Windows 7 Week, Day 3

Today was the day that I rashly decided to do what I didn’t want to do yesterday. That is, to turn the D915 (old XP box) into a dual boot Vista/XP system, and the Q35 (old Vista box) into Windows 7. All this would be relatively simple, just a matter of moving some HDDs and peripherals around wouldn’t it? Unfortunately a long way short of simple is how it has turned out.

The first problems came with the D915 which refused to boot either 160 GB HDD – Vista or XP – the dreaded “Error loading operating system” message came up. Even trying a fresh XP install onto its 160 GB disk initially seemed to work, until first reboot. Vista diagnostics and EasyBCD could not make the Vista disk boot at all. The only thing that would work, initially, was the original 80 GB boot disk with XP from this machine – until something else phutted and it stopped booting, then the BIOS seems to have had a fit and reset itself to the original settings, or some default mode. At this point I have tried another identical computer, which still couldn’t boot anything except its own 80 GB XP disk, so that is what I’m using, and right now I am ghosting the Vista image to see if it can be made to boot if it is loaded onto an 80 GB disk also, which it will just fit onto. It seems strange these BIOSes would not be able to boot a 160 GB disk, since LBA 48 has been around for quite a few years, and I don’t remember any problems with my D915 at home, which I’m fairly sure with an older BIOS version is running Vista on a 160 GB HDD (Update: Well I was wrong about that, it is booting off the second newer 80 GB HDD). I tried putting the Vista HDD back into the Q35 but it still is no go. It looks like something in the BIOS of the D915 has scrambled part of the disk. Funny thing is the D915 recognised a 160 GB HDD and a 500 GB HDD in the same machine… just didn’t want to boot a 160.

So far the only thing that has worked as planned is moving 7 from the temporary box into my Q35, completely problem free, as expected due to identical hardware. Let’s hope that ghosting the Vista image onto a smaller disk works, if not I could still try ImageX on this disk from XP and then restore everything except the boot files which get installed with a fresh Vista install, now this is getting a bit desperate LOL). The big disappointment of the day is that Intel has absolutely nothing on its website referring to this disk limitation on these boards. The ATA-6 standard that introduced 48 bit LBA first came out in 2001 and has been supported by Windows since then, and as the D915 chipset boards are able to recognise drives greater than 128 GiB when they are not boot disks (I’ve used a 500 GB tertiary disk in one of these machines for a couple of years with full access to all its capacity) it is not a very helpful situation when a major motherboard manufacturer has got this kind of limitation in some of its boards and yet has absolutely no documentation of this situation.