Dual-boot Win 98/Linux

I recently ordered a new computer (Axis Systems 1 GHz Athlon) and was hoping to set up a dual-boot configuration so that I could use both Linux and Windows 98 on the machine.

I have never used Linux before, and I’m mostly interested in experimenting with a new environment than doing any serious work in it.

The computer will come clean, without any OS installed. My question is: how do I set the computer up to let me dual-boot into Win 98 and Linux? Which should I install first? What utility will I need to make the dual-boot work? Is there a Linux distribution that is particularly suited to this kind of problem or to newbies in general?

One more thing: the videocard on my new PC will be an nVidia GeForce 2. Are Linux drivers available for relatively new cards like the GeForce 2? Would they be released by the company itself or by independent programmers?


Eerily similar to my sitaution.
This week I squeezed Linux on both Lap and Desktop for first time.
Here goes.
I will recommend Red Hat linux 6.2. Its my first Linux but it installed itself almost and I find it highly configurable and stable.I hear good things elsewhere.I hear bad things about Corel and mediocre things about the rest.
The manuals and cd are worth it for the newbie IMHO

Install 98.
Do whatever you want partitionwise.

On the Linux CD comes a utility called FIPS, create a boot disk and launch.Its almost like Fdisk but can resize your partitions for ya with no ill effects.

Launch from Red Hat cd and follow the wizard.
(I choose the more popular Gnome interface )

Hope that your hardware is picked up.I had a slight issue with my laptop video controller but nothing else.

Hit tab key and type Dos if you want windows , otherwise linux.

I had great fun and now my question is? How do you get rid of 98 in a dual boot system?

This sounds a lot like Partition Magic. I’ve used that in the past to repartition my HD without having to reformat or anything else.

I used to dual boot redhat 6 and win98 until LILO corrupted my master boot record for no apparent reason, causing me to lose windows (luckily held on a seaparate partition from my data). I would recommend skipping installing LILO and use a boot disk for linux instead, unless you will be using it more than win98. If you do install a dual boot program such as lilo, then please ensure that the partition which has the master boot record (C:) on most drives, is separate from all your personal files.

The old school way to do it is to partition using either Linux or Windows fdisk off of a boot floppy. Create 3 partitions using Linux fdisk - one for vfat Windows (big), one for ext2fs Linux (big), and one for Linux swap if you wish (small and depends on how much swap room you want). You can always change your swap size later by creating swap files. If you use Windows fdisk, then just make the Windows partition and tell it nothing about the rest of the room on the disk. Then use Linux fdisk to make the other 2 partitions.

If you install Linux first and then Windows, be sure to keep a Linux boot disk around because Windows will write over the LILO dual-booter on the boot sector or wherever. You will then have to use the boot disk, mount your root partition, and reinstall LILO. No big whoop, all of this is in the dox.

I’ve been running Linux since 0.99pl12 in 1993. I currently use RedHat 6.2 with a new kernel.

Can someone give me a little more detail on LILO - what it is and how it works?

So far I’m thinking that I should do this in the following manner:

  1. Install win98
  2. Use Partition Magic or whatever to split the 40 gig HD up into several pieces, including one that will be just for Linux
  3. Download and install Linux (Probably RedHat 6.2) onto the separate partition

This is where it gets a little unclear. Do I now need to use LILO to create the dual boot setup? Will RedHat’s install program guide me through this or will it be a separate process?

LILO (the LInux LOader) is a program that lets you choose which partition to boot from. I’m not sure exactly how it works…

Heres what I’d do to install:

Install Win98 (unless its on your machine already)

Split your HD into 3 partitions. 1 for Windows, 1 for Linux Swap (this should be on the order of a few hundred megs), and 1 for the main linux partition. I’ve got a 2 year old or so copy of PartitionMagic, and it has instructions for how to do this in the manual, so any more recent version should be fine.

DL and install Linux (if this is your first time using it, I’d recommend Linux-Mandrake. Its based on RedHat, but I found it WAY easier to get up and running). I prefer to burn CDs to install from, so I have a backup in case something goes horribly wrong, but I think you can install directly from the hard drive. I had no luck with this when I tried last time.
Or hell, since its linux, you could just order a set of CDs from linuxmall or cheapbytes for about $4

I’d say, if you already have Parition Magic, that you could use BootMagic just fine instead of LILO. Its a little friendlier.


Your plan of attack is pretty good. However, here are some revisions I suggest:

  1. Do your partitioning before anything else. There are certain partitions that you want create specifically. I would definitely break up your partitions as follows:*

Using Partition Magic create a primary Linux Ext2 partition at the beginning of the drive, and make it 30 MB. This will be your /boot partition, where the kernel is stored.**

Create a second partition now, FAT32, for Windows (I would suggest no bigger than about 20 GB, but it’s up to you). This partition will need to be a Logical Partition.

Now create the Linux Swap partition (this should also be logical). This partition needs to be about twice the size of the physical RAM in your computer (so if you have 64 MB of RAM, you want 128 MB of swap). This really is not optional. If you do not create the swap space, or make it too small, you will greatly decrease the performance of Linux.

Finally, create one more logical partition of Linux Ext2 type to fill the rest of the drive. Make sure you have at least 2 GB for this. It will contain everything else for Linux. If you make it too much smaller than that (minimum installation size would be about 800 MB, IIRC) you won’t have enough room for all the cool programs you might want to start using.

  1. After you have done your partitioning, install Windows. It will go on the FAT32 partition you created, since that is the only one it will be able to find.

  2. Unless you have a dedicated, high speed Internet connection, I would order a CD from somewhere instead of downloading Linux. It is much faster to install it from a CD, and you can get one from Linuxmall.com for cheap.
    Regarding LILO, it is the LInux LOader. LILO is required on any Linux installation. It is responsible for uncompressing the Linux kernel and loading it in to memory. Without LILO, you will have no way of accessing Linux. (There is actually also a program called loadlin, for DOS, but I won’t get in to that.)

The installation of LILO is part of RedHat’s installer, and I would recommend letting it put LILO on the MBR (master boot record). The MBR is a separate portion of the hard drive from your partitions. It is accessed specifically by the BIOS and contains information about where the operating system is on the drive.

To make it “dual-boot”, you will use LILO to access Windows. As Damhna mentioned, you will be able to type ‘dos’ at the LILO prompt at boot time. This will tell LILO to boot Windows. Specifically, it tells LILO to boot whatever exists on the partition defined by the ‘dos’ image it knows about. This is configurable, but RedHat will set it up correctly, provided you have already installed Windows.

There are some other very important notes here. You should check all of your hardware against the Hardware Compatibility List here:


Also, during the RedHat installation, since you have created custom partitions, you will need to select the Custom Installation at the beginning. Do not select GNOME, or KDE Workstation, and definitely do not select Server. The Workstation installations will overwrite the Linux partitions you have created and mess things up. These are intended for use on blank drives. The Server installation will completely remove everything on your drive, including Windows.

When you select the Custom Installation, you will be given the chance to select mount points for your partitions, at this point you will see 4 devices listed in this window. There will be /dev/hda1, /dev/hda5, /dev/hda6, /dev/hda7. These are your partitions. You will need to tell the installer where to mount these, so double click on each one and put in the mount point as follows:

/dev/hda1 /boot
/dev/hda5 /windows
/dev/hda6 (this is swap and doesn’t have a mount point)
/dev/hda7 /

This will setup your Linux partitions correctly, and will also allow you to access your Windows partition from Linux if you would like.

Also, during the Custom Installation, you will be able to select the packages you would like to install. Here you can choose GNOME or KDE, as well as other packages you would like to install.

On another note, since you are getting a decently fast computer, you might also want to check out this software:

This site is self-explanatory.

If you have questions or problems, feel free to email me, rcoulter@frii.net.

  • There are other, more optimal ways to partition the drive. This is a more simple method though.

** This is necessary because PC BIOSes (generally) are not able to access the hard drive above cylinder 1024. By putting the Linux kernel at the beginning of the drive, you can insure that LILO will be able to access it properly to boot Linux.

Thank you Guardian. Your explanation was extremely thorough. I won’t be getting my PC for another week or two, but when I do I will certainly make use of your advice.

I tried the Corel version of Linux since I use the Word Perfect suite. I tried to use the partioning software and LILO that came with Corel Linux to make a new hard disk bootable. It messed up my Win98 installation (on the old disk!) The documentation was poor and I spent a lot of time reading angry posts on a Corel Linux self help BB. I eventually got Win98 working again (it took me a while to discover that in the process of swapping hard drives a jumper had fallen off the motherboard causing my CPU voltage to drop from 2.3 to 2.0 which produced a blue screen whenever Windows Explorer tried to start).

Although I have given up on Linux for the time being I will try again some other time (when I don’t need my computer for anything else) but when I do I will use Partition Magic and Boot Magic.

Good luck.

Why would you want to install Windows and then re-partition it? Just partition the drive using FDISK (comes with Windows), install Windows on first partition, then install linux on another partition. Let the Linux installation program install LILO on the boot sector or first partition (?), or just use a boot floppy as someone suggested. No need for PartitionMagic or similar software. I agree PartitionMagic is an incredibly useful software, but you don’t need it for a completely fresh install.

I like the idea of using a boot floppy, since I don’t anticipate using Linux very much in comparison to Win98.

Could I solve my problem in the following way?

  1. Install win 98
  2. Use partition magic to make a linux and a linux swap partition in addition to the windows partition
  3. Install RedHat, but not LILO.
  4. Use a boot floppy to get into linux when I need it


One more time for everyone. LILO is required. Absolutely. The only way you can get away with not using LILO is to boot Linux directly from DOS using Loadlin. I would not recommend this method unless you have a particular need for it. Boot Magic is NOT capable of booting Linux.

However, you can, if you choose to, use Boot Magic on the MBR to access LILO installed on a partition boot record. You would do this by installing LILO on the boot record of one of the partitions (usually /boot) instead of the MBR. However, this does not mean that you are not using LILO.

For what it’s worth, I have never had a problem with LILO “corrupting” a hard drive. It simply doesn’t have that kind of access to the data on your hard drive. It can not access the partition table to write to it. All LILO is is a boot manager. For those of you have said that LILO has corrupted your hard drive, I think it would be more accurate to say that fdisk corrupted it, or that you tried to change the configuration of LILO and didn’t know what you were doing.


As I stated before, partition your drive first. It is far easier to partition the drive and then install everything then to install Windows first and then partition the drive. Training, hundreds of dual boot installs, and years of experience are speaking here.

Whether you install LILO on the MBR or on a floppy is up to you. However, I have found that using a floppy is just plain annoying. IMO, I don’t think LILO is going to cause any problems with your drive. However, if you loose the floppy or it gets damaged (which is pretty normal), you’re stuck. It’s not impossible to access your Linux installation after that, but it’s damn hard unless you know exactly what you are doing.

Outrider, I suggest you pay attention to what L. Guardian writes. If you don’t have time for “Training, hundreds of dual boot installs, and years of experience” (like if you currently have a day job) you might want to wait for a more refined Linux before trying to get it to coexist with Windows.