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Perform Post-Installation Tasks (part 3) - Managing Computers with Multiple Operating Systems

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Managing Computers with Multiple Operating Systems

Installing Windows operating systems alongside another operating system—whether it is another installation of the same Windows OS, a legacy Windows OS, or another foreign OS—has always presented unique challenges. Windows Vista brings along its own system of managing a dual- or multiple-boot system.

Like most legacy Windows operating systems, Windows Vista requires that it be installed last if dual- or multiple-booting Windows Vista with other Windows operating systems. This exam concerns itself with dual-booting Windows Vista with legacy Windows operating systems only, so you need to concentrate only on that particular dual-boot scenario.

Managing the Boot Configuration Data Store

As previously mentioned, Microsoft now uses a new store to manage the boot settings of a computer with an installation of Windows Vista. The Boot Configuration Data (BCD) store is platform independent and currently supports the PC/AT BIOS as well as the forthcoming Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI). EFI is a firmware platform that will replace the current PC/AT BIOS within the next several years.

To manipulate the boot environment on a Windows Vista PC, you can use the following three tools that Microsoft has supplied:

  • The Shell— The Advanced System Properties of the System Application in Control Panel.

  • MSConfig.exe— Graphical utility that allows you to modify the default boot order of the installed operating system, Safe boot and timeout settings, as well as the debug settings.

  • BCDedit— Command-line tool to directly manipulate the BCD stores. This tool is the most powerful because it can not only perform all the preceding functions, but also create new BCD stores. It has scripting support and can modify the boot settings of all earlier versions of Windows.

A fourth utility, Bootcfg.exe, is still included to allow you to configure and query a boot.ini file if any previous Windows installation is installed. This capability is not necessary, however, because BCDedit can also edit this data.

In the Advanced tab of the System Properties application, you can modify the default time settings as well as the selection of the default boot order. Figure 4 shows this application’s limited means of manipulating the BCD store.

Figure 4. The Startup and Recovery option of the Advanced tab of the System properties allows you to set the default operating system that boots up, as well as the timeout settings for the default selection.

The System Configuration utility, MSConfig.exe, can be run from the Search box of the Start menu or the command line, and it presents a GUI interface. Within this interface, you are again able to select which operating system is the default to boot up, the Safe boot options, and several of the debug options from its Advanced options.

Note

Use of MSConfig.exe As of the writing of this book, the MSConfig.exe utility appears to be unable to enumerate any previous Windows installation unless it is another Windows Vista installation (Dual Windows Vista and so on). To remove Windows XP or a Windows 2000 installation as a boot option, you must use one of two procedures outlined in Microsoft’s support article KB934564.


BCDedit is the primary tool to edit the BCD stores. A number of the important options are outlined in Table 2.

Table 2. Important Options for the BCDedit Utility
OptionDescription
/enum allLists all entries in the BCD store.
/default {ID} | {NTLDR}Specifies the default entry by its GUID or by using the value {NTLDR} to specify a legacy OS that a boot.ini file is referencing.
/bootsequence {ID} {ID} ...Specifies the boot sequence order by using the GUID(s) of each entry.
/timeout TimeInSecondsSpecifies the default timeout value in seconds.
/delete {ID}Deletes a specific boot entry by its GUID.
/copyCopies a current entry to create and modify settings manually to create a unique entry.
/setSplits the new GUID into its partition.
/displayorderAdds the new operating system entry to the display order.

To begin using BCDedit, you should enumerate all the entries of the BCD store. From this listing, you also learn the GUID values of these entries because many of the commands depend on the use of the GUIDs. Figure 5 shows two entries in the BCD store. A Windows XP installation is installed on one partition and Windows Vista on another.

Figure 5. BCDedit enumerates the two installed operating systems.

Notice the value for the element called default in the Windows Boot Manager object. It is {current}. This value notes which OS is the boot default. It shows that Windows Vista is currently the selected default because the “current” OS that was booted is also the one that is the default. To display this same information with more verbosity, add the option all /v. A much longer display results in displaying the GUID values for the Windows XP OS object as well as each of its elements and Windows Vista’s elements.

To change the default order, you use the /default option. Figure 6 shows making Windows XP the default selection after a timeout.

Figure 6. Configuring the Windows XP installation as the default and displaying the results of the change.

From the display shown in Figure 6, note that the value element default for the Windows Boot Manager object has now been changed to {ntldr}. Windows XP will boot on the next reload if nothing is selected in the Windows Boot Manager selection screen.


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