05 July 2017

Recover lost BootCamp Windows partitions on an Mac

I have installed several Windows 7 and 10 version on several of my Macs using Apple's Boot Camp feature.

Recently, I found that almost all of them have disappeared: I was not able to boot from them any more when I held down the option (alt, ⌥) key at startup - the Windows partitions would either not appear at all or not boot up.

The main reason in my case was that the MBR was reset to a plain GUID entry, and my Windows versions do not like that, because they cannot handle the EFI / GUID partition info that the Mac prefers. Why that even happened? Probably from repartitioning operations I frequently perform on my disks - and Apple's Disk Utility is quite ignorant of the needs to keep Windows bootable in this regard.

To fix that, I had to edit the MBR partition info again, in order to make the Windows NTFS visible again to the Windows systems.

In short, I used iBored to edit the partition layout of each disk that contains a BootCamp partition from something like this:


Into this:


Note that this reduces the size of the first partition (you could as well change its size to the minimum, which is 33), and adds a new partition with the start and site matching what you can inquire using the Partitions window (see Disk menu):

This modification makes the Windows partition available in the MBR, and after that, I can boot again from it. And it won't mess with macOS booting because that uses the GUID partition info which isn't getting modified by this procedure (for more info, read my older article on using BootCamp on a non-startup disk).

Let me know in the comments or by email if you find this interesting and need more instructions, and I'll see if I can improve this article.

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