What are possible reasons why a Windows image wouldn't boot from external SSD?


TheMystic

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What are some reasons why a custom Windows image made from a Sysprep-ed system installs and boots fine from an internal disk, but not from an external one?

Please note that the image installs fine without errors on the external disk. It fails to boot though.

I have SysPrep-ed the computer multiple times, but the result is the same.

I have used 3 different methods to install (all with the exact same result):

1. Installing the ISO using WinToUSB as well as AOMEI Partition Assistant.
2. Using DISM.
3. Cloning the internal disk partition that was clean installed using the same ISO (and it boots fine).

I have posted full details here.

.
 
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Windows 11 21H2 Build 22000.282
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TheMystic

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Potential reasons in my mind:

1. Sysprep did not generalize the image properly.

2. USB drivers in the image are corrupt: This is less likely in my case because USB ports are running fine.

3. Boot files are corrupt: This too is less likely in my case since the same image boots fine from internal disk.
 

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jaree1961

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Just throwing it out there. Sometimes we miss the obvious (and not trying to insult your intelligence).

Have you actually set your BIOS to boot from a USB (External harddrive) etc in Boot priority?
 

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TheMystic

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Just throwing it out there. Sometimes we miss the obvious (and not trying to insult your intelligence).

Have you actually set your BIOS to boot from a USB (External harddrive) etc in Boot priority?
Yes, BIOS settings are fine.

I see 3 or 4 different types of errors:

1. Just a blank screen that does nothing.
2. Inaccessible Boot Device error.
3. Bug code USB 3 driver (on the Mac).
4. Your PC needs to be repaired (error code 0xc0000225).

But the exact same image boots superfast from the internal disk.
 

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NavyLCDR

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After you apply the image to the USB drive, are you doing anything to update the BCD in the EFI system partition?
 

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TheMystic

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After you apply the image to the USB drive, are you doing anything to update the BCD in the EFI system partition?
Although that isn't necessary when installing the ISO using WinToUSB, I have tried the following:

1. bootsect /nt60 all /force
2. bcdboot c:\windows /s z: (where z: is the letter for EFI partition after formatting it)
3. bootrec /fixmbr
4. bootrec /fixboot (sometimes with Access is Denied error)
5. bootrec /rebuildbcd (finds the OS but doesn't add all to the boot manager with the following error: "The requested system device cannot be identified due to multiple indistiguishable devices potentially matching the identification criteria."
 

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jimbo45

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@TheMystic

Forget the whole thing about Wintogo , bootsect command - I think that's long since been deprecated anyway and AOEMI partition assistant.

This is a bog standard Mega Super Mega Easy way to have Windows boot from an external ssd - and you can have several versions of windows on the external HDD / SSD too -- all bootable. If you follow the instructions you've no risk of doing anything to your internal Windows system so it won't break !!!!. All with standard Windows commands and free windows downloads (Macrium or WINPE).

Do it this way -- the steps are easy just follow line by line. I assume you already have an ISO of the windows system you want to install --if you haven't create one via UUPDUMP of the edition and build you want to install and assume the iso is mounted on device G.

1) create a copy of Macrium Free stand alone restore or a winpe bootable disk on a USB stick.
2) on your current running Windows system prep the external SSD as follows
a) in elevated command mode - diskpart
b) list disk
c) select disk nnnn where nnnn is the number of the external ssd
d) clean
e) convert gpt
f) create partition efi size=100
g) format quick fs=fat32 label="System"
h) create partition msr size=128 (don't format -- this is simply the Microsoft Reserved partition)
i) create partition primary
j) format quick fs=ntfs label="Main"
k) assign letter=M
j) create vdisk file=M:\W11EXT.vhdx maximum=60000 type=fixed
I've specified a 60GB size for the windows installation -- should be perfectly adequate for 99% of windows installations file is written to the device M. This will take a few minutes but you get a status display
m) select vdisk file=M:\W11EXT.vhdx
n) attach vdisk
o) list disk you should now see your vdisk as a disk with 60GB size
p) select disk nnnn -- this is the vdisk shown in instruction o) with the 60GB size
q) create partition primary
r) format fs=ntfs quick label="W11External"
s) assign letter=V
t) exit

Now apply the image (we're almost done) -- remaining steps are to apply the image, then boot a winpe type of system - winpe itself or macrium recovery which has the command line in it to create / update if adding another windows system the boot manager

u) dism /Apply-Image /ImageFile:G:\sources\install.wim /index:1 /ApplyDir: V:/

If you have several editions in your install.wim file choose the index of the edition you want to install
when finished boot into the winpe device

from our winpe system now do the following
diskpart
list disk -- you need to get the disk nr of the external SSD -- assume it's disk D
select disk nnn
select vdisk file=D:\W11EXT.vhdx
attach vdisk
list disk
list vol -- select the one with the label W11External
assign letter=V
select vol -- select the one with label System
assign letter=H

now create / update the boot manager
exit (exit diskpart)

V:
cd V:\windows\system32
bcdboot V:\windows /s H: /f UEFI

exit


now re-boot from the computers BIOS menu choose the external device-- and you should be booting into the external windows system - it will go through the initialisation the ist time -- asks for user etc as per final setup of a typical Windows install.

Looks quite complex but those instructions are quick and simple == just print the post and mark off with a tick each line.

You don't need bootsect, AOEMI or hasleo WintoGo any more to make bootable external windows systems -- this method allows multiple windows systems on a device - at boot if there's more than one it shows you a list and you can choose which one.

It really is easy --try it --you won't break anything on your current (internal) windows system.

Cheers
jimbo
 

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TheMystic

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@TheMystic

Forget the whole thing about Wintogo , bootsect command - I think that's long since been deprecated anyway and AOEMI partition assistant.

This is a bog standard Mega Super Mega Easy way to have Windows boot from an external ssd - and you can have several versions of windows on the external HDD / SSD too -- all bootable. If you follow the instructions you've no risk of doing anything to your internal Windows system so it won't break !!!!. All with standard Windows commands and free windows downloads (Macrium or WINPE).

Do it this way -- the steps are easy just follow line by line. I assume you already have an ISO of the windows system you want to install --if you haven't create one via UUPDUMP of the edition and build you want to install and assume the iso is mounted on device G.

1) create a copy of Macrium Free stand alone restore or a winpe bootable disk on a USB stick.
2) on your current running Windows system prep the external SSD as follows
a) in elevated command mode - diskpart
b) list disk
c) select disk nnnn where nnnn is the number of the external ssd
d) clean
e) convert gpt
f) create partition efi size=100
g) format quick fs=fat32 label="System"
h) create partition msr size=128 (don't format -- this is simply the Microsoft Reserved partition)
i) create partition primary
j) format quick fs=ntfs label="Main"
k) assign letter=M
j) create vdisk file=M:\W11EXT.vhdx maximum=60000 type=fixed
I've specified a 60GB size for the windows installation -- should be perfectly adequate for 99% of windows installations file is written to the device M. This will take a few minutes but you get a status display
m) select vdisk file=M:\W11EXT.vhdx
n) attach vdisk
o) list disk you should now see your vdisk as a disk with 60GB size
p) select disk nnnn -- this is the vdisk shown in instruction o) with the 60GB size
q) create partition primary
r) format fs=ntfs quick label="W11External"
s) assign letter=V
t) exit

Now apply the image (we're almost done) -- remaining steps are to apply the image, then boot a winpe type of system - winpe itself or macrium recovery which has the command line in it to create / update if adding another windows system the boot manager

u) dism /Apply-Image /ImageFile:G:\sources\install.wim /index:1 /ApplyDir: V:/

If you have several editions in your install.wim file choose the index of the edition you want to install
when finished boot into the winpe device

from our winpe system now do the following
diskpart

list disk -- you need to get the disk nr of the external SSD -- assume it's disk D
select disk nnn
select vdisk file=D:\W11EXT.vhdx
attach vdisk
list disk
list vol -- select the one with the label W11External
assign letter=V
select vol -- select the one with label System
assign letter=H

now create / update the boot manager
exit (exit diskpart)

V:
cd V:\windows\system32
bcdboot V:\windows /s H: /f UEFI

exit


now re-boot from the computers BIOS menu choose the external device-- and you should be booting into the external windows system - it will go through the initialisation the ist time -- asks for user etc as per final setup of a typical Windows install.

Looks quite complex but those instructions are quick and simple == just print the post and mark off with a tick each line.

You don't need bootsect, AOEMI or hasleo WintoGo any more to make bootable external windows systems -- this method allows multiple windows systems on a device - at boot if there's more than one it shows you a list and you can choose which one.

It really is easy --try it --you won't break anything on your current (internal) windows system.

Cheers
jimbo
Hello @jimbo45 !

Still refusing to accept my image has a problem?

I will give your method a shot soon. But I am certain it won't work. Because there is a problem with the image file.

If you read through my other post (and the comments), I had mentioned that ISO 1, 2 & 3 are all booting fine from both internal disk and external disk. ISO 4, which is basically ISO 3 with some more tweaks, primarily in terms of software installed and some settings, is the only one that refuses to boot from external disk, even though it boots fine from the internal disk. I have followed the exact same method to create all 4 ISOs. What this means is that the method I have used is perfectly fine. The problem lies with this particular ISO (ISO 4) or the image.wim file contained within it. I'm unable to figure this out. You are refusing to address this.
 

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jimbo45

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Hello @jimbo45 !

Still refusing to accept my image has a problem?

I will give your method a shot soon. But I am certain it won't work. Because there is a problem with the image file.

If you read through my other post (and the comments), I had mentioned that ISO 1, 2 & 3 are all booting fine from both internal disk and external disk. ISO 4, which is basically ISO 3 with some more tweaks, primarily in terms of software installed and some settings, is the only one that refuses to boot from external disk, even though it boots fine from the internal disk. I have followed the exact same method to create all 4 ISOs. What this means is that the method I have used is perfectly fine. The problem lies with this particular ISO (ISO 4) or the image.wim file contained within it. I'm unable to figure this out. You are refusing to address this.
Hi there
I'd probably think the image is faulty if it didn't boot from Internal disk -- the fact that image does boot leads anybody to suppose that the image is fine. - I'd be 100% inclined to accept that the image is faulty if it didn't boot at all !!!!! - there isn't any difference in the boot process if the boot manager is OK and the image is fine.

Cheers
jimbo
 

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TheMystic

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Hi there
I'd probably think the image is faulty if it didn't boot from Internal disk -- the fact that image does boot leads anybody to suppose that the image is fine. - I'd be 100% inclined to accept that the image is faulty if it didn't boot at all !!!!! - there isn't any difference in the boot process if the boot manager is OK and the image is fine.

Cheers
jimbo
There is definitely something about the image that renders it unbootable from external disk, although it boots superfast from the internal one.

It makes me think that the Sysprep 'Generalize' feature is probably the culprit. Somewhere in the process, it hasn't removed all machine specific info from the image, which is probably what makes it unbootable from the external disk.
 

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TheMystic

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Can someone explain this error:

20211103_192128.png

I get this when I try to mount the Windows ISO file (this is ISO 3 from my other post here). This ISO installs and boots fine from both internal and external disk.

When I try to copy the image.wim file using 7zip, i get this error:

20211109_205422.png

Can this explain why ISO 4 (from my other post) isn't booting from external disk? ISO 3 was clean installed on my internal disk, the system was Sysprep-ed, some more changes were done and then ISO 4 was created. ISO 4 boots only from internal disk, not external one.

I'm unable to copy/ move/ delete this file from the system either:

20211109_205935.png


Here is the file properties:

20211109_210203.png

.
 

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jimbo45

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Hi there
Last attempt to explain this -- otherwise run out of ideas -- because it should either all work or all fail. If creating generalised custom wims I believe that there's literature around saying adding any machine specific hardware / drivers / data partitions / temporary files will cause the sysprep to fail. I'm not spending any more time on this but perhaps you should have a look at the Ms documentation on sysprep deploying customised images.

Cheers
jimbo
 

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TheMystic

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Hi there
Last attempt to explain this -- otherwise run out of ideas -- because it should either all work or all fail. If creating generalised custom wims I believe that there's literature around saying adding any machine specific hardware / drivers / data partitions / temporary files will cause the sysprep to fail. I'm not spending any more time on this but perhaps you should have a look at the Ms documentation on sysprep deploying customised images.

Cheers
jimbo
The 'Generalize' option is supposed to remove all system specific information when Sysprep runs. ISO 4 doesn't have any new drivers than what was already installed in ISO 3.

It is only my guess that all device specific information was probably not removed when Sysprep ran (and I have run it 2 or 3 times already to rule out an error from my side), and that could be why I am unable to boot from external disk, even though booting from internal disk happens successfully.

Feel free to ignore this post henceforth. Thanks for all your time and efforts.

Cheers!
 

My Computer

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  • OS
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    16 GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    Intel HD Graphics 4000 & Nvidia GeForce GT 635M
    Sound Card
    IDT High Definition
    Screen Resolution
    1080p
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    1 TB Crucial MX500 on bay 1.
    1 TB Seagate HDD on bay 2.
    Antivirus
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