Understanding MultiBooting
and Booting Windows from an Extended Partition

by Dan Goodell
Introduction Appendixes: Links Notes Backup Strategies Virtual PC

Special thanks to Petr Soucek (petr.soucekryston.cz) for identifying and documenting the workarounds for booting operating systems from logical partitions and for booting Win9x operating systems from partitions above the 8-GB boundary.

Thanks to Michal Kawecki (kwinto2com.pl) for his easy method of deleting the DiskID in the MBR.

Microsoft Windows 98, Windows 2000, and Windows XP are copyrighted commercial products of Microsoft Corporation.
PartitionMagic and DriveImage are copyrighted commercial products of Symantec Corporation.
Partition Table Editor, a free utility, is a copyrighted product of Symantec Corporation.
Savepart, a free utility, is a copyrighted product of Damien Guibouret.
EditBINI, a free utility, is a copyrighted product of TeraByte Unlimited.
XOSL-Extended Operating System Loader, a free utility, is a copyrighted product of Geurt Vos.
PTS Disk Editor, a free utility, was developed by the Russian company PhysTechSoft Ltd., which no longer exists.
Thanks to "The Starman" for keeping a webpage for PTS Disk Editor after PhysTechSoft abandoned the product.

Miscellaneous Links

The PC Guide
includes excellent and relatively comprehensive primer on hard disks.

The Computer Boot Sequence
outstanding, in-depth, well-written tutorial explains technical details in understandable language.

Planning your partitions
general advice on using partitions intelligently, even if you don't multiboot. (Note this is one guy's opinion, so think about his ideas but don't take it as gospel.)

Partitioning Strategies
radified.com's objective explanation of several reasons for partitioning.

FAT System Guide
very comprehensive and detailed explanation of the structure of FAT/FAT32 file systems. Nice, easy to read reference.

Grenier's TestDisk Utility
great tool for recovering or repairing partition tables and boot sectors. Menu-driven, so easier to use than Mikkelsen, but makes some presumptions for you, so use with care when analyzing a system with hidden partitions or bootable logical volumes.

Mikkelsen Partition Utilities
great command-line tools for examining or analyzing partition tables and boot sectors. Not for everyone, but can be quite handy when you need them. Findpart does not repair partition tables, but gives you the search results with no presumptions. As Joe Friday would say, "Just the facts, ma'am."

"The OS Files"
good site from V-Com summarizing a wide array of OS's and installation requirements.

Configuring Multi-Boot Personal Computers
not a "how-to", but an excellent and comprehensive primer from Nick Rozanski. A few minor errors in really old stuff (such as definitions of FAT, FAT16, and breaking the 32MB limit), but overall excellent--especially in the parts that are relevant.

Dual Booting With Vista
also not a brainless "how-to", but a nice exploration by Brian Stewart of the new Vista MBR and multiboot files.

Free Partition Managers
Comparitech's list of 7 modern alternatives to the legacy Ranish Partition Manager.

Boot Managers
brief review of some free boot managers.

Free Partition Imagers
nice summary of freeware disk and partitioning cloning and imaging software.

Guide to Norton Ghost
radified.com's comprehensive guide to using this popular partition imaging utility.

Introduction to cloning a Windows NT, Windows 2000, or Windows XP computer
Symantec's overview of cloning issues with Ghost.

How to use Sysprep with Ghost
sysprep can be used to reinitialize drive letters on cloned installations.

V-Com System Commander: multiboot installation instructions
in primary partitions only since V-Com claims Microsoft OS's cannot boot from logical partitions (though we know better).

XOSL: A Test Project
detailed step-by-step instructions for a triple-boot system using one disk and XOSL (but beware of an obscure bug that may affect Win98).

XOSL: Booting from logical partition
another method of moving a Win9x OS to a logical partition and booting from there

The Trombettworks Multi-boot
complex example using Ranish Partition Manager and non-standard partition table manipulation to enable more than 4 primary partitions.

Multibooting instructions from Microsoft (using NT/2000/XP boot loader, of course)
Multibooting in Windows XP Made Easy
How to Create a Multiple-Boot System in Windows XP
How to Multiple Boot Windows XP

More tips about the NT/2000/XP boot loader
Installing Win2000 after XP (from Doug Knox's excellent site)
Installing Win98/ME after XP (also from Doug Knox, but only if C is FAT/FAT32)
Dual-Booting Windows NT and DOS-Win95 When C Is NTFS
WinNT/Win95/DOS/Linux from the NT Boot Loader

Inside the Dell Utility Partition
my own exploration of the inner workings of the specialized dualboot capability built into recent Dell computers.

Inside the Dell PC Restore Partition
my own exploration of the inner workings of Dell's specialized recovery partition.

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author: Dan Goodell
last revised: 01/02/2009