In this section we will cover the process of taking a computer with a completely blank hard drive, installing the operating systems of your choice, and creating a multi-boot menu with System Commander 2000. This process should only be used when you want to set up a brand-new computer or if you want to erase your current hard drive (because it is beyond salvation) for the purpose of setting up a multi-boot environment. If you already have the basic setup (System Commander and several operating systems installed) and just need to reinstall an operating system or create/restore a drive image, skip to the appropriate chapter later in this guide.
What Is The State Of Affairs On Your Hard Drive?
Before you even think about installing anything, you need to figure out the current state of affairs on your hard drive, and come up with a partitioning scheme. Getting organized, thinking it out and planning the installation before starting out will save you a lot of potential problems in the future.
Make A Battle Plan
After removing all existing partitions and applying the changes, think about how you’re going to lay out the drive. Ask these questions:
The following table shows the partitions layout scheme that we will use.
Table 1: Partitions Layout Scheme
|Partition 1||Partition 2||Partition 3||Partition 4|
|Operating System||MS-DOS 6.22||Windows NT 4||Windows 98||Windows 2000|
Order of Installation
The order of installation is important. The first partition must be a primary FAT partition under 2 GigaBytes (GB). On this partition you will install MS-DOS 6.22, install System Commander (the software that makes this multi-boot environment possible), store any drive images of each operating system (OS) you’ll create later, and install additional tools such as Drive Image and Partition Magic. That way everything is organized in one spot at the beginning of the drive. The reason for the odd size of 1,950 MegaBytes (MB) for the first partition, is that the second partition contains Windows NT 4, which needs to be installed in a partition that starts within the first 2 GB of the physical hard drive. If you installed NT 4 on a partition that starts after the first 2 GB of the physical drive, you could not boot into NT 4. Windows 98 (Win 98) and Windows 2000 (Win 2K) do not have this limitation and therefore can be installed pretty much anywhere on the drive.
Choosing a File System
Choosing a file system for each OS is as important as the order of installation because not every OS supports each file system. The following table explains what OS supports what file system.
Table 2: File Systems
|Operating System||Supported File Systems|
|Windows 95 and 95A||FAT|
|Windows 95B and 95C||FAT, FAT32|
|Windows 98 and 98 Second Edition||FAT, FAT32|
|Windows NT 4||FAT, NTFS4, NTFS5 (SP4 or higher only!)|
|Windows 2000||FAT, FAT32, NTFS4, NTFS5|
Table 3: Recommended File Systems
|Partition||File System Choice(s)|
|Windows NT 4||NTFS|
Table 3 shows our recommended file systems for each OS, but if you require a particular file system other than recommended, select as needed from the file systems available in Table 3. Our recommendation for MS-DOS partitions is FAT, which is the only choice you have. For your NT 4 partition, you want to choose NTFS because it is superior to FAT in many ways. For your Windows 98 partition, you want to choose FAT32 because it is more efficient than FAT. For your Windows 2000 partition, you want to choose NTFS because it is superior to FAT in many ways. If you’re interested in more detail about the different Windows file systems and their pros and cons, go to: howto/filesystems1.html
There are three different types of partitions: primary, extended, and logical. All Microsoft operating systems need to be installed into a primary partition because they require being in a bootable/active partition, and primary partitions are the only type of partition that can be set active and made bootable. Due to an old legacy limitation of the Master Boot Record (MBR), any physical hard drive can contain up to 4 primary partitions only, which limits the number of operating systems in Table 1’s Partition Layout scheme to 4. Setting up partitions this way is essential to how System Commander, the software you’ll use later to choose which OS to boot, makes multi-booting possible. Let’s look at how the boot process normally works with only one operating system.
Note: There are actually ways to boot Microsoft operating systems from a logical partition. The process is a little bit more involved though, and only recommended for the more advanced user. Since this article is geared towards users that are relatively new to multi-booting, we won’t go into detail about this topic here.
When you turn on the PC, the BIOS runs its checks and then reads the first sector of the first hard drive, which contains the MBR. The MBR contains a table of the partitions of the drive and the initial boot program. This program knows on what partition to find the OS and how to boot it.
System Commander replaces the initial boot program by installing its own boot program. System Commander’s boot program can then load the actual System Commander program and present you with a menu. System Commander’s menu allows you to select from the installed OSs.
When you select your OS to boot, System Commander sets active the primary partition on which the OS of choice is installed. Since only primary partitions can be set active and made bootable, any partition you might want to boot from needs to be a primary one.
Another detail to remember is that Partition Magic, the tool we use to create all the primary partitions, hides all inactive (non-bootable) primary partitions. When those other partitions are hidden, they automatically become invisible to the OS you’re booting. If you look at the available drives after booting your OS, you’ll notice that only the partition you selected (plus any floppy and/or CD-ROM drives) show up but none of the other partitions with the other OSs on them.
Our third partition type, extended partitions, is a container for logical partitions. If you want to create more than 4 partitions on your drive, one of the first four partitions you create must be an extended partition. Inside this extended partition you can then create up to 24 logical partitions. The limitation of 24 partitions comes from the fact that hard drive letters begin with C: and the alphabet contains 26 letters.
The first partition needs to be smaller than 2 GB (for the reasons explained earlier in “Order of Installation,” that’s why the 1,950 MB size was chosen).
If you plan to install Windows NT 4, it needs to go into the second partition. To successfully install NT 4, you need to know about another limitation. The maximum size of a bootable partition to install NT 4 on is 7.8 GB again due to some legacy BIOS limitations of addressing hard drives by Cylinder/Head/Sector. Therefore be sure to keep the size of your NT 4 partition under 7.8 GB.
Another limitation you should be aware of just in case you are thinking about using the FAT file system is that FAT (also known as FAT16) can only handle partitions up to 2 GB in size. If you’re interested in the technical explanation of this limitation, check out this article: howto/fat1.html
The size of the Windows 98 and Windows 2000 partition is pretty much up to you as both file systems, FAT32 and NTFS5, support disk sizes of tons o’ Gigs. The Table 1: Partition Layout Scheme example is for a 9 GB drive. If your drive is bigger or smaller, you probably want to adjust the partition sizes accordingly, as long as you keep the limitations explained earlier in mind.
When you choose the size of your partition keep in mind that a Windows installation can take roughly between 100 and 700 MB, depending on the version and what options you choose. You also want to leave some room for the swap file and any applications you want to install, therefore you should make your partitions at least 1 GB/1,000MB or bigger.