After writing my last quad-boot entry, I’ve gained quite a bit of experience in troubleshooting and sorting out multi-boot installs so I thought I’d re-write my old quad-boot blog to be slightly more like an informative guide rather than a story, and also downgrading it to just cover tri-booting, as I haven’t gotten around to replacing Apple’s OS X Leopard with Sun’s OpenSolaris yet.
This guide will use Fedora 8 as the Linux distribution, live CDs are available in both Gnome and KDE flavours for those of you who want to try it before actually touching your hard drive’s partition layout. I would recommend installing from the Fedora Install DVD as from experience, the live CD misses out several packages – make and gcc among others – by default that make life a lot easier after installation.
The other operating systems I’ll be dealing with are Windows XP Media Center Edition and Windows Vista Business.
Step One – Partitioning
My desktop PC’s hard drive layout consists of one 200Gb drive for the operating systems and one 320Gb NTFS drive as a central data area, but I’ll assume that you’re dealing with a single drive. Partition whatever space you have into three sections – four if you want a central data area. Although Windows is a lot more space-hungry than Linux, I gave each system an equal amount of space.
You can use whatever tools are available to you to create your partition layout. Both XP and Vista partitions should be NTFS and it’s best to either leave the Linux partition and format this using the install disc. If you’re creating a central data area to use between operating systems, use the FAT32 file system as while Linux can read/write to NTFS, it’s not proven with large file sizes – I use NTFS for my 320Gb data drive purely because FAT32 cannot cope with that size without splitting into separate partitions – something I wanted to avoid.
Step Two – Installing Fedora
Not much instruction is needed at this point. The Fedora Installation Guide is an excellent tutorial through the process. You can install GRUB – the Linux bootloader – to the drive to get the system installed, booting and stable, although booting to Linux will be configured via a GUI utility in Vista later on.
The general guide for creating a swap partition is to use double the amount of RAM you have in your system. My PC has 2Gb of RAM, so I partitioned off 4Gb and set this to be my swap space.
Step Three – Installing Windows
I’ll deal with both Windows systems in the same step here because they’re both relatively similar. You’ll have to do some partition trickery before installation so that Windows assigns the correct drive letters and installs each version in ignorance of anything else on the system.
You can do this via pretty much any partition manager, but I used GParted as included on the Fedora and Ubuntu LiveCDs – or you can use the dedicated 50Mb GParted LiveCD. Select the XP partition, right-click on it and select Manage Flags. Put a tick next to the “hidden” flag and close the window.
Now simply place the XP installation CD in the drive, fire up the installer and install as normal. Just remember to make sure you’re installing to the right partition on your drive. When you’ve installed and can boot to XP, reboot to GParted and swap the “hidden” flags. You can then install Vista as normal.
Step Four – Pulling It All Together
You should now have three working operating systems on your hard drive, but you can only boot to Vista. Head over and download the free EasyBCD program from NeoSmart and install it on Vista. You can then use that to create the necessary boot menu options for each system. EasyBCD includes GRUB and installs it on your Vista partition, so you don’t need GRUB on the Linux partition. Clever eh?
After you’ve created the boot menu options, reboot into each system once to test. You should now have a working tri-boot system – congratulations! If anything goes wrong or if you’ve got any questions, by all means e-mail me and I’ll do my best to help. If you’re using Fedora as your Linux distribution, head over to the Fedora forums and register.
Hopefully this is more of an informative guide rather than a narrative guide and you’ve found it helpful. If you have (or even if you haven’t), feel free to leave a comment!