Is anyone out there still using third-party boot managers? I’m researching dual-boot (and multi-boot) scenarios and I’m trying to work around the limitations in the Windows Vista boot manager and the Grub[*] and LILO alternatives included with Linux distros.
If you use a boot manager, which one is it, and why do you like it?
*Update: GRUB is actually an acronym, by the way, for GRand Unified Bootloader.
10 thoughts on “Boot managers”
Grub beats LILO hands down. The main benefit of Grub is that you don’t have to re-image the boot sector every time your Linux kernel changes, as you do with LILO. Grub has many other benefits you can read about here. Grub is a bit of a pain to install, but it’s wonderful in dual-boot systems; I have several dual-boot machines including my Sony laptop, and Grub handles them all very well. I like its menu system, its splash screens, its boot-parameter editing, etc., etc. It’s just all around more convenient to use than LILO and (best I can tell) more full-featured and Linux-friendly than the NT boot manager.
I’m using LILO, but only because that was the default that came with the Linux distro I chose.
Acronis OS Selector [http://www.acronis.com/homecomputing/products/diskdirector/multibooting.html] is being used on a 64-bit Workstation here at work … It sports a nice point & click interface which even my mum could use.
The gold standard back in the day was System Commander (http://www.v-com.com/product/System_Commander_Home.html), though I’ve long since stopped using it. I’d have confidence in BootIt NG as well (http://www.bootitng.com/bootitng.html).
Is one of the limitations of Vista’s boot manager that it doesn’t handle XP if you install it after Vista? Maybe it does, but I’d have to research how it’s done.
Rick: if you install XP after Vista, XP will overwrite Vista’s Master Boot Record with its own. You then have to boot Vista from DVD and select Repair to restore Vista’s MBR – setup should then detect the XP boot record and include XP in the boot menu.
It was possible to boot Linux from the XP boot manager – it involved setting LILO (when I did it) to install itself to the boot sector of the root partition, then use dd to copy that first sector to a file (I called it bootsect.lnx) in the root of the XP partition. You then created a line in boot.ini that was something like:
I think it should be possible to do something similar with Windows Vista’s bcdedit.
I work for a company who installs XP on custom speech devices, and we use WinPE to do recovery stuff (well, we would if we could get it to work right). I couldn’t find a bootloader that did what we wanted it to – don’t display any text, wait a second or two, looking for a shift key, and then boot to the second partition if the key is pressed, and first partition if it isn’t pressed.
So, I found some source, and modified it. It was pretty fun – I hadn’t realized how easy it would be, and how much code space is available in 512KB – people talk about it like it isn’t much, but I put in lots of descriptive strings, etc.
I used the install-mbr package from debian source. The only downside of it is that I couldn’t find a windows version of dd that could correctly insert my new bootloader into the bootsector, so I have to boot knoppix to install the bootloader.
Have you tried EasyBCD, it is freeware. I haven’t used it on a Vista dual boot yet but have used it on XP and 2K multi boot systems with various Linux distros and friends who have tried it on Vista ulti boot systems rate it.
I’m not using Vista yet, so perhaps this isn’t helpful, but I’ve been using PartitionMagic’s BootMagic for years. It’s simple, and it doesn’t do anything more than give a you a GUI to set the active partition. If you have a copy of PM 4 or higher, you have a copy of BootMagic.
If the Vista partition type and file system aren’t too dissimilar from XP’s, you may be able to use BootMagic. No clue whether Symantec is still offering and updating it since buying PowerQuest, however. No longer interested in their offerings.
Terabyte Unlimited sells, among other products, BootIt Next Generation. I’ve used their Image for DOS. Apart from a boring GUI, it’s excellent software, and I expect their boot menu will work just fine. Specifically supports Vista and all prior versions of Windows. Free trial will cost you nothing but your time to back up your system before checking it out.
Otherwise, Extended Operating System Loader might be an option, although it seems to have gone dark. No word on Vista there, but totally free.
I use BootIt Next Generation, too. It would be confusing for a novice to learn, but includes powerful partition management functions. All in all I consider it to be a very good value for the money.
I just read “Why does Linux hate me?” http://blogs.zdnet.com/Bott/?p=235 where you couldn’t install Linux on a computer using ATA drives connected to a HPT370 controller card. Don’t necessarily expect the partition tools in BootIt Next Generation to work correctly if you use a hard drive controller card either. Any drivers for the controller card won’t be loaded because you will be working outside any operating system.
In my case (my old BIOS doesn’t support > 137 GB drives), I can use the boot manager functions OK (I don’t have a bootable partition beyond 137 GB). However, I overwrote some partitions when I tried to format beyond 137 GB using BootIT NG. I should have known better than to try doing that! I wouldn’t expect Linux to work either, unless I knew I had the correct drivers loaded.
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