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About Self-Bootability 
A Crash Course on Windows Booting 
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About the BOOT.INI File 
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About the Self-Bootability

The trait that sets XXCLONE apart from other backup tools is that it makes the Target volume Self-bootable without the need for a restore.  But, the design of XXCLONE operations is such that the very first attempt in cloning the system volume may not always yield a self-bootable volume.


    In our estimation,as much as 50% of the cloned volume may require additional steps after the first round of volume cloning.  However, we also estimate that over 90% of users will eventually succeed in making the cloned volume self-bootable.

We strongly recommend testing the Target volume's self-bootability at least once if you count on such a capability.

Most of the initial difficulties are due to XXCLONE's conservative design.  Much of our trepidation comes from the fact that every Windows system is different.  For example, even though the three boot control items should be initialized on the great majority of systems, there are cases where some of the data should be kept unchanged.  This is why you should not panic even if you have difficulties in booting using the cloned volume after your first XXCLONE operation.

In the discussion of bootability, it should be pointed out that there are two types of boot methods in bringing a system up to the Windows environment.

        1. Self-Boot
        2. Aided-Boot


    Windows does not allow the system volume to reside in an external disk (by Microsoft's deliberate design).  Therefore, if your computer can accommodate only one internal disk (as with most laptop computers), your options in testing are limited.  On the other hand, if you can attach the cloned (Target) volume as an additional internal disk without removing the original (Source) volume, you should connect the disk directly to the computer as an internal disk even if you are currently accessing the Target volume as an external (USB) disk (by removing the bare disk from the enclosure).

In this section, various testing strategies will be explained in the order of the probability of success.  Therefore, you should try the techniques below in the order they are presented.  Skip the procedures that do not apply to you.

  • Making the Target Self-Bootable
      Regardless of which procedures you use in the course of making the Target volume self-bootable, the three essential data items on the volume that relate to the self-bootability must be set properly.

        • MBR (both the IPL and Active Partition Marker)
        • Boot Sector
        • BOOT.INI

      The following tool allows you to initialize them.  You may perform this operation without a change in the disk configuration including a Target volume that resides in an external disk.

      If you have not done so, you must initialize them before you attempt any of the boot tests.  After the procedure, you should proceed to the methods below.

  • Self-Boot method
      If you cannot connect two disks to the computer internally (i.e., without using an external enclosure), and you do not have a floppy disk drive (FDD), then, you have no luxury of testing in any other way.  You need to physically remove the current (Source) disk and plug in the cloned (Target) disk.

      If your computer is equipped with an FDD (internal or external), then, even if you can attach only one computer, the QBD method described below (in the Aided‑Boot is a worthwhile technique to try first.

      If your computer can accommodate both the Source and the Target volumes as internal disks, then, you should first try the Aided‑Boot methods first because they are simpler.

      This method requires a disk configuration (through the BIOS settings) that designates the disk that contains the Target volume as the first disk drive in the boot device list in the BIOS.  The BIOS Settings page covers the topic.

      After a reboot using the cloned (Target) volume, if everything goes successfully, you should find XXCLONE with a congratulatory message.  At that time, we suggest you run the Disk Management utility to verify drive-letter assignment in the cloned environment.  You should observe the Alternative Wallpaper if you enabled the option.  When you verify the successful self-boot capability, you are done with the test and you may return to the original disk configuration.

      If your computer does not reach the familiar Windows environment, and if you have not gone through the Aided-Boot methods, then, you should run the tests methodically.

      On the other hand, if you have already verified the bootability of the cloned (Target) volume using the Aided-Boot methods described below, then consult the Boot Errors Messages page.


  • Aided-Boot methods
      In contrast to the "Self‑Boot", we coined the word, "Aided‑Boot" (for lack of better words) to explain the case where in a boot menu, you select a volume that is different from initial boot volume that generates the particular boot menu.

      When a volume contains the properly initialized essential directories (typically, with \Windows and \Documents and Settings) with valid system registry files inside, you should be able to use the volume to bring up the system into the Windows environment (i.e., the volume is bootable).

      A Target volume that has been duplicated from the current system volume (the Source) using any of XXCLONE's three backup methods (/backup1, /backup2, or /backup3) is such a volume that should succeed in an aided-boot even if it fails in a self-boot.

      When the Target volume fails in a self-boot, the next step we suggest is to test the cloned volume for an aided-bootability.  This is because if a volume is not capable of aided-booting, then, it cannot be self-bootable.

      Note that if the disk that contains the Target volume is not connected to your computer internally (i.e., not an external USB-disk), you cannot use either of the Aided-Boot methods.  If the cloned (Target) volume resides in the same disk as the system (Source) volume, then, you can use either of the two methods.

      XXCLONE provides two schemes in the Aided-Boot method to test a cloned volume.

          1. Cool Tools > Add Test Boot
              This method uses the existing boot mechanism of the current system disk.  By adding a new entry in the boot menu, it enables you to select the cloned volume to become the system volume for testing.
          2. Cool Tools > Make QBD
              This method creates a Quick Boot Diskette which provides an entry in the boot menu that enables you to test the bootability of the cloned volume.

      The advantage of the Add Test Boot method is its simplicity.  It does not require a floppy disk drive which many computers do not have.

      There are a few notable advantages with the Make QBD method.  (1)  The QBD method does not require any change in the current boot mechanism.  For example, when you manually edit the working BOOT.INI file in the current system volume, a simple mistake may render your system unbootable.  (2)  In case of trouble, you may quickly modify the BOOT.INI file in the diskette using another Windows computer.  (3)  The QBD you create for the Aided-Boot to test the cloned volume will become a handy tool to boot into the system volume if and when you encounter a difficulty in booting the system.

      If you still fail to make the target volume bootable in any of the Aided-Boot methods, you should re-examine the contents in the BOOT.INI file, more specifically, the disk number setting that is most likely cause of difficulties.  The About the BOOT.INI File page provides the details.

      Once you succeed in an Aided-Boot with the cloned volume, you are ready to use the Self-Boot method (See Above) to achieve the ultimate goal of XXCLONE ---- the Self-Bootability.


    Aside from the how-to instructions presented here, seeing the full picture of the Windows boot sequence should be helpful to understand the art of making a cloned volume self-bootable.