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Windows 7 - System Reserved Partition has a drive letter - unable to start Windows

Posted on 2013-06-05
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Last Modified: 2013-06-14
I have a PC that has been happily running Windows 7 Pro for several years.

For some reason, when I tried to boot it this morning, the system did something different.

It started with the normal Microsoft Windows logo, but this time showed a progress bar along the bottom of the screen and showed the message Loading System Files, then it proceeded to run Startup Repair.

Startup Repair was unable to fix any problems. When I looked at the log, I found that the system now has the Windows OS on the D: drive and the System Reserved Partition (which normally has no drive letter) on the C: drive.

There are no other disks or external drives attached, nor is there a CD in the slot.

I used a trusty program (ERD Commander) that I often resort to when faced with systems that don't boot properly. However, it did not recognize any OS installed. However, I was able to look at the partitions and found that there were indeed two drive letters (C: and D:) as originally thought.

Is there any way to fix this problem. I've searched the Net for hours and found very little information on this particular problem.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.
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Question by:Wiltshire
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Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 39224722
you can use a live cd, to boot from
then go into disk management and disable the C: drive letter on that partition
after that - you can change the D: into C:
http://www.ubcd4win.com/                              ubcd  Win
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by:garycase
ID: 39224766
You don't need to make any changes to the partitions.    Drive letters are NOT assigned at the BIOS level ... they're designated by Windows.     And you cannot change the letter for the boot drive.

It sounds like one of two things has happened ...

(a)  The simple one:   Somehow the active partition has been changed, so the recovery partition is now active.    This causes it to boot to the recovery partition.

(b)  The tougher one:  Something has become corrupted and the OS can't start, causing the startup code to redirect the boot to the restore/recovery partition.

Hope for (a) ==> go into your favorite partition management tool (ERD commander should allow it) and set the largest of the two partitions Active (this will be your OS partition).
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Wiltshire earned 0 total points
ID: 39224794
garycase, I tried your solution of making the largest of the partitions active. All I got when I rebooted was a message stating that boot files were missing. Then I checked all of my other Windows 7 PC's and found that the active partition on each of those is the System Reserved Partition, and not the partition containing all of the Windows OS files.

It must be something else.
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Expert Comment

by:garycase
ID: 39224800
"...  found that the active partition on each of those is the System Reserved Partition, and not the partition containing all of the Windows OS files."  ==> Depends on how Windows is installed.    Obviously the OEM for your PC's (Dell, HP, etc.)  makes the restore partition active and puts code to invoke the actual startup.   A generic Windows 7 install does the same with the 100MB "System Reserved" partition.   But I (and many others) always ensure that the startup files are on the same partition as the Windows OS, so it's simple to move the partition to another drive if ever needed.

It sounds like something is indeed corrupted and you'll need to boot to a Windows 7 install disk to fix it.
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Expert Comment

by:noxcho
ID: 39225110
If you have 100MB + system partition configuration then the MSR partition is the only one that must be active.
As for the drive letters assigned wrong - this could be due to WinPE which is started to do startup repair by Windows 7. But you need to check if the drive letters are really wrong assigned.
This can be done with Boot Corrector tool from free CD by Paragon: http://www.paragon-software.com/home/rk-express/
Get this CD and boot the machine from it. There select either Normal Mode or Safe Mode. If Normal mode has problems with hardware detection then switch to Safe Mode.
Start Boot Corrector and check which partitions have which drive letters assigned.
You can update Partition Boot Record in case it is the culprit.
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Author Closing Comment

by:Wiltshire
ID: 39247033
It seems that the problem was caused by corrupt or missing files.

When I attempted to back up the system, I received an error stating that it could not read data from the hard drive. This then prompted me to check he hard drive. The tests reported that the hard drive had physical faults. Therefore, I think it's safe to assume that some of the system files that were sitting on the areas of the drive were either corrupt or missing.

I ended up taking an image of a very similar PC using Acronis Backup & Restore and restoring the image file onto a new hard drive that I had replaced the old, faulty drive with. The PC is now running as it should.

Thank you to all for your assistance. Unfortunately, this time there was no easy solution.
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