Dell PC Windows 7 switching boot from internal drive to SSD?

I’m not a Windows guy. I work with Linux and Mac. So this seems odd to me, but here is the story.

We have a Dell PC running Windows 7 which came with a 1 TB internal drive which contains the Windows OS and a package of bundled applications like MS Office. I have been able to copy the entire contents of the internal drive to the SSD, but the only one I can get it to boot from the SSD is to have the cables to the internal drive disconnected.

What I want to do is use the internal hard drive as a data drive only now while still booting from the SSD. How to I make Windows switch from trying to boot from the internal drive and boot from the SSD?

Is this a BIOS problem, where you can select what order to look to boot? Or does this have something to do with Windows? I thought someone once told me that Windows remembers where it booted from and makes it difficult for it to be changed. He might have not explained it very well, or I didn’t understand well because on Linux and the Mac this is something I have easy to do.

The other part of this question, is that since the 1 TB internal drive came with besides the Windows OS, it has the package of bundled apps, if I wiped out the drive entirely, would I be losing access to something that might later be needed?

Or should I remove this 1 TB drive, put it on a shelf and replace it with a new internal drive to make this system “forget” about booting from the hard drive?

You can enter the BIOS. Restart the computer and hit the BIOS key repeatedly until it opens. Usually on Dells, this key is F2. There should be a way to change the boot order in there. There is also usually a simpler menu; it should quickly flash what key to use, maybe F12? You can try that one first maybe.

Scratching my head over what he might’ve meant.

Probably nothing important, except the above mentioned Office will be gone. Dell doesn’t make it too hard to get all the drivers, and the other bundled crap you probably don’t need.

Wouldn’t this be the same solution as reformatting it, except that it’s now just collecting dust?

Thanks for the helpful reply.

I was able to access the BIOS. I also did the firmware update which completed successfully.

Then I poked around the BIOS screens. There is indeed a a way to Set Boot Priority. The way is is now, the 1st Boot is the SSD, then the CD/DVD, USB Floppy, Network, USB Hard Disk and USB CD/DVD. The actual 1TB internal hard disk doesn’t show up because its cables aren’t connected back up yet. That would be my next step is to connect the internal 1 TB drive back up, go to the BIOS and see if I can either not include it in the boot priority or assigned it the lowest priority.

For Device Information:
SATA 0, 3 and ESATA are “Not Present”. I suspect when the internal 1 TB drive is connected it will be on SATA 0 or 3.

I found the original order and it included on the internal hard drive:
Microsoft® Office Starter: reduced-functionality Word & Excel w/ ads. No PowerPoint or Outlook - See the attached file for programs included/not included
and MacAfee SecurityCenter for 24 months.

As you suspected, nothing important that by now wasn’t already upgraded. I considered putting the 1 TB on the shelf in case it was needed because it had some “magic” on it, but it doesn’t look like that’s the case.

This looks simple and I’ve done this with the BIOS many times before on other systems for Linux. It has been years, but I think I went through this before and it still continued to boot from the 1 TB internal hard drive. Of course, I just updated the firmware BIOS from A03 to A06, so it could have been a bug in A03 or the menu has improved configuration options now.

I can’t say for sure that this is your problem, but when I cloned my Windows 7 drive, I had to change the registry to tell it that the new drive was the C drive. Otherwise, it would technically start booting from the other drive, but the second it had to use a file, it would get it from the C: drive.

What I had to do was boot up the old drive, then load the registry hive from the new drive, then follow the directions here.

Of course, I did that so I could boot from either one (as I upgraded one to Windows 10). If you only want to boot from the SSD from now on, there are two things you should probably do. The first you already mentioned: getting into the BIOS (or UEFI) and changing the boot order. The exact instructions vary on different PCs, but generally you can get in by pressing F2 or DEL or something when the computer starts. To be sure, google your PC manufacturer or look in your manual. From there, look around for boot order or such, and see if you can put your SSD first.

Then, if that’s not enough, mark the old drive as inactive. Mark only the System Reserved partition on your SSD active, and make sure the one on your old hard drive is set to inactive.

Oh just Office Starter? Yeah no need to worry about keeping that.

Thanks for the post and all the info!

I believe that was the problem I experienced before which at the time caused me to give up on it until more space would be needed that required using the old drive along with the SSD. In 2011 a 128 GB SSD seemed like more than enough space. Can’t complain it has been fine for almost 5 years. The SSD along with 8GB of RAM has really kept this system fast. This is a Dell XPS 8300.

I wondered why Microsoft did that, but they likely make a decision that users adding drives didn’t know what they were doing and forced that functionality on them. If I booted up from a DVD-ROM of CentOS Linux I would be able to see all the devices and partitions easily. I could then re-format the internal 1 TB drive assigning a Linux format, so I’m hoping that when Windows looks at it, it won’t be able to read it and that would allow me to format it under Windows. Unless this registry hive gets squirreled away on the SSD to tell it to try to read the internal hard drive. Then I’d be back to following your link to give that a try. Even though I don’t work much with Windows, I’m willing to learn how to do this for no other reason it has haunted me for 5 years.

I have the 1TB internal hard drive connected back up along with the SSD. I changed the BIOS boot sequence and the system came up on the SSD!

I then went to Computer -> Manage -> Disk Management -> Storage

I could see the 1TB drive had three partitions to it. One of the partitions said OEM and since it only takes up 39MB I decided to keep it for now, unless this is going to cause a conflict or it simply isn’t needed?

Here is a screen shot of what it looks like now.

Is this good to go? Or should I get read of the 39 MB Healthy (OEM Partition)? It doesn’t look like I have one of those on the SSD. However, I have located the DVD-ROM installation disks that came with the system in 2011.

Would the *39 MB Healthy (OEM Partition) * serve any purpose such as a rescue or are the DVD-ROMs better for that? Did I incorrectly create/clone the SSD and should it be rebuilt?

It’s something Dell Recovery-related. Not to recover everything (way to small), but just some information. Deleting it might not hurt anything, but it’s the size of like 3 high-quality MP3s, so it’s probably safest just to leave it.

OK, thanks.

I did run into a problem doing all this. While I was in Storage after I delete two of the partitions I left the computer to go look at some instructions on another work station. When I came back, the system has rebooted and was stuck where it display F2 Setup, F12, etc. I waited for a few minutes and it stayed there which is unusual. I forced it to power down and then it came back up still booting from the SSD apparently OK, it came up in something of Windows recovery thing and I selected for it to start up Windows normally. After that, it had a message that it unexpected shutdown (I think that’s the message) and it was OK. I did a shutdown manually and when it came back up, it appeared to be OK. I continued with Storage under Disk Management and formatted the large unallocated part of the 1 TB drive.

I’m concerned what the cause of this could be. Maybe a bug in the BIOS I updated to which only occurs when you allow it to sit idle in Disk Management? Or was I being fooled this thing still was using something from the old 1TB drive and it caused a conflict? Or did I disturb the hardware environment moving cables and connections around? Or is there a hardware problem with the 1TB hard that has been sitting in there unused for 5 years?

Is there a way to run hardware diagnostics on a Dell workstation? This is a XPS 8300.

Yip, assuming it works like every other Dell I’ve owned.

From here:

[li]Restart your computer.[/li][li] When the Dell logo screen appears, press F12 several times to open the One-Time Boot menu. [/li][li] Use the Down Arrow key to select Diagnostics (or PSA+ or Enter ePSA), then press Enter to begin the assessment.[/li][li] Write down any error codes listed on your screen[/li][/ol].

There’s also mention of a quick test and an online (!) test you can use.

Thanks! I ran the full test and all tests passes. So this task is completed. I will continue to monitor it to see if there are any problems, but this has been very good, thanks to everyone!