written by: Pranav Thadeshwar•edited by: Heather Marie Kosur•updated: 5/27/2010
Want to dualboot Windows 7 or Vista with Linux? Installed Hackintosh and need to boot into it from the Windows bootloader? Want to backup your Windows bootloader before you edit or change settings? EasyBCD is a free application which will do all of the above. Let's take a look at it.
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Introduced with Windows Vista, BCD (Boot Configuration Data) and Windows Boot Manager are together a completely new bootloader and configuration system. The new boot manager was a result of supporting EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface), a replacement of the BIOS that is present on all IBM-compatible desktops, with the newer versions of Windows. Along with the new bootloader comes a new way of dealing with entries in the bootloader.
Unlike the older NTLDR which referred to boot.ini in the System Volume, the new bootloader refers to SystemVolume\Boot\BCD for its boot entries. Editing this file can be done through the command-line by using the command "bcdedit," but we'll be using a third-party GUI application which does a much better job and lets you configure and boot other operating systems like Linux through the Windows bootloader.
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EasyBCD is a completely free application by NeoSmart Technologies which helps you configure the bootloader entries stored in SystemVolume\Boot\BCD. The main window consists of a list of buttons on the left and the current bootloader entries on the right. The application allows you to change various things like the default OS to boot, the bootloader menu timeout, and other advanced and low-level settings which can be useful for troubleshooting or system administration. Although not officially supported in Windows 7, you can safely work with it without having to fiddle with compatibility settings or anything else.
The main advantage of EasyBCD is the ease with which you can add, remove, or edit entries in the bootloader menu. Go to the Add/Remove Entries section and you can add, edit, and install various bootloaders to boot Mac and Linux installations and Windows PE images. It's as easy as selecting the relevant type of bootloader you need and clicking on "Add Entry" after specifying the relevant options for that entry.
Options available to dualboot with Linux are Grub, which will have to be configured from the Linux tab and accepts the partition on which the Grub bootloader is installed, and NeoGrub, which installs a Windows' version of Grub so that you can edit and work with it from Windows itself.
WinPE (live version of Windows for system administration) images and folder-hierarchies can be booted from the Windows bootloader using EasyBCD. All you have to do is specify the location/path of the folder/image file that has to be booted. You can also add entries for legacy versions of Windows like Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows ME.
Another great feature about EasyBCD is that you can backup your bootloader settings and reinstall the bootloader in case of errors.
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All in all, EasyBCD is a tiny but incredibly usefully application for working with your bootloader. Owing to its ability to work so well with Linux partitions, I have been using it on my dualboot laptop for quite some time now. And the good thing about it is that it will hide in a corner without annoying you, but the moment you need to change your bootloader settings (which shouldn't be very often), it comes to the rescue.