[SOLVED] Ability to selectively boot Windows 10 from two separate drives on same PC

RaptorVct

Commendable
Mar 10, 2017
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0
1,510
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Hello! I have an ASUS Maximus XI Hero Wifi Motherboard with three drives attached: a m.2 Samsung 970 EVO, a SATA Samsung 860 EVO, and a big SATA WD Red old fashioned spinner. The m.2 970 EVO has my Win 10 installation and utilities/games, the SATA 860 EVO is currently empty, and the SATA WD drive has all my documents/music/movies/etc.

Since I'm not even using the SATA 860 EVO at the moment, I'd like to image the m.2 970 EVO onto it, and then be able to select which drive to boot from. I'd use the m.2 drive for usual business, and I'd like to be able to use the SATA 860 EVO for testing out different software and whatnot without affecting my primary install (and be able to easily revert back if something catastrophic happened). I won't be swapping between these two boot options more than once every few weeks.

Normally, I'd just image the drive over, and then go into BIOS and enable one OS drive and disable one OS drive at a time so they're totally independent from one another and couldn't see each other. However, on the ASUS motherboard, I can't disable the m.2 drive - only SATA drives. It does let me manually choose which drive to boot from.

So, if I want to boot using the m.2 OS drive at the moment I can just disable the SATA drive easily and be done.

But if I want to boot using the SATA OS drive, it leaves me with three questions:
  1. If I want to boot off the SATA OS drive, can I just manually select to boot from it in BIOS, and then once Windows 10 loads remove the m.2's drive assignment under Disk Management and be sure that particular Windows 10 OS instance will leave my original m.2 install alone?
  2. Since I imaged straight from the m.2 to the SATA will it believe it's C: and have paths in tact?
  3. Will the SATA somehow be able to reach back to the m.2 drive and affect anything?
Thanks in advance for the help - I really appreciate it!
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
The problem you will have for Windows 10 is that if you have a UEFI installation, rather than a legacy installation, it does not want to be presented with options or preferences for "drive" to boot from. It wants to boot from the Windows 10 boot manager. If you select a different drive, it might still use the same Windows boot manager and there is no telling from one boot to the next how that will result or what it might affect, or if it will even work.

I suppose there are third party boot managers you could use, like Rufus or some others, but having no experience using those with two copies of Windows 10, I have no idea how that might turn out. Since one of these drives is an M.2 drive, I'm not sure that using the drive dock method will work. But if it will, that is certainly an option. I still think there may be complications with the boot manager, even if you use the boot bypass method in the BIOS.

If your frequency of needing to do this is seldom enough, it might simply make more sense to be bothered enough to just remove the M.2 drive and connect the SATA drive anytime you need to do this. PITA, yes, but might be LESS of a PITA than other problems.

Another problem you might run into is licensing. One of them is likely going to be invalidated by the other, but as long as you understand that then you should be ok if you don't mind watermarks and warnings on your "infrequent" copy.
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
If you are planning to ONLY use the secondary OS on the SATA drive for "testing out different software", then it would be wise to simply install the OS as a virtual OS using something like VMware. That way NOTHING can be affected, everything is sandboxed off, no boot process or BIOS information needs to be managed AND you can instantly switch back and forth between the VM operating system and your actual operating system at any point without the need to reboot or leave a session.

You can test any software out, run any application or configuration with no fear of permanently borking up your primary OS or allowing questionable software to have access to the rest of your system or drives.

How much installed memory do you have on this system?
 

RaptorVct

Commendable
Mar 10, 2017
4
0
1,510
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If you are planning to ONLY use the secondary OS on the SATA drive for "testing out different software", then it would be wise to simply install the OS as a virtual OS using something like VMware. That way NOTHING can be affected, everything is sandboxed off, no boot process or BIOS information needs to be managed AND you can instantly switch back and forth between the VM operating system and your actual operating system at any point without the need to reboot or leave a session.

You can test any software out, run any application or configuration with no fear of permanently borking up your primary OS or allowing questionable software to have access to the rest of your system or drives.

How much installed memory do you have on this system?
I don't have any experience with VM's, although I'm somewhat familiar with the concept. I thought the problem was always that they didn't have good integration with the GPU for any accelerated programs or gaming? (For example, one of the things I'd like to test is a slew of mods for games I've got and see if they're stable when adding dozens of them at a time before I hose the original game install and have to uninstall/reinstall the whole thing again.)

The system has 32GB of ram, I'd imagine more than enough for any virtualization software?
 

RaptorVct

Commendable
Mar 10, 2017
4
0
1,510
0
Well, yes.
In the gaming world, a VM is not optimal.

Alternate solution:
Does you case have an front panel 5.25 mount space? Like for a DVD.

If so, a dock like this might be the ticket:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K8QRBVD

Physically pull out the 860 when not in use, plug it in when you want to.
Haha great minds! I've got a front mount dual 3.5/2.5 removable bay that I use for backups all the time.

The biggest problem even if I do that is not being able to disable the m.2 drive (...without physically pulling it out of the motherboard, as this BIOS doesn't let you disable m.2 drives). I'm just curious if I image to the SATA drive and use BIOS to manually select to boot to that drive, if it will leave my original install on the m.2 drive alone (assuming I've removed drive letter assignment to the m.2 drive once I'm into Win 10).
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
The problem you will have for Windows 10 is that if you have a UEFI installation, rather than a legacy installation, it does not want to be presented with options or preferences for "drive" to boot from. It wants to boot from the Windows 10 boot manager. If you select a different drive, it might still use the same Windows boot manager and there is no telling from one boot to the next how that will result or what it might affect, or if it will even work.

I suppose there are third party boot managers you could use, like Rufus or some others, but having no experience using those with two copies of Windows 10, I have no idea how that might turn out. Since one of these drives is an M.2 drive, I'm not sure that using the drive dock method will work. But if it will, that is certainly an option. I still think there may be complications with the boot manager, even if you use the boot bypass method in the BIOS.

If your frequency of needing to do this is seldom enough, it might simply make more sense to be bothered enough to just remove the M.2 drive and connect the SATA drive anytime you need to do this. PITA, yes, but might be LESS of a PITA than other problems.

Another problem you might run into is licensing. One of them is likely going to be invalidated by the other, but as long as you understand that then you should be ok if you don't mind watermarks and warnings on your "infrequent" copy.
 

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