' an OS on the boot drive try a repair using the windows 7 disc. The OS might not be on it but on the 1TB disc?

As a by-the-bye, do you think it's wise to use TB drives? As a start it takes nearly the same amount to backup and a 3TB drive failure would be a catastrophic loss of data let alone a 1TB drive.

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