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Definitions for system volume and boot volume

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Microsoft ended support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. This change has affected your software updates and security options. Learn what this means for you and how to stay protected.

This article was previously published under Q314470
For a Microsoft Windows 2000 version of this article, see 100525.
The following terms are typically used to address the volumes that contain the Windows XP or the Windows Vista startup files and operating system files, respectively:
  • system volume
  • boot volume
This article defines these volumes.

System volume

The system volume refers to the disk volume that contains the hardware-specific files that are needed to start Windows, such as Ntldr, Boot.ini, and

On computers that are running the Intel x86 line of CPU processors and later versions, the system volume must be a primary volume that is marked as active. This requirement can be fulfilled on any drive on the computer that the system BIOS searches when the operating system starts.

The system volume can be the same volume as the boot volume.However, this configuration is not required.

Boot volume

The boot volume refers to the disk volume that contains the Windows operating system files and the supporting files. By default, the Windows operating system files are in the WINDOWS folder, and the supporting files are in the WINDOWS\System32 folder.

The boot volume can be the same volume as the system volume. However, this configuration is not required.

There is only one system volume. However, there is one boot volume for each operating system in a multiboot system.
For help with common system maintenance tasks in Windows Vista, visit the following Microsoft Web page:
For more information about disk storage in Windows XP, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
314343 Basic storage versus dynamic storage in Windows XP

Article ID: 314470 - Last Review: 10/29/2009 06:05:40 - Revision: 3.0

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