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Windows 7 on two hard drives in same computer?

Last response: in Windows 7
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January 6, 2012 1:21:18 PM

I recently completed my first build within the last two weeks. After tinkering with everything for a while I decided to pull my HDD out of my old Dell and use that as a backup.

I then got to thinking about how it might be useful to install Windows on each hard drive and use whichever one I want for whatever I want to do with the computer. IE: One HDD will be only for games and the other HDD will be for everything else I want to do. I've done a few searches and found conflicting results. To add to this problem I returned my Gygabyte MOBO for a different model. I know I will have to reformat my current HDD that Windows is installed on. So here is the twist.

When I get the new MOBO hooked up I want to use my old Dell HDD as my primary HDD because it is bigger. Since Microsoft thinks Windows is installed on the other HDD and different MOBO what will happen with I install it on a new HDD and new MOBO? It would be essentially the same as installing it on a different computer which is obviously not something Microsoft wants happening. How is this done?

Now, given that I get that to work can I then disconnect my primary HDD and plug in my second HDD, boot from disc and install all over again. I have no problem going back and forth disconnecting and connecting which HDD I want to use when i boot up if I cannot have them both hooked up to the MOBO, but I assume I can and will just choose which to boot from in BIOS. I do not plan on moving data between the two drives as I will use an external HDD for any data backup that I might need.

I hope this makes sense and if I need to clarify more please let me know.
a c 232 $ Windows 7
January 6, 2012 2:18:14 PM

Putting the old drive on a new board will most likely fail during boot since the motherboard drivers installed in windows will be for the wrong board.

Using one attached drive at a time, install the OS onto each. Once installed on both drives, if your motherboard has a boot time boot option (f12 on most gigabyte boards), you can just select the boot disk this way. You can set up a default boot drive in the bios's boot order.
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January 6, 2012 3:05:13 PM

Right. I will reformat the old drive completely for a fresh install. So once I reformat both drives and install windows separately on each drive I will be able to use them accordingly provided that only the drive I want to use in attached? That's perfect.

However, I do not think I will be able to install Windows on either drive because I exchanged my old MOBO for a different model. Now, I do not know if Windows activated or not as I have only had it for a little over two weeks. I might have activated it, but I am not sure. I guess I technically will be violating the EULA from Microsoft because they think this is a separate computer. I wonder if I can return my copy of Windows to Microcenter and tell them whats going on and have them issue me a new copy.

I guess if it comes down to it I could say that I had to return the old MOBO because it was defective (which technically it did work, but it was missing a user manual and backsheild.) I upgraded models because they had a better deal on a better model.

Would Microsoft even consider issuing me a new licence given the fact that I have only had this rig for less than two weeks? Its not like I am trying to put the OS on two computers. I dont even own the old board anymore.
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a b $ Windows 7
January 6, 2012 3:11:46 PM

I use to mess with multiple boot discs and found it to be much more of a pain than it was worth (my audio software was limited to win98 while my video editing software was limited to win2K at the time so I had no choice in the matter). It would be much simpler for you to run multiple user accounts and dedicate each user account to a different purpose (productivity, family, gaming, etc.). When you have multiple boot discs then you need to repurchase each software title for each partition, and you will find that you have 2x the work of updates, and sharing files between the boot discs can be a pain as well. Just avoid it.

Now, if you insist on doing this here are some options:
1) Hawkeye's suggestion of using F12 is a good one
2) You can also do multiple Windows installations (on the same disc or different discs), and then use the Windows Bootloader to select which boot you wish to use (this is generally the easiest way of doing things with multiple OSs)
3) The 3rd option (hardest to set up, but easiest to manage) is to do virtual machines. Unfortunately my knowledge on this is extremely limited, but you can essentially run multiple instances of Windows (or linux, unix, or MacOS) at the same time using the same hardware, and some VMware clients will even let you switch back and forth between the different machines. One of the first 2 options would likely suit your needs better, but this is something to look into.

In any case you will have to reformat the HDD you currently have as windows ties itself to the chipset to run properly, so new mobo means new chipset, which means you will have to start over. Other than that it is fairly straight forward.
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a b $ Windows 7
January 6, 2012 3:18:41 PM

CaedenV makes a great point with the 3rd option of using a virtual machine just don't use the one Microsoft provides as the options are limited. If you decide to go that route I suggest using Virtual Box. The software is easy to setup, provides plenty of configuration options and best of all it's free from Oracle.
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a b $ Windows 7
January 6, 2012 3:23:24 PM

Microsoft is very forgiving to home builders and is generally understanding about bad hardware, and upgrades. So long as it is not an entirely different machine you should be able to make your case to MS about transferring the license, most likely it will install just fine. It will break to EULA to run 2 installs of the same licence on the same computer though.
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January 6, 2012 3:29:40 PM

You guys might be thinking too much into what I want to do. I have two CLEAN HDDs. I will hook up one and install windows. Then I will remove that HDD like I would be if I were to buy a new HDD and install windows all over again. Then I want to just swap out what HDD I want to use depending on what I want to do. It seems like I can do that. I am not interested in running multiple instances of windows at the same time. If I want to switch I will simply connect the HDD i want to use. I hope that makes sense.

My problem I think will be installing Windows with my new MOBO.
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January 6, 2012 3:34:20 PM

I don't know why it would make any difference how many installs of Windows I have so long as they are used by the same machine. Microsoft shouldn't care how many HDDs I put Windows on as I obviously cannot use those HDDs on any other computer other than the one I purchased the product for.

Should I try and install on my new MOBO before I call Microsoft? If I remember correctly I had to enter a product key when I first booted. Will the same product key work or does that only apply to activation? Also, say I have yet to activate IE: under 30 days since time of install? I do think I have already activated though.
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January 6, 2012 4:01:16 PM

bmartin - You might be going to great lengths to accomplish something that will only hassle you. Since you have two hard drives you can install Windows on one drive and still use the second drive to put your games on or backup some important files to. You don't really actually need a Windows install on each drive especially if you just want to separate gaming from other tasks. Even if you did have two installs on separate HDDs, you wouldn't necessarily need to physically unplug each drive to choose which to boot from - you can use a boot manager to select which drive to boot from.

As far as Microsoft goes... Is your copy of Windows an OEM copy or did you purchase it retail (like a boxed copy)? If its OEM then the license follows the HARDWARE and there are a certain number of hardware components that can be changed on the system until you violate your EULA. Since your system is so new, MS will be very forgiving. If it is retail then the license follows YOU and not the hardware. This means you are authorized to install it and use it on one machine at a time. But that machine can change as long as you have that copy of windows on only one machine at a time.
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a c 232 $ Windows 7
January 6, 2012 4:05:52 PM

CaedenV said:
I use to mess with multiple boot discs and found it to be much more of a pain than it was worth (my audio software was limited to win98 while my video editing software was limited to win2K at the time so I had no choice in the matter). It would be much simpler for you to run multiple user accounts and dedicate each user account to a different purpose (productivity, family, gaming, etc.). When you have multiple boot discs then you need to repurchase each software title for each partition, and you will find that you have 2x the work of updates, and sharing files between the boot discs can be a pain as well. Just avoid it.

Now, if you insist on doing this here are some options:
1) Hawkeye's suggestion of using F12 is a good one
2) You can also do multiple Windows installations (on the same disc or different discs), and then use the Windows Bootloader to select which boot you wish to use (this is generally the easiest way of doing things with multiple OSs)
3) The 3rd option (hardest to set up, but easiest to manage) is to do virtual machines. Unfortunately my knowledge on this is extremely limited, but you can essentially run multiple instances of Windows (or linux, unix, or MacOS) at the same time using the same hardware, and some VMware clients will even let you switch back and forth between the different machines. One of the first 2 options would likely suit your needs better, but this is something to look into.

In any case you will have to reformat the HDD you currently have as windows ties itself to the chipset to run properly, so new mobo means new chipset, which means you will have to start over. Other than that it is fairly straight forward.


Option 2 is the typical dual boot which is not what the OP wants. Also, it makes it harder to seperate the OS's if the user decides to remove a drive later.

@OP: I don't think licensing is an issue even if it's an OEM since both copies will be tied to the same motherboard and only one copy will be in use at a time. My original suggestion should work fine for you.

You don't even have to disconnect one of the drives. Once you select a boot drive, the other drive should appear as a secondary drive. I.E. the drive you boot from will always be C and the other drive will appear as D.
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a b $ Windows 7
January 6, 2012 4:06:42 PM

Yes, install it, and if it requires you to call MS then do so and explain your situation. Most likely it will install fine if using the same proc, ram and HDD.

I agree MS should not care how many times you install the same copy of windows on the same machine, running concurrent or otherwise. But the simple fact of the matter is that a copy of Windows is good for 1 install on 1 computer, anything beyond that goes against the EULA.

The reason we are giving the suggestions about ways to install is that you will get tired very quickly of switching out your system disc all the time, especially when all you need is one stupid file, and you have to turn the computer off, switch the drive connections, reboot, and then realize that there are 100 updates waiting for you because you have not used that drive in the last few weeks.
Will it work? Sure. But there are simply easier ways of doing things.
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January 6, 2012 4:09:00 PM

bmartinTA said:
Should I try and install on my new MOBO before I call Microsoft? If I remember correctly I had to enter a product key when I first booted. Will the same product key work or does that only apply to activation? Also, say I have yet to activate IE: under 30 days since time of install? I do think I have already activated though.


Don't call MS unless you absolutely have to. I seriously doubt you're going to have any trouble with activation. Just install Windows on the newer HDD with your new mobo. Use the other HDD as a backup/gaming drive.

A tip - After you have Windows installed and have installed your basic programs (not games, just browsers, plug-ins, flash player, adobe reader, etc, etc.) create a SYSTEM IMAGE using the backup utility in Windows. Tell it to write the system image on your 2nd HDD (your backup/gaming drive). This will compress and write the entire contents of drive C to your 2nd drive. Since your system will be brand-new, speedy, and have most of your basic programs already installed, it should only amount to around 30 or 40gbs. If you ever have a major problem, you can very easily use that system image (along with a recovery disk) to give you a fresh Windows install (with all your basic programs already installed) on ANY HDD.
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a b $ Windows 7
January 6, 2012 4:13:28 PM

bmartinTA said:
Now, given that I get that to work can I then disconnect my primary HDD and plug in my second HDD, boot from disc and install all over again.
Not necessary to do the disconnect & reconnect actions.
Just do an Custom (advanced) install that gives you a choice of disk (or partition) for that installation.


You'll have a dual-boot option that way. Your boot loader will give you a choice of which disk (or partition on a hard disk) you want to boot.

My bootloader:







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January 6, 2012 4:24:16 PM

CaedenV said:
I agree MS should not care how many times you install the same copy of windows on the same machine, running concurrent or otherwise. But the simple fact of the matter is that a copy of Windows is good for 1 install on 1 computer, anything beyond that goes against the EULA.



You describe the rules of an OEM license. If you think about it, it totally makes sense. An OEM license is cheaper and is only permitted to work on only ONE machine (hence the OEM). Motherboard is the one component that simply can't change. In the event that a motherboard fails in a machine with an OEM license, the user is expected to replace it with the exact same make and model. Often a phone call is needed since even the same make/model motherboard will have different serials/MAC address, etc.

A retail license follows the user and can be installed on more than one machine as long as it is only installed on ONE MACHINE AT A TIME. This is why system builders/enthusiasts should spend the extra on the retail license.
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January 6, 2012 5:35:15 PM

Thanks for all the input guys. I learn more and more everyday here.

The new MOBO is a gigabyte ga-z68x-ud3h-b3 while the old one was a ga-z68ap-d3.

I will try the clean install and see if I have any issues. Hopefully it will pass the test and I wont have to deal with Microsoft.
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