PC won't boot when HDD unplugged WTF?

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Kahun

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So today unfortunately my data drive has officially died :( was fine yesterday turn it on today and get A disk read error occurred..

Now I want so worried as I got most important things on my SSD but something REALLY weird is happening which in my whole IT career I have not seen happen.

Back to details when I first installed windows on this PC it was on my SSD and after installing it on there I set up my normal HDD as a Data drive, no connection to windows at all just keep a couple files there like music, movies etc...

But weirdly my system will not boot at all when the HDD is unplugged and I realised this couple weeks ago when I had to unplug my HDD. So what I'm doing is I'm just booting from my SSD where the system is installed and I get Reboot and Select proper Boot Device.. like windows wtf are you on about?? My SSD is the proper boot device!! So I plugged the HDD back in and it booted no problem at all and was fast 2 seconds boot so it's definitely on the SSD.

Now unfortunately my HDD has died after a lot of years of use, but I'm not able to boot into windows at all as if the SSD has bonded with the HDD. I have not configured any RAID at all.

I'm honestly confused as hell, I know quite a lot about computers and I'm able to sort nearly every problem but this has really got my head scratching.. any help?
 

Kahun

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Thanks guys I actually managed to solve it I tried the automatic repair for like the tenth time and it actually did something instead of just dissapering but then I was stuck in a blue screen loop saying inaccessible boot device but I booted into safe mode and restarted and that seemed to work, I get access denied accessing my data hhd but all the data is there will work around that now
 

CircuitDaemon

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It might seem confusing at first and has happened to me. For some reason, motherboards "keep" your boot sequence when certain combination of devices are connected, but if you disconnect any of them, it will not act logically and rearrange all devices. Just get into the bios and make sure that not only "hard drive" is at the top of the boot sequence, but also check the hard drive order and put the SSD at the top too. It's like motherboards have 2 boot sequences, one for all devices and another for hard drives/SSD's.
 
Hi

Do you have the windows dvd used to install windows?
If so booting from it while data hard disk is disconneted
May enable you to repair the boot files


Exact guidance depends on window version

It seems the boot files are on the old hard drive , possibly the hard drive is set as boot disk in the Uefi or bios setup

With only the ssd it will be the boot disk
When you replace the hard drive make sure bios or uefi has ssd as boot drive

Regards
Mike Barnes
 

Hawkeye22

Glorious
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Check disk management. It should show which partition is boot and which is system. For it to boot off the SSD with no other drives attached, both system and boot should be on the SSD.

System partitions and boot partitions are names for partitions (or volumes) on a hard disk that Windows uses when starting. These terms can be confusing because the system partition actually contains the files used to boot Windows 7, while the boot partition contains the system files. Understanding these concepts is important if your computer is configured in one of the following ways:

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/what-are-system-boot-partitions#1TC=windows-7

Ignore the references to win 7. This is the same for XP thru win 10.
 

Kahun

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I don't see how the boot sequence would affect it as it happens even if I manually select the SSD from boot menu but I have had a look at the SSD is the first in the boot sequence. I disabled all other things just to be sure that its only the SSD available to boot from and I get thst message saying to select a proper boot device.

I don't see how windows bootloader would be installed on the HDD as when I was installing windows it was wirh the HDD u plugged but since then I have upgraded to 10 so could the upgrade moved some of the boot files to the SSD?

I will try a repair as got a copy of Windows 10 on a stick and will report back.
 
Wouldn't be the first time that something went slightly eschew during a Windows 10 upgrade. Repairing your boot files is probably all that's really necessary, unless you haven't actually got the partitions needed for the boot files on your SSD. May have to shuffle stuff around and perhaps copy the boot partition from your HDD to your SSD before you can perform a successful repair.
 

Paperdoc

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This is a well-known problem, with a good fix.

The root of it is that, beginning with Win7 (or maybe VISTA), the default Windows Install process will place some backup copies of critical system files on a HDD when it is doing the Install. The idea is to make Windows able to fix itself in certain error conditions. Each time Windows boots, if it finds a system file is corrupted, it will go to the backups in the semi-hidden Partition on the hard drive and copy back a good replacement file, then complete the boot process. Self-fixing with no fuss, as long as the corrupted file is among those in the backed up group. A great idea!

The "problem" is that the default way of doing this is for it to look for a SECOND hard drive - NOT the one you boot from - to hold the backups in the Partition. After all, the safest place to back something up is on ANOTHER drive. BUT then, on EVERY boot-up, the process looks for those backups and cannot boot without them! So this causes OP's problem - the machine cannot boot if the second HDD fails or is disconnected!

There is a fix. Leave the second HDD disconnected so that ONLY your boot drive is connected. Insert your original Windows Install disk (or, at least a disk for that version of Windows) in your optical drive and boot from that. Do NOT do a normal Install!! Look for an option to do a Repair Install. This will check, find that there are no backup files and no other drive, and put the backups on your boot drive. When it's done, shut down the Install, remove the disk, and reboot. It should boot smoothly from your only drive - in OP's case, the SSD.

Hint for first-time installers: you can avoid this "gotcha!" when you first Install Windows if you ensure that at that time ONLY your boot device is attached. AFTER Windows is installed there, connect up any other drives you have. This defeats the purpose of having the backups on a different drive for improved security, but avoids the problem that OP discovered when that second HDD failed.
 

Hawkeye22

Glorious
Moderator


I don't know if win 10 will move the boot loader during a win7 upgrade or not. The easiest way to check is to go into disk management as I suggested before as it will show you where each partition is and what type it is.
 
First time I upgraded an SSD based system to Windows 10, the upgrade routine couldn't create the requisite partitions at the front of the drive which caused it to fail. That was very likely an earlier release than what the OP is dealing with. With all of the compatibility improvements Microsoft has made, it may just be that in the event they can't simply rework the partitions for the Windows 10 installation, they toss the boot loader elsewhere. Unless the hardware configuration changes, this isn't something I would consider to be too big of a deal, but it would be nice to know if it's going on.
 

Kahun

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This thing is a real headache, I tried repairing it, repairing the partitions etc no luck at all. It also says that the drive with windows is locked if that's any help I tried unlocking it following instructions online with no luck so couldn't do a refresh, I think I will need to go to my last resort which I didn't wanna do which is a reinstall
 
If your SSD / HDD configuration has been present since you first installed Windows, I have to agree with Paperdoc's theory. The last Windows 7 installation I looked at, which was just a few days ago, had put the boot partition on the secondary HDD and then installed all of the boot files and Windows itself to the primary HDD. I suspect this behavior is unrelated to your having an SSD as your primary storage drive, but just something the installer does, and is probably a flaw rather than a feature. It certainly isn't desirous behavior for most configurations out there as it increases the likelihood of problems.

You mention setting up your HDD as a DATA drive after the installation of Windows. If your disk had been unpartitioned, it would have been easy for the Windows installer to put a boot partition on that drive.

If you're still working on the problem, here is another Tom's forum post where the same situation has been resolved, and the steps taken to resolve it:

http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/4206-63-win7-boots-drive

If your SSD has only a single, large partition spanning the entire space of the drive, you may need to resize the volume from the front of the drive enough that Windows can create or manage boot information there as needed. Also, you will have to mark that drive as Active, or apparently the repair tools will not work.
 

Kahun

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Thanks guys I actually managed to solve it I tried the automatic repair for like the tenth time and it actually did something instead of just dissapering but then I was stuck in a blue screen loop saying inaccessible boot device but I booted into safe mode and restarted and that seemed to work, I get access denied accessing my data hhd but all the data is there will work around that now
 
Jan 20, 2021
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Hi, I have the same problem. My HDD is faulty so I decided to unplug it. I installed windows 10 on my ssd and I didn't install the hard drive onto my pc but it was plugged in. Once I unplugged it while the PC was off, I turned it on and it showed the same error message "Reboot and Select proper Boot Device". I went into the bios and made sure that the ssd was checked (there was no other options other than disable) and it still didn't work. I reset the UEFI to default and it still showed the same message. After a while of trying to make sure everything was plugged in properly it didn't start anymore. Only for about half a second then it would shut off and repeat. I've plugged the hdd back in and it still doesn't work. I don't understand what's wrong. I can't get it to start up.
 

USAFRet

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Mar 16, 2013
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Hi, I have the same problem. My HDD is faulty so I decided to unplug it. I installed windows 10 on my ssd and I didn't install the hard drive onto my pc but it was plugged in. Once I unplugged it while the PC was off, I turned it on and it showed the same error message "Reboot and Select proper Boot Device". I went into the bios and made sure that the ssd was checked (there was no other options other than disable) and it still didn't work. I reset the UEFI to default and it still showed the same message. After a while of trying to make sure everything was plugged in properly it didn't start anymore. Only for about half a second then it would shut off and repeat. I've plugged the hdd back in and it still doesn't work. I don't understand what's wrong. I can't get it to start up.
Please start a new thread for your particular situation.
This one is almost 5 years old.

Thanks.
 
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