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Developer's Guide to Multiple OS Installation

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Arun Singh

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Posted: 12 Feb 2004

How to Install Multiple Operating Systems on the Same Machine

These instructions are for setting up a single machine that can be booted into different Operating Systems without using any additional software like Partition Magic. I will cover the most complicated scenario of having DOS, NetWare, Windows and the two most popular distributions of Linux Operating systems (SUSE Linux and Red Hat) on a machine with one or more hard disks (20+GB). You can use these instructions to create a combination of systems with different sets of operating Systems.

Installation Configuration

You need the following Operating System handy and some experience in custom installation. Later, I will cover two scenarios: one for Desktop with Windows, and Linux (Red Hat and SUSE Linux ) and other for Server with DOS, Windows, NetWare and Linux (Red Hat AS and SUSE Linux ES). I have used the following OS version in my lab setup:

DOS 6.22
Windows (2000 Professional or Server)
NetWare (4/5/6.0/6.5)
Red Hat 9.0 or Enterprise or Advance Server
SUSE Linux 9.0 or Enterprise Server (United Linux)

Installing DOS

Use the DOS fdisk utility to create a Primary DOS partition of max allowed size of 2GB. Install DOS and make this a bootable partition. This is required only if you are planning to add NetWare to your stack of Bootable OS's. (Skip this if you don't want NetWare or DOS OS).

Installing Windows

Install your favorite Windows. I have tested Windows 2000 Professional and Server. Install your favorite Windows in a new partition with size 4-6 GB. Make sure you don't use the whole hard disk space and have space for the other OS. If you have DOS and Windows, this is right time to test dual boot mode. You can change the default boot order selection from Windows or by editing boot.ini hidden file.

Installing NetWare

After successful installation of DOS and Windows, install any version of NetWare. Make sure you create new SYS partition of size 4-6 GB and leave enough space for the Linux OS installation. Create a bat file (cd c:\nwserver; server.exe) to start the NetWare OS from DOS. You can call this from autoexec.bat to start automatically after boot. At this point you are set with DOS, Windows and NetWare boot system.

Installing Linux

Installing Linux is slightly different. You need swap partition and Boot partitions. In our installation we are going to use the same swap partition as only one Linux installation will be active at a time, even though you can access data stored in other installed Linux. Also, you will notice that after installing Linux, Linux Boot will take precedence and you will get a prompt for Linux and DOS/Windows.

Installation Setup 1 (Server): Installing DOS, Windows, Netware, Red Hat and SUSE Linux

Here we have to be careful, since order of installation is very important to have all the OS available at boot time. First we will install DOS. Create DOS partition of 2GB and make it bootable. Second, install Windows Advanced Server and leave space for other OS. Now, it is time to test dual mode (DOS and Windows) to test and install NetWare OS. At this point you have Windows, DOS and NetWare OS ready.

Installing Red Hat (9.0 or AS 3.0) is simple. Install Red Hat AS 3.0. The installation program will guide you to create swap, and boot partition. The install will install MBR and next time you will boot system, you will be prompted for Linux and Windows/DOS. Next we will install SUSE Linux ES 8.0 (United Linux 1.0). The install will default to overwrite MBR. Select to write MBR to the SUSE Linux partition. Later add SUSE Linux bootable information to Red Hat Linux grub.conf file.

Here is how booting will work on a system with DOS, Win2K Advanced Server, NW6, Red Hat Advance Server 3.0 and SUSE Linux ES (United Linux).

  1. First System will provide option to select DOS/Windows or Red Hat Linux or SUSE Linux.
  2. If you select Linux System then it will boot and you are set with the selected Operating System.
  3. If you choose DOS/Windows, then another list will appear to choose "Microsoft Windows 2000 Advanced Server" or 'MS-DOS". If you select Microsoft Windows then the system is ready with Windows OS.
  4. If you select MS-DOS then you are ready to use DOS. You can start the NetWare Server from DOS prompt.

Sample c:\boot.ini file from dual boot machine:

[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(1)\WINNT="Microsoft Windows
2000 Advanced Server" /fastdetect
C:\ = "MS-DOS"

Sample /boot/grub/grub.conf file:

# grub.conf generated by anaconda
# NOTICE:  You have a /boot partition.  This means that
#          all kernel and initrd paths are relative to /boot/, eg.
#          root (hd0,1)
#          kernel /vmlinuz-version ro root=/dev/hda3
#          initrd /initrd-version.img
title Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS (2.4.21-4.EL)
	root (hd0,1)
	kernel /vmlinuz-2.4.21-4.EL ro root=LABEL=/
	initrd /initrd-2.4.21-4.EL.img

title SUSE Linux ES (United Linux 1.0)
	root (hd2,2)
	kernel (hd2,2)/boot/vmlinuz root=/dev/hdd3
	initrd (hd2,2)/boot/initrd

title DOS/Windows
	rootnoverify (hd0,0)
	chainloader +1

Installation Setup 2 (Workstation): Installing Windows, Red Hat and SUSE Linux

First install your choice of Windows and leave space on your hard disk for Linux Installations. After the successful installation of Windows, install Red Hat Linux 9.0 and follow default choices. Note down information stored in /boot/grub/grub.conf file for future reference. This will make your system dual-bootable.

Now install SUSE Linux 9.0. At this point you have a choice to overwrite the MBR (master boot record) or create a SUSE Linux partition bootable leaving Red Hat Boot manager in control. In our sample file, we installed SUSE Linux boot manager on MBR. This will prompt SUSE Linux menu at boot time. Once the installation is complete, you need to append the Boot Selection menu (menu.lst) file created by SUSE Linux install program. To add the option to boot Red Hat Linux, you need to have kernel and initrd partition information handy (/boot/grub/grub.conf). Refer to sample menu.lst file.

Sample /boot/grub/menu.lst file from a system with Windows 2K Professional, Red Hat 9.0 and SUSE Linux 9.0 installed. Single menu is provided at boot time to select desired Operating System.

# Modified by YaST2. Last modification on Tue Dec 2 21:44:12 2003

color white/blue black/light-gray
default 0
timeout 8
gfxmenu (hd0,6)/boot/message

###Don't change this comment - YaST2 identifier: Original name: linux###
title SUSE Linux 9.0 Linux
kernel (hd0,6)/boot/vmlinuz root=/dev/hda7 vga=0x314 splash=silent desktop 
hdc=ide-scsi  hdclun=0 showopts
initrd (hd0,6)/boot/initrd

###Don't change this comment - YaST2 identifier: Original name: linux###
title Red Hat Linux 9.0
kernel (hd0,1)/vmlinuz-2.4.20-8 root=/dev/hda3 hdc=ide-scsi
initrd (hd0,1)/initrd-2.4.20-8.img

###Don't change this comment - YaST2 identifier: Original name: windows###
title Win 2K Professional
root (hd0,0)
chainloader +1

Changing order of default boot:

Once you have completed installing all the OS, it's time to test and change the boot order, if you don't like the default. Modify the default parameter in boot.ini file to change the order in which DOS and Windows boot. Modify the default parameter in menu.lst or grub.conf to change the Linux default boot. This will give you the option to boot whichever OS you need to test and develop without managing different systems.


Instructions to install multiple OS are generic and can be used in combination with any number of desired OS's. I have configured systems with multiple Windows Servers, NetWare Server and Linux Server on same machine. You have noticed, in my Server installation setup I have used multiple hard disks. Having more than one hard disk is really convenient, otherwise you are restricted by the number of partitions of one hard disk.

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