Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dual Boot XP via Lilo

I haven't figured this problem out completely, but here's the issue and several workaround solutions.

I have a box with two hard drives, one SATA with WinXP, and one IDE with Vector Linux. When I have BIOS set to boot from the SATA disk first, WinXP boots fine. When I have BIOS set to boot the IDE disk, I get Lilo, asking which OS to load, VL loads fine from that, but when I try loading WinXP, it craps out on me. I want to be able to have the IDE disk as the primary, load Lilo from the MBR, and be able to load WinXP from Lilo. Side note; the reason that I'd like that is that I'd like to be able to take out the IDE disk at any time and have the computer act as though it had never seen Lilo or Linux before, the computer is a loaner and I'd like to be able to return it in more-or-less the same condition that it was loaned to me in.

The solutions vary greatly in approach and scope of changes, from no changes to the system itself to messing with the boot.ini file on the XP drive.

A good one (under slightly different circumstances) would be to install Lilo into the boot sector of the SATA Windows hard drive and then boot into the recovery console from the Windows XP cd and run fixmbr right before I return the computer. The reason that I don't like this one is that I don't like the idea of messing with the boot sector of the Windows disk since it's not my hard drive. Another problem is that I don't have my WinXP cd. I lost it and I've been trying to find the thing for about a week (when I noticed that it went missing during spring cleaning).

One with no real changes to the system are to install Lilo to a floppy disk, set the timeout to nearly nothing, and boot Linux from the floppy whenever I want Linux. This is great in theory, but I haven't had a computer in my home with a floppy disk drive on it since 2000, give or take.

A more appropriate one would be to boot from the Vector cd. The idea works, no actual changes to the system, so the box could be returned without any problems. The only annoyance is that I'd have to type in stuff at the boot, which means I'd have to pay attention when I turn on the computer... I tend to press the power button and walk away. So this one is a good solution, but not perfect for me. I guess the search goes on.

Update: there is one solution that has been noted, but it's hardware dependent and my hardware does support it, but there is the possibility that I'd want to do this again in the future and would not have hardware support for this particular solution. At the time of boot press F8 to enter the boot menu. This allows you to choose which device to boot from.

Originating thread

The lesson begins

This blog is mostly for my own reference. As I learn new tips, tricks, and methods for doing things in linux, I'll be posting my problem and solution here for me to look back at later. I've made this public only because I know that I'm not the only one who has problems with linux, and I know that having more places to find information is never a bad thing. Don't expect it to be updated overly frequently or regularly, if it's not updated for a while that means that I'm not currently finding interesting ways to destroy my linux install, or I've got something more important to do.

The linux distribution of choice for me is Vector Linux. I have one machine with Vector Light 5.9 RC1, and one with the standard edition of 5.9. Vector is based on Slackware, and uses gslapt or slapt-get as its package manager. I chose Vector because it's light weight (even moreso for the Light edition), fully featured, and has good community support (pretty essential for me).

The website for Vector can be found here.