In this episode we talk about bootable devices, the boot sequence and give you a brief overview of the Windows Home Server Restore process. Read on to find out how bootable devices are the key to starting your computers operating system.
When you press the PC power button, your computer will go through the BIOS start up. The BIOS runs POST (power on self-test) and then looks for a storage device that that is bootable. Once it finds a device that is bootable it loads the boot sector. The MBR code then looks at the partition table for an active bootable partition. Once it finds an active partition, the MBR code loads the boot sector code which loads the operating system kernel. The kernel is the central component of the OS and is a bridge between the software and the hardware processing.
Without the device being bootable you are a “no go” for Windows!
For us Windows 7 users, once the boot sector code loads, it loads the Windows Boot Manager (BOOTMGR). The BOOTMGR is what looks for the active partition and uses Boot Configuration Data (BCD) to load Windows.
The BCD is just a database that contains menu entries. These entries load Windows, resume Windows and the like. The BCD is used by Windows Boot Manager and is the new version of the boot.ini that is used by NT Loader. NTLDR is used by XP machines and by your Windows Home Server v1. You cannot see these files by default and should not make changes to them.
The graphic below shows the hidden files in Windows Home Server v1.
So back to Windows Boot Manager…with Windows Vista and later, winload.exe loads the Windows kernel and the device drivers. The same goes for the latest Windows operating systems. Do not mess with the hidden system files.
The graphic below shows the hidden files in Windows 7.
So what does all of this information have to do with us? Well, when you use Windows Home Server to back up your computers, the “bootable” part is extremely important. Windows Home Server does a backup of three categories of information: Global files, cluster files and computer specific files. Global files track the history of the computer backups, cluster files are the actual cluster data files (these are the 4GB files you see) and then there are the specific files which contain the boot record and data for each hard drive volume that gets backed up.
One final note is that when Restoring from Windows Home Server you will need to create a partition of 100MB for the System partition. The system partition is used for managing multiple operating systems, Bitlocker and for Windows Recovery Environment. In Windows 7, Windows RE is preloaded onto every Windows installation by default, enabling all end-user systems to heal themselves in the event of a boot failure regardless of where the computer is manufactured.
In a standard installation, the 100MB will be created automatically unless the drive is already partitioned. You should be aware of this when installing Windows 7 and delete any partitions before starting the Restore. Always remember to back up any data on drives before you start deleting partitions!
In Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, system partitions do not appear in the list of available drives, although they can appear in tools such as Computer Management.
Bootable USB Drives
Windows Home Server 2011 can easily create a bootable USB flash drive for your Restore. Just choose the Additional client computer backup tasks in the Dashboard.
Click on “Create key…”
And insert a USB drive!
If you want to create a bootable USB drive for a regular installation, you can use diskpart or the Windows 7 USB tool.
Diskpart information can be found at:
And the Microsoft Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool can be found at:
Windows Home Server 2011 Client Restore Wizard
More information on the WHS 2011 Client Restore Wizard can be found at:
So there you have it. Some basic information on how a bootable disk works and what you need to prepare for when performing a Restore to a hard drive.