Dual hard drive boot (not dual OS boot)

We would like to install two hard drives in one PC (both hard drives will be configured the same) - then, configure somehow (possibly in the BIOS?) so the User has the capability of choosing/selecting which hard drive he/she wants to boot to.

Reason is to eliminate downtime to 24/7 operations in the event of one hard drive not performing up to its expectations.

In addition, if a desktop PC model does not have a second bay for a second hard drive - would too like to configure an external USB hard drive to work in the same manner.

Any thoughts on how to configure the PC to work with a dual hard drive boot?

We are running a Windows environment with mostly HP PC devices.
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Most modern BIOS allow you to select your boot device by pressing a key (Typically ESC or F12) during the POST process. Again, the majority will allow you to select USB or Internal Hard Disk. If you're using an internal and a USB device then it's easy, hit that key, choose your demon, go to work. If you're using two internal hard disks you will probably have to enter the BIOS configuration menu and select which one of the two devices you wish to use as your boot disk, and some BIOS will not allow you to choose this, only allowing you to boot from the "first" hard disk detected by the system.

The other thing you need to be conscious of though is your operating system choice. Windows in particular doesn't care for being installed to USB devices without some serious work, and if you're using Windows XP and do manage to get it to boot from an external USB drive you'll need to make sure that both the USB and SATA/PATA drivers are available at startup.
Raid 1 both drives have to be identical in size and it makes a mirror on each drive.  one goes down the other gets in place with a reboot and replace the one that went down.  This needs to be internal you cant really raid external.  
Robert Sutton JrSenior Network ManagerCommented:
Is RAID an option? Is this PC RAID capable? You can mirror your drives in the event 1 fails. Or, you can simply image 2 drives identically, and just keep the backup disabled in the bios or boot device priority. However, you will run into problems for updates, etc for the standbye drive. Since the standbye drive wont be operational ALL the time like the primary one, when you take updates on the primary drive, it WILL not be in effect on the standbye(slave) drive. The same is true for any software added after install on primary will not be on secondary. This is why I suggest using raid rather that 2 independant drives with the same image. Hope this helps.
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Generally what you would want to do is set the two hard drives up in a RAID 1 with your drives. There are two ways to do this one you can set it up as a hardware RAID, that requires you to boot to the bios and configure the drives for RAID 1 (motherboard must support RAID or you will need to purchase a RAID controller card) and then install windows from scratch.

The second way is to use a software RAID and let windows handle the copies.
Check out this YOUTUBE video for instructions on how to setup the software RAID:
BrownCountyISAuthor Commented:
We will not be using RAID. We plan to image 2 drives identically - they will not get updates nor run Anti-virus so that is not a problem.
Download and use Macrium Reflect it is free and will give you a complete copy of the hard drive, then create a boot disk from the menu and boot to the disk and apply the image to the new hard drive.

Here is another link to the tutorials:

One other tip, if you are imaging a windows 7 computer, after you boot to the disk, use the file menu and choose "full disk restore" option or you will have trouble booting to the second disk.
BrownCountyISAuthor Commented:
Creating an image on the hard drive is not the problem. We are looking at how to configure the PC so the User can select i.e. Drive C (hard drive 1) or Drive A (hard drive 2) at startup. Hope this helps.
Robert Sutton JrSenior Network ManagerCommented:
You can set an extended time to display the OS's under:
Advanced system settings>Startup & Recovery>Default Operating System

This way it will display both OS loads prior to booting either one. Then the user may select which one to load too.
well - as far as i know - what you ask is simple, 2 ways :
 - when you boot, you have to go into the bios, and select the boot drive
 - you install the OS on bothe drives, then use msconfig to set the boot parameters, to let you choose the drive to boot from

you never mentioned the OS you use, here for XP :

Contents of the boot.ini file :
[boot loader]

[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Professional" /fastdetect

a discussion :  http://www.techspot.com/vb/topic4175.html

for W7    -   http://www.techspot.com/vb/topic4175.html
I think you need to have both drives set up as primary active partitions to do what you want. install the OS on one drive. then use either the bios or a boot loader. windows has a site that explains this in detail.
I use to use partition magic just for this running Five OS's at once.

There are some tricky things to watch for. Windows can make changes to the registry if you run both drives at once when running restore points back-ups. seems windows is not to smart about duel booting OS's being seen. I turned mine off and never had a problem again.
QlemoBatchelor, Developer and EE Topic AdvisorCommented:
This question has been classified as abandoned and is closed as part of the Cleanup Program. See the recommendation for more details.
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