www.BlackViper.com: Multiple OS Installation Guide


At some point in a computer operators lifetime, a need arises that many people do not even know is possible: Multiple OS's on a single computer.

Whether or not you:

  • Require the extreme speed for gaming that, currently, only Win98 can offer.
  • Desire the stability and enhanced memory management in Windows 2000 or XP.
  • Wish to tinker with "the other guy's," such as Unix, Linux, or FreeBSD, just to name a few.

No matter what your need, Multiple OS's could fill that void.

Here, I put together an example of installing:

  • Windows Me
  • Windows XP Home
  • Red Hat Linux

You may choose what ever combination desired, but, take note: Read your license agreement that came with your operating system to ensure that you are allowed a multi-boot environment.

A few points to consider before beginning the adventure:

  1. Decide what OS's you wish to install "before" beginning. This will avoid many headaches later on. Remember, if something gets messed up in the process, you could destroy all of your installs and hours of work. Planning is key to avoiding the simple, but disastrous mistakes.
  2. Plan out your partitioning scheme. With larger hard drives, it is best to have at least 10GB for each OS installation for drivers, etc. For this guide, I use very small partitions. Your results may vary:
    1. C:\ 1000 MB Windows 98
    2. D:\ 2000 MB Windows XP Home
    3. E:\ 4000 MB Red Hat Linux
    4. F:\ 2000 MB Shared Data
    5. G:\ 8000 MB Games
  3. Consider "how" to format each partition to ensure your requirements are met. For example, Windows 98 cannot read a partition formatted as NTFS, nor can Windows access a drive formatted with efs3 for Linux. As a result, the drive letters assigned may change due to the current OS not being able to read one or more of the partitions. To be on the safe side, it is always advisable to create a "shared" partition formatted with the "most common" file system to allow easy transfer between OS's. Currently, that system could be "FAT16."
  4. I ALWAYS install OS's in a very predictable order:
    • DOS or other "early" OS.
    • Windows 95, then 98, then Me. You could skip one or more.
    • Windows 2000, then XP Home, then XP Pro. Again, you can skip one or more, depending on your requirements.
    • "Other" OS's, such as Red Hat Linux, FreeBSD, or many others.
  5. Some "OEM" versions of Windows or "Recovery CD's" are not the full OS. With vast differences in these disks, I cannot predict if an "Upgrade" CD will detect your previous version properly, nor can I assume that "every" OS will be visible for you.
  6. Windows may "Upgrade" your previous installation if using an "upgrade" version of a newer OS. This is also is a factor when attempting to install another OS on the same partition. It is always best to split them up as described in step 2 and use "full versions."
  7. As a precaution, think steps 1 to 6 through again. :)

With the plan in hand, we can now begin:

Boot Using a Floppy

Windows Me boot floppy
Image 1.1: (19KB .jpg)

1) Windows Me boot floppy: (Image 1.1)

Setup your systems BIOS to boot from A:. How that is done is dependant on what system you have. That I cannot predict. Check your manual for that information.

I use a Windows Me created boot floppy to run FDISK because:

  • It contains the "latest" FDISK utility
  • The boot floppy has built in CD-ROM support

I always start with CD-ROM support, so I picked option 2.

No partitions are detected
Image 1.2: (56KB .jpg)

2) No partitions are detected: Image 1.2)

If no partitions are detected, such as with a new hard drive, the Windows Me boot disk is rather helpful in telling you this fact. At this point, do not be alarmed at the "virus warning" statement, as it is generic.

At the "Command Prompt," in this example, A:, type fdisk.

At this point, if you are unaware of how FDISK works, please check my Using FDISK Guide.

If you are aware of how to partition your hard drives using FDISK, please continue.

After Using FDISK

Example FDISK partition system
Image 1.3: (19KB .jpg)

3) Partition Information: (Image 1.3)

In this example, I created:

  • C:\ ~ Partition 1 ~ 1000 MB ~ Windows Me
  • Partition 2: 7389 MB
Example FDISK partition system
Image 1.4: (22KB .jpg)

4) Extended DOS Partition Information: (Image 1.4)

Here, this shows I created:

  • D:\ ~ 2000 MB ~ Windows XP Home
  • E:\ ~ 3000 MB ~ Red Hat Linux
  • F:\ ~ 2385 MB ~ Shared Data
Format the C:\ or first partition
Image 1.5: (38KB .jpg)

5) Format the C:\ or first partition: (Image 1.5)

After rebooting the system, you can now format the hard drive partitions. For what ever initial OS you wish to install, you must format the C:\ or first partition from the command prompt.

If you are going directly to an OS with built in partitioning software, such as full, bootable versions of Win9x/Me, or Windows 2000 and XP of any type, you may skip this step.

After formatting
Image 1.6: (34KB .jpg)

6) After formatting: (Image 1.6)

After formatting, you may run setup of what ever OS you choose to install first.

You can now continue on with what ever OS Install Guide you wish to view. In this example, it was Windows Me.

Installing the OS where you want it to go
Image 1.7: (68KB .jpg)

7) Installing the OS: (Image 1.7)

An important point to consider is to ensure that you are installing the OS where you want it to go. If you do not, you could over write a previous installation, effectively deleting that OS.

For this Guide, I chose to install Windows XP Home as my "second" OS. I am not going to redo the complete guide here, but will touch on some important issues:

After the First OS install

After Windows Me install
Image 1.8: (54KB .jpg)

8) After Windows ME install: (Image 1.8)

With the first partition already used, ensure that you install your second OS in the proper location.

Format options
Image 1.9: (63KB .jpg)

9) Format options: (Image 1.9)

If you format your partition as NTFS, you will not be able to access it from another OS, other than NT/2000 and XP.

This could be a good thing.

If you still wish for the added security of NTFS, format it as such and place all of your "shared" data on another partition.

Here, I chose FAT16, but I recommend NTFS.

boot menu
Image 1.10: (25KB .jpg)

10) Windows boot menu: (Image 1.10)

After completing Windows XP Home's install, a "boot menu" will appear, allowing you to choose which OS to run.

boot.ini with notepad
Image 1.11: (40KB .jpg)

11) ADVANCED TECHNIQUE - boot.ini: (Image 1.11)

If you do not like the boot menu text, you can edit the "boot.ini" file, located on the "C:\" drive.

Before doing so, you should back up the file to avoid one of those "simple" mistakes I have mentioned. :)

In this example, I loaded the boot.ini file using Windows XP Home and notepad.

You could change the previous Windows installation that is currently being displayed as "Microsoft Windows" to be something more descriptive, such as, "Windows Me."

You can choose what ever OS Install Guide you wish, but I selected Red Hat Linux 7.2 next. As a result of that decision, the following technique was added to make things "easier."

After Windows XP Home install

FDISK take 2
Image 1.12: (20KB .jpg)

12) FDISK take 2: (Image 1.12)

Red Hat could be a little tricky with partitioning. For that reason, I chose to go back and rerun FDISK and delete my "Linux" partition to allow easier automatic partitioning in Red Hat Linux setup.

I selected option 3 here.

Delete a logical drive
Image 1.13: (24KB .jpg)

13) Delete a logical drive: (Image 1.13)

I wish to delete a logical drive in the extended partition, so I selected 3.

Delete with FDISK
Image 1.14: (28KB .jpg)

14) Delete with FDISK: (Image 1.14)

In this example, "E:" is the partition I wish to use for Linux, and delete with FDISK.

Confirm the selection
Image 1.15: (32KB .jpg)

15) Confirm the selection: (Image 1.15)

I confirmed the selection by entering in the volume name and then choosing Y. If the volume name is blank you may just press ENTER.


Again, you can choose what ever OS Install Guide you wish, but my choice was Red Hat Linux. Check out the Full Install Guide for Red Hat 8.0 because I am only going to hit on the high points with Red Hat 7.2 here:

After Re-running FDISK

After Rerunning FDISK
Image 1.16: (56KB .jpg)

16) After Re-running FDISK: (Image 1.16)

Here, I chose graphical mode for installing.

Automatic partitioning
Image 1.17: (92KB .jpg)

17) Automatic partitioning: (Image 1.17)

For automatic partitioning to work, you must not select the default in this menu.

Select Keep all partitions and use existing free space.

If you use the default options, your existing OS installations will be deleted.

Automatic partitioning results
Image 1.18: (112KB .jpg)

18) Automatic partitioning results: (Image 1.18)

After automatic partitioning is completed, you will see something along these lines. Note: You can always partition your installation manually, but this will give you some idea of what is required for your particular configuration.

Boot loader selection
Image 1.19: (106KB .jpg)

19) Boot loader selection: (Image 1.19)

For my Linux installs, I do not use any boot loader of any kind. They over write the Master Boot record and I would rather not have that happen.

I choose to not install any boot loader here. If you do go this route, you MUST COMPLETE THE NEXT STEP! Otherwise, you Linux install will not be available to use.

Create a Linux boot disk
Image 1.20: (47KB .jpg)

20) Create a Linux boot disk: (Image 1.20)

After all packages have been installed, create a Linux boot disk.

What this does for you is:

  • Allow you to have a "boot loader" that has no chance of messing up your existing OS installs.
  • Added "security" for those that choose not to have "others" access the Linux install. (Remember, Windows cannot see the Linux File tables).
  • Insert the boot disk and restart the computer to run Linux, keep the boot disk out of the floppy drive to boot Windows.

I hope your Multi-Boot system works well for you!