Dual booting with NTLDR?

14Sep06

I was setting up my new harddisk with Linux (Slackware if you must know =) the other day.. The installation went fine.. the updating went fine.. Then came the part where I made Windows recognise my Linux HDD and boot it accordingly.

I chose the NTLDR method over the install-GRUB/LILO-to-MBR route as I’ve heard Windows really, really likes to keep its MBR intact. 😉 Either way, I thought it would be the easiest thing in the entire install. I’ve done this a few times before and it’s gone nice and smooth all the other times before.

I used BootPart to copy the bootsector from my Linux install ($ dd if=/dev/hdb1 of=boot.lnx bs=512 count=1would have worked just as well actually, with the proper substitutions) and promptly added it as an entry in boot.ini. One reboot later.. and..

"Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt"
system32\hal.dll
Please re-install the above file.

Huh?

Now this was an error I just saw a days earlier when a friend was trying to install Ubuntu onto his laptop. At that time I thought he must’ve done something wrong seeing as that was his first time installing Linux to a system. But me too?

So I began the usual process of Google-test-reboot…and everything I tried didn’t work.

And I mean EVERYTHING.

And now, it was the day before I was schedule to leave for Sweden for a year.. and it was really frustrating not being able to get the system up and running before I left. So through the night I struggled/Googled, foregoing sleep.

And just as I was about to give up at 8am the next day.. I came across a page with the solution (though I’m sorry for the life of me I can’t remember which page it was). It wasn’t a big highlight though.. just a small mention.

The solution?

The bootsector file has to be in DOS 8.3 format

Just that. 8.3. ARGH.

All through the night I was trying filenames like bootslack.bin, bootlinux.bin and the like and nothing worked. As you can see, I was about one letter over the limit, which makes it all the more irritating.

Some notes
==========

  • I didn’t go in to the methods of how to dual boot with NTLDR here though, because there are more than enough resources on the web for that. Simply Google for “dual boot NTLDR”. The only problem seems to be that not many sites mention the DOS 8.3 trap. (Reasons(?) below)
  • From what I can tell, this issue only occurs on FAT32 system (ie. your Windows partition is formatted as FAT32, not NTFS). I have the same setup with boot.inion another machine of mine with Windows on NTFS and I did not experience this problem, which leads me to conclude as above. This is, of course, not absolute conclusive proof, just personal experience.

Hope this will help someone and prevent them from spending entire nights on this obscure (in my opinion) issue. If you know anything about this issue, please do leave a comment =)

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