Full Story: How Windows 7 Messed Up My System and How Windows Home Server Saved the Day

I’ve had a number of people ask about the two posts I made to Twitter (and this blog) yesterday. So here’s the story.

I’d heard a lot of good things about the new Windows 7 Beta operating system. I’d read a number of posts about how easy it is to dual-boot a Windows 7 installation along side a Windows XP or Vista installation.

My computer has 2 Windows XP installations: one that I use for everyday computing and one that basically exists only for those rare occasions when the main installation won’t boot for whatever reason (I’ve used the second installation 2 or 3 times in the last 5 years. It’s handy to have around). I figured a Windows 7 installation would be just as useful a as second installation for recovery. So I decided to install Windows 7 on the hard disk partition that contained my second Windows XP installation.

So I started up the Windows 7 installation, found the partition that contained the second Windows XP installation, re-formatted it, and installed Windows 7. Piece of cake, worked like a charm. Poked around in Windows 7 for awhile, overall a pretty cool operating system. Then I started thinking about rebooting into Windows XP (my primary computing environment). Started looking around to check that Windows 7 had set itself up with an entry to boot “Previous Version of Windows” as all the blog posts had told me it would.

It hadn’t. In fact it wasn’t even aware that the hard drive containing my Windows XP installation even existed.

Then it hit me. My XP installation is on a RAID 0 volume. Windows 7 didn’t have the drivers, so it didn’t find the drive, didn’t see the existing XP installation, and didn’t set up dual-boot automatically. Fortunately Windows 7 was able to recognize the older RAID drivers, and I was able to get it to find the RAID volume. Now I just had to get the boot loader set up. Well, I can tell you one of the things about Windows 7 that isn’t that great the tool for managing the boot loader bcdedit.exe. I tried a couple of times to get a working boot record going, but ultimately had to give up.

How was I going to get back into my Windows XP installation, where ALL my files are located? Fortunately I have a Windows Home Server that backup all the PCs on my home network every night. I was able to pop the Restore CD into my PC, and rebooted into the recovery console. At first it didn’t find my network card, or my RAID volume, but all I had to do was put the network and RAID drivers on a USB drive and hit the “Scan” button. It takes a minute or two and scans the USB drive, finds the drivers and enabled the network card and RAID volume.

It then connects to the Windows Home Server, prompts you to pick which volumes you wish to restore and from which backup. I choose my D: drive (my second Windows XP installation) and let it do it’s thing. In about 20 minutes my D: drive was back to the state it was in at 2:30 am that morning. Boot loader and all.

So, in the end it wasn’t necessarily Windows 7 that messed things up. But it was Windows Home Server that saved me in the end.

In about 20 minutes.