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Video: Remove Windows 7 or Vista from a dual-boot configuration with the Bootsect command

You're dual-booting Windows 7 or Vista with XP, but you've finally decided to either stick with the new OS or give it the boot. Bill Detwiler shows you how to use the Windows Bootsect command to extract Vista or Windows 7 from a dual-boot configuration with Windows XP.

Dual-booting Windows is a handy way to test betas and service packs before committing to a new OS. But once you've made your decision to stick with the new OS or give it the boot, you'll likely want to get rid of those extra partitions and revert to a single O-S. If you don't want reformat the hard drive and completely re-install your chosen operating system, there is an alternative. In this IT Dojo video, I show you how to use the Windows Bootsect command to extract Vista or Windows 7 from a dual-boot configuration with Windows XP.

For those of you who prefer text to video, you can click the Transcript link that appears below the video player window or you can also read Greg Shultz's article, "Use Bootsect to extract Vista or Windows 7 from a dual-boot configuration," on which this video is based.

You can also sign up to receive the latest IT Dojo lessons through one or more of the following methods:

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

49 comments
jen17
jen17

It is way quicker to just rename C:\bootmgr to C:\bootmgr.old After that you can, if you wish, delete "bootmgr.old" as well as "BOOTSECT.BAK" and "Boot.BAK", although they are very small files and deletion is not strictly necessary...

almightyrecht
almightyrecht

I think you missed one critical step here, backup your system before you attempt this procedure!

roy.evison
roy.evison

Dear Bill, no sound coming through. Assuming the 2 o/s's are on different partitions, surely just delete said partition with the likes of Gparted. Then put linux on the free space tee he! Roy.

blieffring
blieffring

Microsoft is now recommending reconfiguring the registry to disable Autorun. This prevents the spread of viruses with thumb drives, just like the old floppy days. If you have to hold the shift key, this has not been done.

C-riousObject
C-riousObject

Where to get D:\Boot\Bootsect.exe? I want to keep WinXP and ditch Vista. Any ideas?

aos
aos

Why show us a Power Book Pro Apple computer while showing Windows techniques? Be fair an use a real PC instead.

mleach
mleach

I setup a dual-boot on my vista machine to check out Windows 7. I decided after about a week to go with windows 7. I originally used windows build in "Shrink Volume" to make space for windows 7. Well, once I removed my vista partition I couldn't recover the free space make on the drive because it was on the "left side" of the new primary partition. Only free space on the "Right Side" of the scale can be used when utilizing Extend Volume. I ended up using Gparted to get the drive space back but for a couple of hours there it was a bit of a head scratcher... I think when I loaded windows 7 it used that boot manager so I didn't have any issues when booting.

VAR1016
VAR1016

I thought my dreams had come true when I saw this. I was disappointed again: it doesn't work. Why? first I get a box that reads: "D: refers to a location that is not available" not true as I can see the disk in Explorer (DVD Ram drive D:). Second the file Bootsect.exe is not on the CD. So what's my next move?? Just tried again on my second computer where I have the same problem; same result. It seems that bootsect.exe is a Vista thing and does not exist in XP - I have searched the DVD several times; it is not there.

skulllbocks
skulllbocks

A very handy tip. I usually get stuck in such situations and ultimately end up in re installing everything. Thanks Bill. Waqas Ahmed

kaninelupus
kaninelupus

I appreciate the time spent producing this info, but what about those of us going in the [i]other[/i] direction?? Vista is the original OS on my notebook. After spening some time with Win7, I don't even have a need to boot up in Vista anymore... thus on release, would like to remove the [i]primary[/i] and retain the latter install. It sounds as if by removing the BootManager, I'd be getting the oposite of what I want to achieve. The other issue I can see arising if for those of us transitioning to x64 operating environment. Even if I did want to revert to Vista, as Vista is an OEM install, I don't have a Windows disc for that one. Win7 being x64, is not even able to read by x86 Windows.

The Lush
The Lush

Is there a way to keep the newer OS and delete the old one?

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

As I pointed out in an IT Dojo video, Dual-booting is good way to test betas and service packs before committing to a new OS. Original blog post: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/itdojo/?p=803 But, dual-booting also handy for testing software compatibility with multiple operating systems, being able to run software that isn't compatible with a new OS, and for use technical writers, being able to take screenshots of multiple operating systems when we need them. Yet, we're now able to adequately perform many of these tasks with virtual machines. I'm curious to know whether TechRepublic members are using virtual machines to perform the tasks they once reserved for dual-boot systems. Take our poll and let us know.

VAR1016
VAR1016

Hello. Given that I have had trouble with this I thought I would try your suggestion. Unfortunately, search tells me that bootmgr does not exist - and yes I included hidden files and folders! This of course was in XP. Is bootmgr in 7? If so I shall have I suppose, to install an earlier version as despite the fact I have now formatted the drive where it was, I still have the infuriating boot option on start up. Paul

joseph.r.piazza
joseph.r.piazza

I keep getting....can not find bootsect or something similar. Looking at the transcript of video and I am NOT an IT person..but to be 100% sure..it should not matter if you captilaize Boot or Bootsec.exe.....commands and file names it is immaterial. Is there a space after .exe and forward slash and also the All and forward slash. Does All need to be captialize? Anyway, I also used Windows explorer found Boot folder and bootsec.exe file...doubleclick and the DOS windows materialize for a split second but after rebooting, still had dual boot option. Tried it numerous times. I have XP SP3 install on primary partition C: I have W7 RC install on another and I have an extra, 3rd partition where I backup XP prior to installing W7.

joseph.r.piazza
joseph.r.piazza

Since the Article was for getting rid of Windows 7 and the Bootsec command is on Windows 7 DVD....was this hard to figure out. Per another site Vista and Windows 7 used the same Master Boot record...vs XP .

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

VAR1016, I'm sorry you're having trouble finding and using the Bootsect command. If you can provide a bit more information I, or one of TechRepublic's members, might be able to help. Which operating systems are you working with? Which is the original and which is the second? How many hard drives does Windows recognize and what are their letter designations? On which CD/DVD are you looking for the Bootsect.exe file?

ebulfin
ebulfin

Good comment, I had XP installed originally, converted to vista (leaving XP on there just in case) then installed Windows 7. I now want to get rid of Vista and XP, but this info was only to revert to the original boot sector. Where do we go from here? Regards Eddie

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Yes. I wondered how many people would recognize the case and DVD slot on my MacBook Pro. We sometimes reuse broll from previous IT Dojo episodes. As I wanted to show the action of inserting the disc, it really didn't matter which computer it was actually inserted into. Besides, I run Windows XP on my Macbook Pro.

jasondlnd
jasondlnd

Ah, even on TechRepublic, the best way to present something related to Windows is on a Mac.

VAR1016
VAR1016

To remove this boot stuff via the BIOS?

thomas.manning
thomas.manning

I have Vista Home Premium as primary (installed by OEM), and was bamboozled into adding Ubuntu as a dual-boot. Hate it, and want to get rid of it entirely. Will the bootsect procedure work to eliminate Linux?

jwkrych
jwkrych

Bill, I used to have a dual-boot WinXP and Linux system. I now have a primary Linux, Mepis 8, laptop with Virtualbox running my WinXP. I used this setup for two main items: digitally signing forms and for scanning. I recently got a more SANE friendly scanner so the only use now is for digitally signing. Using Virtualbox is also nice when creating recovery documents for systems that run on Linux but do not have access to a printer-make a screen shot of the virtual screen. James

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Instead of trying to run Bootsect.exe by clicking the file's icon, you need to run the command, with extensions, from the Run dialog box or a command prompt window. Assuming D: is your DVD drive, the command looks like: D:\Boot\Bootsect.exe /nt52 ALL /force

VAR1016
VAR1016

I realised I should have used the Win 7 DVD. SO I tried with this and got "D:\Boot ..etc." is not a valid Win 32 application"! Paul

VAR1016
VAR1016

Thanks for taking the trouble to respond to this. Both computers have XP Pro installed. - Main computer has also Win 7 which I propose to remove for the time being. XP is on C:\, Win 7 on E:\ but calls it C:\ when it's running This computer has two physical hard drives: first drive is C:\ with a partition E:\. Second drive G:\ is used only for data storage. -Second computer had Win 7, removed by formatting the partition, (7 crashed badly and misbehaved etc.) but the boot command thing remains. Win 7 was installed on E:\ I am using the XP DVD. Thanks in advance Paul

Rob Irwin
Rob Irwin

I have XP as the original OS on Drive 0 and Vista Ultimate on Drive 1. I haven't used XP for over 6 months now and was hoping to replace it with Win 7 when it is finally released. I've assumed that I can't do this as an install over the top because it would change the Boot Manager and I would lose the Vista Drive in the process. I've used VHD's for testing under XP but not Vista and I'm happy to perform leap frog upgrades on my 2 internal drives as life goes on in Windows World. Is there a process to handle this?

yschoo1
yschoo1

I had Windows 7 installed (upgrade) over Windows Vista Home Premium when I had problem with the latter after trying to update to Adobe Reader 9.1. I like Windows 7 and I have already pre-ordered a upgrade copy. Now how do I get rid of Vista when the time comes. Or do I have to do a clean install. Thank you.

brownvibes
brownvibes

Good question Eddie. Hope someone can respond to this. Maybe we just have to run the uninstall after popping in the installation CD for Windows 7 or Vista? (assuming you want to keep Windows XP on your machine)

neonsoldja
neonsoldja

While I've never used bootsect (mostly used it for moving Vista OS-specific partition information around) for this purpose, I do know that using bootrec.exe (Vista) or bootcfg (XP) does work quite well. It really depends on what version of Windows you have. Once these fixes are applied, the bcd (Vista) or the boot.ini (XP) should wrestle away the OS boot capabilities from Ubuntu's GRUB (Linux). You can then follow the end part of this video to remove the Linux partition and re-allocate the lost space. Recommend using either Partition Magic (XP) or Acronis Disk Director (Vista). You may even use GParted (Linux based). More nfo @: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=381993 (for XP repairs), or http://episteme.arstechnica.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/96509133/m/254009228831 (for Vista repairs). More info about bootrec (Vista): http://support.microsoft.com/kb/927392 and bootcfg (XP) http://support.microsoft.com/kb/330184. Oh and as a side note, you will need your OEM disks if your unit is OEM (e.g. Gateway, HP, etc). If you don't have 'em or misplaced them, then a quick google search will point you to the proper repair console ISOs for XP or Vista, as these fixes take place within the command console in either one depending on the Windows flavor. Hope this helps, as I've used these fixes many times on user's who've screwed up Windows boot info when installing Linux and panicked to return to Vista/XP.

JCitizen
JCitizen

that does seem like a lot of trouble. I've got a XP install with XPx64 uninstalled and I tried editing the bootini file on the root directory, but that didn't work. I was Googling making progress when I also got too busy to finnish deleting the choice window upon boot. Editing the bootini file used to always work, but once Server 2003 came out, the MBR was treated differently, so I'm just going to have to do my homework, and find out how to get that one done. Vista/Win7 are a different animal, that handles the boot process all on its own, even if it isn't the root operating system. So this is why all the fancy maneuvering is necessary. This all makes sense as the security in the boot sector has improved since Vista, and will be managed by the new code.

VAR1016
VAR1016

Hello again. I have XP Pro with automatic update enabled. To try your suggestion I'll have to reinstall a version of Win 7 for which the keys I have - or one of them rather, works! No time right now; perhaps tomorrow evening. Thanks for your help and suggestions. Paul

JCitizen
JCitizen

Boot to the Win7 partition and then run the command to the DVD. Apparently your XP version can not run the code to execute the command. I'd check: 1. Is it XP Home? 2. Is XP FULLY updated? XP Home is missing a lot of administrative and networking functions and I've had similar events happen to me on other problems. Perhaps Bill will weigh in tommorow.

VAR1016
VAR1016

I imagine you mean the Win 7 DVD? yes I did! Paul

JCitizen
JCitizen

I don't know why it wouldn't at least initiate from there. Of course you might blow up the XP MBR if you tried to execute it from there.

VAR1016
VAR1016

With the same result: "not a valid WIN 32 application"

VAR1016
VAR1016

Hello. Yes, I copied the command very carefully from the text. And yes, D: is my DVD drive. On clicking OK I got "this is not a valid Win32 application. Paul

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

If you've booted into Windows XP and D: is your DVD drive, you should be using the command: D:\Boot\Bootsect.exe /nt52 ALL /force in the run dialog box. Is this when you get the error message?

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Why would he considering he stepped down on June 28, 2008 from Day-to-Day running of MS?

kaninelupus
kaninelupus

Considering there seems to be a few stuck on this issue, am surprised Bill not offering any advice

djlenweb
djlenweb

I'm sure it's the "beta" that runs out at that time. From what I remember, it's some time in the early part of 2010 that the RC runs out, and I won't mind buying W7 and doing a fresh install at that stage.

JCitizen
JCitizen

What are you going to do October 22? Just curious!

djlenweb
djlenweb

I have XP on this system as the original OS and I installed W7 - LOVE W7, so now I'd like to remove XP and keep W7 (hopefully without having to wipe everything and reinstall)

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