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(?) The Answer Guy (!)

By James T. Dennis, tag@lists.linuxgazette.net
LinuxCare, http://www.linuxcare.com/

(?) Dual Booting without Re-Partitioning

From John Vance on Fri, 20 Aug 1999

Until I migrate fully to Linux, I want to keep Windows 95/98 installed, due to the fact that I do all my school assignments on my Win98 OS. Is there an easy way to dual boot besides using any of the partitioning software? I am studying UNIX/Linux at College and need to be able to do this so I can study and further investigate Linux

(!) Well there are several options for you.
First you can install a "Mini-distribution." There are several distributions of Linux which can be installed in a subdirectory of your MS-DOS or Win '9x system and started via LOADLIN.EXE.
Linux supports a filesystem driver called UMSDOS (including UVFAT for FAT32 and VFAT drives under Win '9x). This allows Linux to store and use UNIX filesystem semantics (including ownership, group association, and permissions) under MS-DOS compatible filesystems. It's even possible (with the hackery employed by these mini-distributions) to mount a subdirectory of your C: or other MS-DOS compatible drive as the root filesystem under a Linux kernel.
The most popular Mini-distribution these days is probably Kent Robotti's DOSLinux. You can find that at:
DOSLinux at Tux.org:

[ You could also try ZipSlack:
It's designed to fit on a ZIP cartridge, and uses UMSDOS. -- Heather ]

That's probably the easiest approach. Of course there are other options. You could install a second (or third or fourth, etc.) hard drive. In that case you wouldn't need to re-partition. Just put your Linux filesystems on some parts of the new drives. (Of course you can devote the whole new drive to Linux if you like).
I'd still use LOADLIN.EXE. The difference here is that you're only storing a copy of the LOADLIN.EXE program and a copy of any kernels that you want to boot on your C: (or other MS-DOS) drive. The Linux kernel can be told to mount root filesystems off of any drive that it can access (through its built-in drivers, or via the drivers and programs stored init its initrd, initial RAMdisk). There is no constraint that requires a Linux kernel to be located on the same filesystem or even on the same drive or physical system as it will be mounting for its rootfs.
Yet another option would be to convert your system fully over to Linux. Then you'd purchase and install VMWare or one of its clones. You'd use it to create a Win '9x partition and re-install your copy of Win '9x under that.
This is a relatively new option. Also VMWare is not free or open source software. However, it does seem to be much more usable than the currently available free software in the same class (Bochs, WINE, etc.).
One of the founders at Linuxcare (http://www.linuxcare.com : where I currently work for my "day" job) chuckles every time he gets a "blue screen of death" under NT --- as he kills that Linux process and boots up a new virtual machine.
(I also know one guy who is running a copy of Linux under a VMWare virtual machine that's running under a different distribution of Linux. It's an odd way to test a new distribution).
My preferred approach is to buy an extra hard drive. They are pretty inexpensive these days --- and you'll probably find some way to use the extra space, even if you decide to consolidate all of your operations unto one OS.

Copyright © 1999, James T. Dennis
Published in The Linux Gazette Issue 45 September 1999
HTML transformation by Heather Stern of Starshine Technical Services, http://www.starshine.org/

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