Dual Boot Windows 7 FreeBSd 8.3

doug doug at fledge.watson.org
Wed May 23 22:52:48 UTC 2012

On Wed, 23 May 2012, Jerry McAllister wrote:

> Hi,
> I have been searching through questions and forums for information
> on dual booting FreeBSD 8.3 on a machine with Windows 7 already on it.
> My problem is that the posts seem to go around in circles and be
> contradictory.  I am not sure which to believe.
> My new machine has two disk drives.  Windows 7 is on ad0 and I want
> to put FreeBSD 8.3 on ad1, leaving W7 as is.   So, I don't even have
> to shrink a primary slice to do this.
> I have dual booted Xp, Windows 98 and 95 with various FreeBSDs before
> with no problem.   But, the story I keep hearing now seems to be that
> Windows 7 is more picky and will not work with the FreeBSD MBR.   I am
> not sure why.

I have only done this with systems up to 8.1. With one disk you obviously have 
to shrink the partition. Depending on the size and how long windows 7 has been 
mucking with the disk there may be non-movable files.So you could need something 
a bit more sophicated the the native partition manager. Past that until 9.0, 
which works perfectly, installing an MBR removes the windows 7 MBR.

>From scratch using FreeBSD to make at least three partitions, installing FreeBSD 
in the third one and reinstalling from a restore set (which will most like use 
partitions 1 and 2) and then using a windows 7 compliant boot manager works.

If you can shrink the windows partition to get enough space, make a windows 
restore set and then install FreeBSD and a boot manager. I have done this with 
7.x, 8.0 and 8.1. I did a post I can probably find.

> At least some people seem to be claiming that I canNOT just do the
> install and put the FreeBSD MBR on the primary slices right from the
> sysnstall menu just like in the good old days - that the only way to
> make it work is to use something called 'Easybcd' to edit whatever
> Windows 7 puts in place rather than using the FreeBSD MBR and then
> use the MS MBR with whatever Easybcd does to it.

Easybcd is what I used.

> Then again there were some posts that seemed to claim that using the
> FreeBSD MBR in the tried and true old way is just fine and everything
> just works.   I'd like to think that is true.

Me too, but until 9.0 that has not been my experience.

> I really don't want to have to scrounge up install media and remake
> the Windows 7 just because I do some wrong thing or I would just
> smoke test it.  I am really phobic when it comes to MS stuff.

If you can shrink the partition its fairly straight foward. The main trick is 
once you have shrunk the partion you must make a restore set because if you have 
to restore, the process rewrites everything, partition table and MBE as well as 
the windows partition. So if you do not and have to restore, your FreeBSD 
partition will disappear.

> I don't need any fancy boot menu.  What I have had in the past is
> just fine. I just want to select either of the OSen and get some
> stuff done.  I expect to be booted to FreeBSD most of the time, but
> need to use some W7 now and then for powder point, etc.
> If someone who understands the process underlying the boot system and
> knows if Windows 7 really does require something else now, who can speak
> with confidence can enlighten us, I would certainly appreciate it.

Using FreeBSD 9.0 takes away the need for a third party boot manager but all the 
rest of the above applies, I am pretty sure. All my experience with windows 7 
has been with AMD64, a Dell laptop, and a cute little HP thingy that I got for 
$300. If it is helpful I can probably dig up some details but the 8.x stuff I 
did was a year ago so the frog of war dims my recollection of details.

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