Originally Published: Monday, 24 January 2000 Author: Scott Nipp
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Dual Boot Flexibility

Linux is a wonderful operating system that is well known for being flexible. This flexibility extends to its ability to support running multiple operating systems on one machine. This ability is commonly referred to as dual booting. Dual booting allows an individual to experience the best of both worlds when it comes to operating system selection. Linux uses a program called Lilo to provide this flexibility....

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Linux is a wonderful operating system that is well known for being flexible. This flexibility extends to its ability to support running multiple operating systems on one machine. This ability is commonly referred to as dual booting. Dual booting allows an individual to experience the best of both worlds when it comes to operating system selection. Linux uses a program called Lilo to provide this flexibility.

Lilo provides you with the ability to select from any installed operating system when you start the computer. This allows new users to maintain their existing Windows platform, while everyone can benefit from the ability to simply reboot their system in order to run their favorite Windows applications. Linux has an incredibly wide variety of applications, but there are times when you need a specific application, game, or utility that simply is not available under Linux at this time, and Lilo makes this very easy.

Lilo offers support for many operating systems including all versions of Windows, other commercial Unix variants such as Solaris or SCO, other alternative operating systems such as BeOS and FreeBSD, and more. Provided you have adequate disk space for these operating systems, Lilo can make it very simple to run all of your favorite operating systems on the same machine.

Lilo (Linux Loader) is a simple program that functions to allow a user to select which operating system to start when a computer boots. Lilo has the ability to support many different operating systems, and once configured it is extremely simple to use. When you boot your computer you will be provided with a Lilo prompt at which you enter the label, assigned in the configuration file, of the operating system you wish to run.

The Lilo configuration file (/etc/lilo.conf) is a very straightforward file in which you specify the partition from which to boot each operating system, assign these various operating systems a label, and a few other options. This file is a simple text file that you can edit with the text editor of your choice. Once you have setup the lilo.conf file properly you will then run a program called /sbin/lilo. This program reads the lilo.conf file and writes the necessary boot information to the boot block of the hard drive. The information written to the boot block actually provides you the Lilo prompt and choices that you configured in the lilo.conf file. It is important to remember that any changes you make will not take affect until you run /sbin/lilo. Many Linux distributions make this easier for you by providing a graphical Lilo configuration utility.

Lilo is the most important element of dual boot functionality, but not the only one. The other big issue of booting multiple operating systems is the ability to access files across the different operating systems. The Linux kernel supports a large number of file systems that allows you to read and write data from most other filesystems. This filesystem compatibility allows you to access files in your Windows or Solaris partitions from within Linux. This ability may seem trivial to some, but is actually extremely convenient for most people.

The ability to support booting various operating systems is just one more example of the flexible nature of Linux. This flexibility should make Linux that much more attractive to people who have been curious but hesitant about Linux. Keep your Windows or OS/2, while learning and enjoying the benefits of Linux. Linux still has a long way to go for many people before becoming the only operating system on their machine, and dual booting provides a practical interim solution. For now many will choose to dual boot, but some day...

Scott Nipp is a Technical Solutions Consultant at Sprint Paranet. He spends his time there fighting the good fight, advocating Linux to his managers and customers.





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