O'Reilly logo

Linux in a Nutshell, Fourth Edition by Aaron Weber, Stephen Figgins, Ellen Siever

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Dual-Booting Linux and Windows NT/2000/XP

As mentioned earlier, when you run Windows NT, its boot loader expects to be the one in charge; therefore, the standard way to dual-boot Windows NT and Linux is to add Linux as an option on the NT boot menu. This section describes how to do that. The information provided here also applies to Windows 2000 and Windows XP, which use the NT loader.

To set up dual booting with the NT loader, you need to provide the loader with a copy of the Linux boot sector. We’ll describe how to do that on a computer running Windows NT with an NTFS filesystem (note that Windows NT should be installed on your system already). See the NT OS Loader+Linux mini-HOWTO for more information and other alternatives.

You should have a Linux boot floppy or CD available so that if necessary you can boot Linux before the NT boot loader has been modified. You also should have a DOS-formatted floppy to transfer the boot sector to the Windows NT partition. If you are running LILO and it is already installed, you may need to modify /etc/lilo.conf as described later. Otherwise, install LILO or GRUB to the boot sector of the Linux partition; once the Linux boot manager is installed and you have a configuration file, you can set up the system for dual booting.

The following instructions assume your Linux partition is on /dev/hda2. If Linux is on another partition in your system, be sure to replace /dev/hda2 in the following examples with the correct partition. The instructions also assume that you have a floppy drive to make a diskette for transferring the boot sector to your NTFS filesystem. If you don’t have a floppy drive, you will have to use some other means of doing the transfer. If you have an NT FAT partition, you can mount that on Linux and transfer the file there. Other possibilities include putting it on a CD, transferring it over a network to another system while you reboot to NT, or even emailing it to yourself and reading it from the NT side.

  1. If you are running LILO, specify the Linux root partition as your boot device in /etc/lilo.conf. If you are editing /etc/lilo.conf manually, your entry will look like this:

    boot=/dev/hda2

    and will be the same as the root= entry.

    If you are running GRUB, make sure your configuration file, /boot/grub/grub.conf, includes a menu entry for booting Linux. For example:

    title Red Hat Linux (2.4.18-14)
    root (hd0,1)
    kernel /vmlinuz-2.4.18-14 ro root=LABEL=/ hdc=ide-scsi 
    initrd /initrd-2.4.18-14.img

    You can then skip to Step 3.

  2. Run the lilo command to install LILO on the Linux root partition.

  3. At this point, if you need to reboot Linux, you’ll have to use the boot floppy or CD because the NT loader hasn’t been set up yet to boot Linux.

  4. From Linux, run the dd command to make a copy of the Linux boot sector:

    % dd if=/dev/hda2 of=/bootsect.lnx bs=512 count=1

    This command copies one block, with a blocksize of 512 bytes, from the input file /dev/hda2 to the output file /bootsect.lnx. Note that if you are running GRUB, the boot sector is actually the stage1 file. (The output filename can be whatever makes sense to you; it doesn’t have to be bootsect.lnx.)

  5. Copy bootsect.lnx to a DOS-formatted floppy disk if that is how you are going to transfer it to NT:

    % mount -t msdos /dev/fd0 /mnt
    % cp /bootsect.lnx /mnt
    % umount /mnt
  6. Reboot the system to Windows NT and copy the boot sector from the floppy disk to the hard disk. You can drag and drop the file to the hard drive, or use the command line to copy the file as in the following example:

    C:> copy a:\bootsect.lnx c:\bootsect.lnx

    It doesn’t matter where on the hard drive you put the file because you’ll tell the NT loader where to find it in Step 8.

  7. Modify the attributes of the file boot.ini [6] to remove the system and read-only attributes so you can edit it:

    C:> attrib -s -r c:\boot.ini
  8. Edit boot.ini with a text editor to add the line:

    C:\bootsect.lnx="Linux"

    This line adds Linux to the boot menu and tells the Windows NT boot loader where to find the Linux boot sector. You can insert the line anywhere in the [operating systems] section of the file. Its position in the file determines where it will show up on the boot menu when you reboot your computer. Adding it at the end, for example, results in a boot.ini file that looks something like this (the multi(0) entries are wrapped to fit in the margins of this page):

    [boot loader]
    timeout=30
    default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINNT
    [operating systems]
    multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINNT="Windows NT Server Version 4.
    00" 
    multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINNT="Windows NT Server Version 4.
    00 [VGA mode]" /basevideo /sos
    C:\bootsect.lnx="Linux"

    If you want Linux to be the default operating system, modify the default= line:

    default=C:\bootsect.lnx
  9. Rerun attrib to restore the system and read-only attributes:

    C:> attrib +s +r c:\boot.ini

Now you can shut down Windows NT and reboot. NT will prompt you with a menu that looks something like this:

OS Loader V4.00

Please select the operating system to start:

Windows NT Workstation Version 4.00
Windows NT Workstation Version 4.00 [VGA mode] 
Linux

Select Linux, and the NT loader will read the Linux boot sector and transfer control to LILO or GRUB on the Linux partition.

If you are using LILO and you later modify /etc/lilo.conf or rebuild the kernel, you need to rerun the lilo command, create a new bootsect.lnx file, and replace the version of bootsect.lnx on the Windows NT partition with the new version. In other words, you need to rerun Steps 2-6.

Tip

If you have any problems or you simply want to remove LILO or GRUB later, you can reverse the installation procedure: boot to Windows NT, change the system and read-only attributes on boot.ini, re-edit boot.ini to remove the Linux entry, save the file, restore the system and read-only attributes, and remove the Linux boot sector from the NT partition.



[6] boot.ini is the Windows NT counterpart to /etc/lilo.conf. It defines what operating systems the NT loader can boot.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required