Apparently I’m not all that up to speed on Windows Vista, specifically, its boot process. Then again, my only experience with it is occasionally fixing my girlfriend’s wireless connection to my university’s secure network (I add that NetworkManager for both my Fedora laptops works automagically. Hooray Linux!).
She had been getting fed up with Vista’s incompatibilities and proprietary formats, so I offered to install Kubuntu on it using the Wubi Installer. It installed, rebooted, did the first-boot install/setup of the OS, and rebooted again to Vista’s boot selector so I could finally run Kubuntu. The boot sequence went right along up until it got to showing GDM. Nothing came up, so I figured it was some random first-run bug. Rebooting it greeted me with an error from the Vista bootloader that the file BootBCD was not found and that booting could not continue.
Windows Vista has a slightly different boot system than all previous versions of Windows. Vista is the first edition of the NT Kernel that can boot on an EFI motheboard, so the bootloader had to be rewritten. Instead of boot.ini, the Vista bootloader loads a file called ‘BCD’ which holds the boot configuration data. The BCD is used by both the BIOS and EFI Vista bootloader. I don’t have any experience with EFI yet, so I can’t say much about what makes it so different they had to rewrite this. The main thing though is that this BCD file replaced boot.ini.
The BCD is stored in the same binary format as the registry, so you can’t really boot into a Linux live CD and fix it. Somehow Kubuntu screwed me over and my girlfriend was pissed. After a bit of searching, I discovered that the only two ways to fix the BCD was to use Vista’s internal tool or a Vista install disk’s recovery tool. The first was out of the question, and since it was an HP laptop, so was the second.
I started searching for pirated copies of the Vista install disk, and found a legal solution from, of all people, Microsoft. NeoSmart has a copy of Microsoft’s official download. The file is an .iso image you burn to a disk, and it contains the entire Vista installer program, without Vista. All thats left after you take out the OS from the installer is the repair and recovery tools. Handy stuff, that.