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Multi-Booting Microsoft Operating Systems 

Added: 06/13/2001, Hits: 2,902, Rating: 0, Comments: 0, Votes: 0
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By David Akers

The purpose of this paper is to assist those interested in installing more than one Microsoft operating system onto their computer, and consequently to boot to any OS installed. There apparently appears to be many positions by individuals as to what can and canít be done when attempting this. Although it is beyond the attempts of this writer to discuss what canít be accomplished (?), I will explain the process I have used to setup and boot between nine operating systems, all on one drive. To reach this end has required endless hours of experimentation to resolve issues that occur. The following should decrease the number of days you spend achieving your own configuration. I have installed:
  1. DOS 6.22 (Next time I would install Windows 3.11 instead.)

  2. Windows 98

  3. Windows Millennium

  4. Windows NT4 Workstation

  5. Windows NT4 as a member server

  6. Windows NT4 as a PDC

  7. Windows 2000 Professional

  8. Windows 2000 Advanced Server as a member server

  9. Windows 2000 Advanced Server as a domain controller

I also have a few additional partitions for storage of data. All on a 20GB drive. Also note I still have some unused space. Ie. "Unallocated" in the following example:

You will notice from this view from within Partition Magic that not all partitions show with drive letters. That is because we are viewing this in Win ME, which does not recognize the NTFS partitions. Partition Magic sees the partitions, ME just has not assigned any drive letters to unrecognized partitions (NTFS). ME has also not assigned drive letters to DOS6.22 and WIN98_2ND. This is because I use Boot Magic to hide these partitions because they are bootable primary partitions and would cause problems with another WIN9x OS if recognized. (Look under "Status" column.)

If we use W2K disk tools by booting into another OS that can read all file systems then we see the same partitions as in ME using Partition Magic but notice W2K has assigned drive letters:

Again though, you notice DOS6.22 and WIN98_2ND partitions do not show with drive letters, this is because Boot Magic still has them hidden. But W2K does see them because it reads their info. An important note to observe is that there is some confusion as to using multiple file systems on one drive. As you can observe, there is not a problem. Just remember that certain OSís only read specific file systems and so will not recognize certain partitions. (ME example above.)

Also note in this view from W2K that under the status column it shows the Boot partition as W2Kserver(I:) and the System partition as ME(C:) under the "Status" column.

Lets get on to the issues.
  1. Decide on your default OS. I chose ME. You will install all NT4 and W2K loads from this default OS. This will be the System partition for NT and W2K.

  2. Decide if you want to install any lower level OSís such as DOS, Win 95 or 98. These you will install before NT and W2K.

  3. Decide on upper level OSís you want to install such as NT and W2K.

  4. Have available a third party partitioning utility and a boot utility. I use Partition Magic and Boot Magic. Partition Magic and Boot Magic are only necessary to use if installing multiple DOS OSís. W2K has a boot manager that you will use to boot to your default OS (on the System partition), NT, and W2K. But it will not work with the hidden partitions of either DOS or 9x OSís.

Important Parameters.
  1. Any of your Primary partitions created to hold DOS OSís (includes 9x) need to be created first and (actually I believe that only the boot records) must be within the first 2GB of your disk. You can see in EXAMPLE 1 the amount of used disk space the OSís occupy. I do have some additional programs loaded on the ME partition. So plan your partition space accordingly. NT and W2K will be installed on logical drives later.

  2. Once you begin installing NT versions you will need to install SP 4 or higher on each install before moving on to another OS install. Then you must boot to each NT load after completing each additional OS load! Otherwise you will find upon the installation of OSís in partitions created after an NT load that the NT loads become inaccessible with the error generated "inaccessible boot device".

Lets begin installing any DOS OSís you may want:
  1. Either delete all partitions (I recommend using Delpart to delete partitions. It is absolutely necessary if deleting NTFS partitions as Fdisk only appears to delete NTFS partitions, which will come back to haunt you later.) on your drive or use the existing C: partition and the OS installed in it. Remember that if you plan to install more than one DOS OS then all the primary partitions (boot records) need to be within the first 2GB. If deleting partitions, then recreate (using Fdisk) and format (using Format, long live DOS!) the C: partition. If you plan to install NT later, this will need to be FAT 16 due to NT placing the System partition here. When formatting the partitions from this point on, I recommend using volume labels that reflect the OS you are installing. That way you can easily find the OS you want. See my previous examples.

  2. Install your default OS to the C: drive. This is the easy, but slow, step.

  3. (This step can be skipped if you plan to install only one 9x OS to a primary partition. Just run Fdisk and create an extended partition with a logical drive to install NT or W2K on. Then use their disk tools to create other partitions. One benefit of using Partition Magic, though, is the ability to resize partitions or move them completely at a later time.) Now install Partition Magic, and then create one or two more primary partitions from within PM if you plan to install other DOS OSís. Remember, your primary partitions all must reside within the first 2GB on the drive because they will contain DOS OSís. Partition Magic will default to hide these two partitions if memory serves correctly. If not then right click a shortcut menu on each partition and select hide.

  4. Using Partition Magic, make one of the new partitions unhidden and mark it active. Hide the current partition you are in. This will allow you to reboot to the new partition and install an OS to it since it is marked active. Note- Make Partition Magic recovery disks as you will need to reboot from the disks after each install to change the active and unhidden partition back to the default OS partition. Otherwise you continue to boot to the active partition you just created.

  5. (This step can be skipped if your plan is only to boot to one Win9x OS, plus NT or W2K. Using Boot Magic is unnecessary because NTís boot loader will work just fine.) Once you have installed any additional OSís on the primary partitions, then boot to your default partition that at this point is the partition that has Partition Magic on it. Now install from the same Power Quest disk, Boot Magic, which will enable you to have a boot menu to choose from for all your OSís. This program will automatically hide and unhide partitions and mark one as active based on your choice. Make a Boot Magic repair disk because after your first load of NT or W2K, you will need to boot from the repair disk to take control back from NTís boot loader.

Now we can install any NT loads and then W2K loads:
  1. You will always go back to your default OS when installing NT or W2K. This is because these OSís will always install the System partition here. It is also always necessary to install a newer OS from an older one so be sure your default OS is not W2K as it will try to prevent you from installing an older OS.

  2. From PM create an extended partition on the rest of your disk. Now determine how many more partitions you will want. How many OSís? Do you want some partitions for data? Planning now will save you redoing partitions later. Now create all the logical drives you want in the extended partition. You might want to save some unused space for future unknown needs.

  3. Now install NT to the first logical drive. IMPORTANT! Once the install is complete install SP4 or higher. From this point on, EVERYTIME you load a new OS you MUST boot back through your installed NT loads so the OS will automatically run chkdisk, which was on the SP, to readjust its boot info. If you donít, you will end up with unbootable NT loads that had worked just fine earlier. After your first NT install you will find that NTís boot loader program now takes control of your bootmenu. But only for the default partition, which is now the System partition, and all future loads of NT and W2K. It will not let you access the hidden primary partitions. So what you will find now is that at the next boot up you will need to run Boot Magic from the Boot Magic repair disk to allow Boot Magic to retake control from NT. This is the only time necessary to do this. Now you will find you use Boot Magic at start up to choose between the primary partitions, and if you choose the default partition, which is the System partition, you will then get the boot loader menu to choose between the OS on drive C: and any NT or W2K loads.

  4. Upon finishing your NT loads go ahead and load any W2K loads. Donít forget after installing each W2K load to boot through your NT loads so they will run chkdisk.

Now you are finished. At start up you will get the Boot Magic loader to give you access to the primary partitions. Choosing the OS that has the System partition on it will then take you to NTís boot loader to make choices between the other OSís.

Best of luck!

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