(how to) Multiboot (SuSE)Linux and Windows

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First, I have to give credit where it's due... I found the original of this post at www.linuxusers.org. Also, there is a link inside the post that will link you to the absolute original. The bulk of my work on this post was verifying that it would work on some of the "wal-mart special" external hard drives IE: Maxtor and Seagate external enclosures.

These were tested using SuSE 10.1 x86_64 on the following computer:


AMD64X2 3800+ (OC 10%)

2 Gb Corsair XMS DDR 400

NVidia 6800 Ultra 256Mb

Linksys Wireless WMP54G

Sony (also Wal-Mart Special) DVD-RW

WDC SATA150 7200RPM 120Gb (Internal)

And last but not least the above External HDD's

My additions will be enclosed in {*}

And on to the post...

OS: SuSE 10.0

Computer: Dell Latitude D610 (Intel 815 Graphics) {It will also work on a desktop}

Boot Device: External USB 2.0 2.5? Hard Drive with Enclosure (Adaptec ACS-120 & 40 GB Hitachi 2.5" Drive)Goal: Boot SuSE 10.0 Linux from External 2.5? USB 2.0 Hard Drive Enclosure

This information is based on instructions I found on the Internet about making an external USB 2.0 drive enclosure bootable while leaving the internal hard drive, per-loaded with Windows XP in its original unaltered condition. I do not take credit for all of the information listed in this document. I have added information as it pertains to loading SuSE 10.0 using a Dell Latitude D610 Laptop computer. See also the following html page for more good information about SuSE 10.0: www.thejemreport.com/mambo/content/view/178/42/

I highly recommended you consider using the Adaptec ACS-120 External USB 2.0 2.5" Hard Drive enclos{as I said earlier, can use the maxtor and seagate enclosures too}. I found that at least one other cheaper brand enclosure did not want to boot, even though it worked fine when just attaching a USB drive to an already loaded copy of Windows or Linux. You could waste a lot of time trying to boot a USB drive that simply will not boot from the external USB drive enclosure you have purchased. Here are my 12 steps to success.

Step 1: Backup your C: Windows hard drive to another USB external drive (not the drive you are going to load Linux on. I suggest you use Norton Ghost 9 or 10. Both worked great for me. If, you do not back up your internal hard drive, be aware that if you fail to stop GRUB from loading on the Laptop internal IDE hard drive, your copy of Windows may be GONE! Be Ye for WARNED{I didn't do this step but I'll say more about this in a bit}

Step 2: Setup the correct boot order in the Dell BIOS. Restart the Laptop, and Press F2 to go into BIOS setup. Go to the boot setup and press enter. Use the up and down arrow keys to highlight the USB device and use the 'U' key (Up) or 'D' key (Down) to place the device where you want it. I setup the floppy first, the CD-ROM second, the USB device third and the IDE hard drive forth. Other listed devices can exist in any order below the IDE hard drive. Press enter when done and press Escape to exit and save your change{I stopped using floppy discs a long time ago so my boot priority is: 1)CD-ROM 2)HDD 3 and 4 disabled}

Step 3: Plug-in your USB hard drive into any USB port on the computer (do not use an external hub). If you are using a docking station, use one of the built-in USB ports on the side of the Laptop computer. Do not use a Docking Station USB port. Insert the first SuSE 10.0 disk in the CD-ROM drive. Since the CD-ROM is listed first in the boot order, it should boot up first. Either turn on or restart your computer. I used the five CD-ROM SuSE 10 disk set and did not use the single DV{I don't know about this one because my laptop is marked "Linux only"... however, since I used my desktop, any USB port works. Unlike this guy, I used the DVD (the paid for version of SuSE comes with 1 DVD for X86_64 and 5 CDs for 32-Bit) so thats another thing that works. Also, while setting up partitions, you will need a Linux Swap (of course) and the rest of your HDD will be a Linux EXT3 format to mount at "/"}

Step 4: Boot from the first SuSE 10.0 Disk and answer the first questions as you wish until you get to the point just before the install. You need to select the Expert tab and pick the Boot Loader. Do Not Install Grub on your local hard drive (Master MBR) which is the default! Doing so could render your copy of Windows XP unbootable. I selected the second option to load to /Dev/Sdb2. I also picked the Grub option to load the generic boot code in the MBR and left the other two options selecte{I have absolutely NO CLUE why he did this... I installed (through a series of two installs) the GRUB bootloader on BOTH the internal and external drives just to be sure. My advice here is NOT TO USE LILO... not because I dont like it, but because for some obscure reason, it doesnt like the external drive.}

Step 5: Also, before you begin the install, this is your opportunity to select other software from the lists by picking the software setting on either Tab. I suggest you add games, mobile computing and expert options. Read through the list and watch your used disk space to make sure you have lots of room left over. I used the KDE desktop as I found it was able to print to Windows shared printers with little trouble and in general more of the installed applications seemed to work properly. A typical healy load that does not include all files will be near 6 gigabyte{I usually select KDE, Office, Multimedia, Games, and a few other random programs and that fills about 2Gb taking 15 minutes to install)}

Step 6: Let the Install begin. The first disk takes between 10 and 25 minutes to complete depending on the speed of your hard drive and the number programs you are loading. Do not leave the front of your monitor, but watch the load progress. This is because SuSE 10.0 reboots the computer after loading the first disk and the reboot will not work properly until you make more changes to your USB load. Further, you could end up either starting over loading Linux for no reason or locked up on your new USB drive, sitting there not doing anythin{I don't know how my version of SuSE differs from his but my version has an automatic HDD boot option after 10 secs after the CD bootloader... if you understand my explanation.}

Step 7: Allow the SuSE install Disk one to reboot your computer after the loading of SuSE disk one is complete. Keep Disk 1 of SuSE 10.0 in your CD-ROM drive. Because you have setup the CD-ROM drive to boot before the External USB drive, the first SuSE 10.0 install disk will boot up again. When you get to the first SuSE menu, selectRescue Linux[/b] operation. SuSE will then load the text based Linux system into a RAM drive that can be used to modify you newly loaded USB external hard driv{VERY IMPORTANT STEP}

Step 8: When you finally get to the Linux Terminal text based prompt enter the name 'root' and press enter. I assume you used the default partitioning of the external USB drive. Now you need to get to the Root of the Linux RAM disk file system and, mount your USB drive and modify your kernel text file to load USB drivers. Type in the following commands without the single quotes and press enter at the end of each line.

'cd ..'

'mkdir /mnt/sysimage'

'mount /dev/sdb2 /mnt/sysimage'

'chroot /mnt/sysimage'

What you just did was create a folder called /mnt/sysimage in your present RAM drive created by the SuSE 10.0 boot disk rescue mode. You then mounted the external USB hard drive partition number 2 into Linux's unified file system. Last, you changed the Root folder to your external USB drive Linux folders. When you do a DIR terminal command now, it will look the same as before you entered all of the above commands, but you are looking at your USB drive instead. It is important to remember the four above steps. You can use them anytime you need to modify a non-working copy of Linux using the Number one Linux 10.0 boot disk.

Step 9: Next, you need to edit the Kernel Text file to allow the loading of USB drivers at boot time by your Linux Kernel after Grub is done. USB drivers are already being loaded by Linux latter, but you need them to load during startup. I assume they are left out here to speed up the loading of Linux from an internal IDE hard drive.

You can use the Text Editor 'VI' which is VERY simple in nature. When you start VI, you can delete characters, but you can not add them, so press the 'INSERT' key to allow adding and removing characters as needed. You can move your cursor any where around the fiDo Not Press Enter unless you really want another line. Press the 'ESCAPE' key to exit the insert mode so you can save the file after doing an edit. Then you press ':wq' which means Command:Write file and Quit. Enter the following terminal command{<< Don't do the crossed out stuff until you see it again} :

'vi /etc/sysconfig/kernel'

Find the line that starts with INITRD_MODULES=? and you want to insert the following items and a space each after the command reiserfs.






It might look something like this when done:

INTRD_MODULES=?reiserfs ehci-hcd ohci-hcd uhci-hcd usb-storage sd_mod?

Other commands may exist before reiserfs and that is OK, just leave them alone. If you see INTRD_MODULES=?? you are most likely not editing the right file. If you can't find kernel, you have not really mounted your external hard dri{Here's where that crossed out stuff goes}tuff goes} Press the 'ESCAPE' key to exit the insert mode so you can save the file after doing an edit. Then you press ':wq' which means Command:Write file and Quit. Enter the following terminal command

Step 10: We need to make the INITRD disk image file to use at boot time based on the items we have in the Kernel Text file. We use the command mkintrd which is defined as:


mkinitrd, creates an initial image used by the kernel for preloading the block device modules (such as IDE, SCSI or RAID) which are needed to access the root file system. mkinitrd automatically loads file system modules (such as ext3 and jbd), IDE modules, all scsi_host adapter entries in /etc/modprobe.conf, and raid modules if the system's root partition is on raid, which makes it simple to build and use kernels using modular device drivers.

Any module options specified in /etc/modprobe.conf are passed to the modules as they are loaded by the initial ram disk.

The root file system used by the kernel is specified in the boot configuration file, as always. The traditional root=/dev/hda1 style device specification is allowed. If a label is used, as in root=LABEL=rootPart the initrd will search all available devices for an ext2 or ext3 file system with the appropriate label, and mount that device as the root file system.


Issue the follo{Just after you exit VI editor}VI editor}

'mount -tproc none /proc'


If you get an error that /proc is already loaded, you forgot to enter the CHROOT command in the instructions in Step 8 above. You should see the new USB commands you entered go by the screen in a small blaze of text. If you get any errors at all, you may have skipped a step or misspelled something.

Step 11: OK, now is time for the acid test. Remove your SuSE 10.0 Boot disk one from the CD-ROM drive and hit Ctrl-Alt-Del and restart your computer. If you did it right, SuSE 10 will load from the USB hard drive and continue on with loading, asking for disks two through five. If it does, you have {WOOHOO!!}#33;!}

Step 12: OK, so you might want to boot to Windows XP while your USB 2.0 External Hard Drive is attached. I found that the default Windows load created by the SuSE 10.0 installation did not work for me. I found that the following entries in the file /boot/grub/menu.lst wo{Once again, I don't know why he didmy machinemy machine boots either just fine through GRUB; this is why I installed the bootloader on both HDDs. BTW when GRUB loads, unless you changed it, you should see:

SuSE Linux 10.1


SuSE Linux(FailSafe)

You have approximately 10 seconds to choose.}o choose.}

###Don't change this comment - YaST2 identifier: Original name: windows###

title Windows XP

map (hd0) (hd1)

map (hd1) (hd0)

rootnoverify (hd1,0)

chainloader +1


Good luck. You can send your comments to this{Me or the guy that wrote either version before me (you can find them at the above links)}ve links)}

Thank You,

Jame{And Patrick H. Lunn}k H. Lunn}

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Thanks for this, especialy the usb hard drive. I have been wantng to do this for some time now. No problem installing SUSE here but I could never get past kernel panic when booting. I found that there were some kernel moduls needed to run from usb but put it on the back burner. I have an iogear 80 gig portable drive that fits in my shirt pocket and I can't eait to try this again. :cool:

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What about if I want to install ubuntu? Will the steeps be the same or similar?

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I'm sure the steeps :) are the same... but the steps should be very similar. I haven't had any experience with either *buntu but the boot settings (though graphically different) are, as I understand from the *buntu sites, still either LILO or GRUB bootloaders. You may need to check and see if VI editor is available with your distro, otherwise another linux editor will always do, granted you still make the same changes.

Also, I found it difficult after the installations to get into Windows Safe Mode. Here is my boot.ini file FOR XP HOME (if you plan on changing yours, ensure that you remove the read-only option from the file properties before saving it and you have the correct OS names and files for yours)

[boot loader]



[operating systems]

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition" /noexecute=optin /fastdetect /usepmtimer

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition Safe Mode" /fastdetect /safeboot:network

This will allow you to select either Regular or Safe Modes after you select Windows in the Linux bootloader (note: you will be required to make a selection every time you get into windows). Also, you can skip loading a linux bootloader altogether and just use the graphicless textfull Windows Loader(... eeww :) ) by adding your linux distros into the windows boot.ini. I'll skip that as there are other threads regarding that topic (that and I can't remember how).

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Brian M.

Cool guide - this should save a few people having to reinstall windows when *trying* to install linux :p

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  • 4 weeks later...


I'm a brand new linux fan (having seen a coworker with 10.1 on his machine).

I'm going to dive in head-first with an external HDD install as I don't have room on my laptop PC.

I had a few questions for the creator of the article on some technical aspects.


The original comments mentioned Rescue Linux on a restart of CD1.

I'm DL'ing the DVD install iso for install and wondered if this would occur on the DVD as on CD.


I'm thinking the reason he mentioned not to install GRUB on the laptop is Dell's preinstalled partitions may be screwed up by the GRUB install. Not sure about that as I'm a brand new Suse newb.


Do you have the Win XP Pro Safe Mode info as you have the Home Safe Mode info?


I'm thinking that the reason he did the extra work at the end and yours worked fine is probably the difference between 10.0 and 10.1. At least I'm hoping that's what it is for my install...

Thank you for your help!

Jake P.

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1) yes the dvd installer also asks whether you would like to fresh install, rescue install or boot from hdd

2) if you are new to linux, as you will see in most places, "get dirty, then get clean" as it were. try things out but always remember to back your system up before you do anything (im speaking from experience here as i deleted 6 months of quicken transactions on my last windows install). however, the MBL is usually kept on the first few kbs on the main hdd so you wont "screw up" your partitions, only your bootloader. if this happens, there are a few *howtos on this site that explain how to make it all better.

3) im pretty sure that the text of the bootloaders (that would be surrounded by "*") is the only thing that changes, however, as stated, i use home pretty exclusively (cause its cheaper) and thats what i know. my advice would be to check your windows bootloader prior to starting your linux adventure... just in case. (i added this part after looking back at the loaders>>>) the only concern is that your partition identifier

eg: multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)...

must be correct or you might try to load windows from your external. this is also how you would load in linux to your windows bootloader (it would be easier to find it on the windows *howtos)

4) good call, but then again, how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?

good luck and remember to have fun cause once you stop having fun with it you start acting like the angry german kid that plays unreal and you stop liking linux lol

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  • 2 months later...
mohit parkash

Thanks the infomation u provide is Gr8.I m searching for this for a long time.I m using UBUNTU .Should i do the same or amke some changes. :rolleyes:

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Thanks the infomation u provide is Gr8.I m searching for this for a long time.I m using UBUNTU .Should i do the same or amke some changes. :rolleyes:

same post... scroll up. im getting more and more requests for ubuntu so i might just run a test one of these days. i'll report back any findings.

I'm sure the steeps :) are the same... but the steps should be very similar. I haven't had any experience with either *buntu but the boot settings (though graphically different) are, as I understand from the *buntu sites, still either LILO or GRUB bootloaders. You may need to check and see if VI editor is available with your distro, otherwise another linux editor will always do, granted you still make the same changes.

Also, I found it difficult after the installations to get into Windows Safe Mode. Here is my boot.ini file FOR

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  • 2 months later...

I am installing on a USB Drive 12GB in size with 2 partitions one as "/" (ext3 file system) and the other one as "swap"

I am following all the steps in this HOW TO word for word so I think am not doing anything wrong.

Edited by firebelly
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