Dual-booting all versions of Windows and Linux

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Boot Managers & Disk Utilities

Last reviewed: March 2004

Utils for Dual-Boot, Multi-boot, Partitioning

Some are freeware; mostly they are commercial.

THPC has little/no experience of many of these utilities.

The comments made are mostly from the utility's own Web site.

Caution is advised when choosing any third-party utility that manipulates the boot sector, especially a free and unsupported utility - it may be great, but then it may trash your system. If starting from scratch (Formatting), then it would seem reasonable to try a free utility first.

Please read Dual-Boot Win9x/XP/2K/NT (read first) for an overview of Windows dual-booting.


Fdisk & Format:

Programs for Partitioning:

Fdisk & Format:

These are the tools that come with Windows.

Before you install your operating system, you must first create a primary partition (a bootable drive) on the hard disk on your computer, and then format a file system on that partition.

Fdisk is an MS-DOS-based tool used to prepare (partition) a hard disk. It will create a primary partition alone, or a primary and an extended partition (the extended partition can have one or more logical MS-DOS drives). The primary is marked as active to make it the bootable drive.

Format then gives those partitions/drives a file system. The file system, File Allocation Table or FAT, allows the hard disk to accept, store, and retrieve data. It describes the type of filing system used by that drive, and must be a FAT, or perhaps FAT32, for a Windows 9x/Me system.

They are solid performers. However, all data on the logical drive, or on the disk itself, is lost when they are used. That creates a problem for many users.

Easeus Partition Manager Home Edition, 8 MB, Home Edition is FREE

This is an excellent alternative to the well known PartitionMagic (next).

The free edition supports Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP 32 bit, and Windows Vista 32 bit, and there's free email support. Bootable CD/DVD or floppy, and 64-bit Windows are not available free.

It's a good utility for home users (and others!).

PartitionMagic, 40MB, $69.95

PartitionMagic is very well established. It allows you to create, repartition, resize, split, merge, delete, undelete, and convert partitions - all without destroying data.

PartitionMagic helps organize and protect your data, run multiple operating systems, convert file system types and fix partition table errors.

PartitionMagic 8.0 supports all major operating system platforms including: Windows XP, Windows 95/98, Windows Me, Windows 2000 Professional, NT 4.0 workstation, DOS.

PartitionMagic 5 was FREE with the June 2002 edition of PC Magazine (latest PM is ver. 8).
PartitionMagic 4 appears to be FREE at (not verified).

BootIt, 471KB, $29.95

BootIT has similar functions to PM. It's less expensive and very popular with home PC users.

The partitioning tools include fast non-destructive resizing, converting, creating, formatting, copying, moving, and deleting of partitions. The imaging feature allows you to create a compressed image of a partition, which you can quickly restore at a later time.

The included PDISK utility allows you to manage your partitions and has the ability to shrink a primary FAT, FAT32, or NTFS partition without any loss of data (perfect for those wanting to try another OS like Linux!).

Ranish Partition Manager, 165KB, v 2.37.12 (most users), v 2.40 (advanced users), Freeware
This is a popular (re)partitioning utility for MS-DOS, Win3.x, Win9x/Me, Win2K, Linux operating systems that does not destroy your data. It supports drives of up to 7.8 GB.

Options include: Boot manager, New partition creating, Activation of a partition, 31 bootable partitions, Saving and Restoring of the boot sector (MBR), Virus protection.

Partition Resizer, 98KB, v. 1.3.4, Freeware
A program to resize and move partitions without data loss (supports disks up to 2TB of size). It's a small DOS executable, which requires no installation.
DO NOT USE Partition Resizer v.1.3.3, or earlier, to move non-FAT partitions (NTFS, Linux, etc).

Features: Disks up to 2TB (2048GB) of size. Resize partitions in one step. Transparent extended partition resizing. Command line parameters.

BootPart, 25KB, Freeware
BootPart is an easy tool for adding one partition in the Windows NT multi boot menu (by samples, OS/2 boot manager or Linux partition). Bootpart 2.20 is compatible with Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Read the home page carefully!

mbr302 Freeware
Does not partition. Saves and Restores the Master Boot Record. Free DOS programs, and, that save, and restore, boot sectors (MBR). Strictly Advanced users.

Programs for Multi-Booting

BootIt, 471KB, $29.95

BootIt is partition and multi-boot manager with a powerful, sophisticated, and simple to use set of tools for partitioning, imaging, and booting your computer. It combines the features of several standalone products costing hundreds of dollars more.

The partitioning tools include fast non-destructive resizing, converting, creating, formatting, copying, moving, and deleting of partitions. The imaging feature allows you to create a compressed image of a partition, which you can quickly restore at a later time.

The included PDISK utility allows you to manage your partitions and has the ability to shrink a primary FAT, FAT32, or NTFS partition without any loss of data.

A complete set of multi-boot functions such as booting any partition on any hard drive, booting from the CD ROM drive, booting multiple operating systems from a single partition, and more is included with BootIt. Includes Install and Uninstall

There's a 30-day trial version.
Operating Systems Supported: MS-DOS, Win 3.1x, Win95, Win98/SE, WinMe, WinNT 3.x, WinNT 4.x, Windows2000, Windows XP, Unix, Linux, OS/2, OS/2 Warp, OS/2 Warp 4.

System Commander $49.95

Well known and much used.

Commander automatically detects any changes made to your PC since the last boot and updates its menus automatically to reflect those changes.

System Commander 2000's (SC2000) new OS Wizard makes it easier than ever to prepare your computer for your new operating system (OS). With its new look and feel, using the OS Wizard is a snap! Simply choose the OS you plan to install, and the OS Wizard will set up your system, automatically! Or, if you prefer a more hands on approach, you can override the OS Wizard's recommendations. It even includes our exclusive boot-time partitioning.

Without any other tools, SC2000 safely and automatically prepares your hard drive to accept your new OS while protecting everything already on your computer - data and other OSs. No drivers or resident memory are used, so there are no conflicts with any OS. When you first install SC2000, it automatically detects your existing OSs and includes them in the OS selection menu by name!

Supports: Any combination of IDE, EIDE or SCSI hard drives | FAT,FAT32, VFAT, NTFS, HPFS, Linux EXT2 and all x86 Unix file systems | Physical raid arrays

PartitionMagic 40MB, $69.95

PartitionMagic includes BootMagic - Effortlessly switch between multiple operating systems.

Safely run multiple operating systems on the same PC - Easily run multiple OSs on the same machine without compatibility problems. Password protect your boot process as well as change menu items and startup options for all your operating systems with native DOS and Windows configurations.

New Features (v.7):
Merge NTFS partitions, Support for Windows XP
Partition hard drives as large as 80 GB
Access and partition external USB drives
Undelete a deleted partition from rescue disks.

Organize and protect the information on your hard drive | Easy, step-by-step wizards help you perform partitioning tasks | Preview the effects of partitioning your hard drive before implementing anything | Safely manage multiple operating systems | Convert from one file system or partition type to another without losing data

Supports FAT, FAT32, NTFS, and Linux ext2/Swap file systems

PartitionMagic 5 was FREE with the June 2002 edition of PC Magazine (latest PM is ver. 8).
PartitionMagic 4 appears to be FREE at (not verified).

MasterBooter v 3.1, 65KB, Freeware

MasterBooter is a powerful utility which enables your computer to use multiple operating systems without changing hard disks or messing with boot floppies. You can choose among up to 3 operating systems at boot time (8 in the registered version). MasterBooter is compatible with many operating systems. Capability of booting from any hard disk's any partition

Supports DOS/Windows, Novell DOS, OpenDOS, IBM DOS, Windows95/98, OSR2, Windows NT, OS/2 v3.0 and v4.0, Linux, FreeBSD, SCO OpenServer, Solaris and even unknown operating systems.

Supports delay time at boot (1-99secs or infinite, 3 secs fixed in the shareware version). Supports system names up to 16 characters long. Supports password protecting an operating system. Supports hiding an operating system from the boot menu for best security (registered version).

Supports primary FAT and NTFS/HPFS partition hiding/unhiding (to avoid messing up other primary FAT partitions and to enable running DOS and Windows systems from a slave hard disk). Documentation in English, Hungarian and more languages.

A small utility to save your old partition table and boot sectors is included. Easy to use user interface, small resource requirement. MasterBooter doesn't need a separate partition or memory unlike other boot managers and TSRs.

SyMon, 47KB, Shareware (SyMon R2 is Freeware)

SyMon is a partition and boot manager that allows you to maintain up to 36 partitions on one hard drive and arrange up to 20 operating systems in these partitions.

Up to 36 simultaneous independent partitions with any file system, Up to 20 operating systems using any 4 of 36 partitions, Built-in fdisk for easy creating/editing/deleting of the partitions, Built-in Setup dialog for operating systems Multiple hard drive support, Full support of drives larger than 7.8 GB, Repair partition structure.

Supports: FAT16, FAT32, EXTENDED & LBA-modifications, QNX, Linux, ext2fs, NTFS, HPFS, OS/2.

VMware Trialware
VMware is not really multi-booting. VMware lets you run a 'virtual computer' in your computer, letting you install any operating system you choose. But it'll only work in NT or Windows XP/2000 and needs plenty of memory and CPU power.
It creates a virtual computer console on your PC and allows many OSs without having to reformat a drive partition or play around with dual boot settings. The virtual computer runs at about two-thirds the speed of your real computer.

XOSL, 437KB, Freeware
Extended Operating System Loader (XOSL) is a full-featured free boot manager, with a real, easy-to-use and full-blown graphical user interface.
Features: Up to 24 boot items, Partition hiding, Activate partitions, Automatic booting (with timeout), Auto boot last operating system, Password protection, Boot master boot record on any drive, Boot DOS/Windows 9x on any drive, Hotkey per boot item, Support for hard disks larger than 7.8 GB, Virus protection, Drive swapping, ...and more...
XOSL is known to support BeOS, MS-DOS, FreeDOS, Linux (with Lilo), Solaris, VxWorks 5.x, Windows 95/98, Windows NT/2000, ...and others...

BootStar $20
While computer is booting, freely selectable booting from any hard disk, floppy and from CD-ROM, Unlimited support of all operating and all file systems (as well as Windows 2000), Unique extension from 4 up to 15 primary partitions (operating systems), Several DOS / Windows Versions (95/98/Me/NT/2000) parallel on one or several hard disks, and others.


Ultimate Boot Disk, freeware

This is NOT a multi-boot software!

Ultimate Boot Disk is a good recovery/boot disk utility that also features a virus scanner and more. If you are in the situation of having to start your computer from a boot disk, you need as much help as you can get.

The Ultimate Boot Disk utility will give you an extra boost by including more information than you would otherwise have using Windows boot disk. With it, you can restore your system files, edit your registry, and identify system hardware.

You can also save your BIOS settings, and save or restore the master boot records.

Operating System(s): Win 9x, Win Me, Win 2000, Win NT, (Win XP - ?).


Freeware Win9x/Me Dual-Boot & Multi-Boot Utilities
AddAWins   freeware from THPC

This free utility allow you to dual-boot, or multi-boot, between a number of different, or the same, versions of Windows 9x/Me, all on the same computer.

The utility function by saving the current boot files (and other important files) from the root of C: and replacing them with those for the requested Win9x/Me. It does not interfere with the boot sector (MBR or boot file) - all versions of Win9x/Me can use the same FAT boot sector.

All Windows boot from the C: drive (the DOS boot sector) and then run the requested Win9x/Me from wherever it's installed. The same FAT must be used for each Win9x/Me installed. It's recommended that different versions should be installed on different logical drives - the user decides where.

A genuine Win9x boot disk is essential. This boot disk is necessary for setting up for another Windows, and on occasions when WinMe is the active Windows.

Go to Dual-Boot Win9x + Win9x first - it's essential reading.

Use AddAWins to multi-boot up to six Windows 9xs from different drives - freeware.

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