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January 25, 2001
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Article Index

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Some Explanations

Advantages of Multi-Booting

How to Triple-Boot

Partitioning Operations

  • Partitioning Tools
  • Example Partitioning Procedure
  • A Word of Caution

1 - 2 - 3 Go!


Resources & Links

Triple-Boot Caldera OpenLinux, Red Hat Linux, & MS Windows for Best of Three Worlds

Mike Angelo -- 31 January 2001(c)

(Editor's Note: Subsequent to publishing this article, we have removed our recommendations of Caldera and SCO products. Currently we recommend the Mandrake and SUSE Linux Distributions. December 25, 2004.)

Why settle for a dual-boot compuer system when with just a little more effort you can have a triple-boot system? Our January 1, 2001 article, Dual-Boot Linux & Windows to Get the Best of Both Operating System Worlds, discusses (1) creating a second primary partition in which to install Caldera OpenLinux on a PC running Windows 98 SE and (2) using a boot manager to select an OS at system start-up or re-start.

Today we add the Red Hat 7 Linux distribution as a third boot-option to the existing dual-boot system created in the January 1 Dual-Boot article. A triple-boot PC with Caldera OpenLinux, Red Hat Linux, and Windows should be pretty darn slick.

Once you have your triple-boot system completed, you will be able to choose whether to boot into Caldera OpenLinux, Red Hat Linux, or Windows 98 whenever you boot or reboot your triple-boot PC.

Some Explanations

While MS Windows and Linux are different operating systems (OSs), Caldera OpenLinux and Red Hat Linux are different distributions of the Linux OS. However, for the purposes of discussing multi-boot scenarios here today, different Linux distributions are referred to as different OSs. That's done in part because by giving each Linux distribution its own separate root partition and boot identity, it is in effect treated here as a separate OS.

In a dual-boot or triple-boot set-up, you cannot run two or three of the OSs at the very same time. Each time you start your computer you must chose to run just one of the OSs for that session. If you want to run one of the other OSs, you must reboot the computer and select that other OS for the next session.

There are ways to run several OSs at the same time. That's another story, however.

Advantages of Multi-Booting

One advantage of a triple-boot computer system is that you can run three operating systems on just one computer. Moreover, you do not have to uninstall one OS and install another OS each time you want to change which operating system you are running on that one computer. Although, you can run only one OS at a time.

Another advantage of such a triple-boot system is that you can configure your system so that all three OSs (Caldera OpenLinux, Red Hat Linux, or Windows, for example) have access to the same data directories and files. But, that is another story.

Multi-booting is handy if you like to, or need to, work with beta and developer versions of OSs. For example you can run a proven, stable version of the Linux kernel in one boot option and an in-development version in another boot option.

How to Triple-Boot

The i86 architecture PC allows four partitions -- either four primary partitions or three primary partitions and an extended partition. Usually most PCs are configured with a primary partition and an extended partition. That means that you likely have the capability to create easily a second and a third primary partition on your PC.

In the Dual-Boot article, a second primary partition was created and used for a Caldera OpenLinux installation. So as with the system in the Dual-Boot article, if you already have a dual-boot system, you have the capability to create a third primary partition.

As long as the opportunity to create a third primary partition and install a third operating system (OS) in that third primary partition exits, you might as well seize upon that opportunity. So let's add the very popular Red Hat 7 Linux distribution to the existing OpenLinux-Windows dual-boot scenario created in our Dual-Boot article.

Of course, you just as easily could use the third primary partition to add another Microsoft (MS) Windows OS such as Windows 2000 or Windows ME to the existing OpenLinux-Windows 98 SE boot. If you prefer to do that, just create the third primary partition as a Windows file system partition instead of as a Linux file system partition.

The first part of adding Red Hat 7 as a third boot is creating a Linux Ext2 partition and a Linux Swap partition for Red Hat 7. If you already have read our Dual-Boot article you are ready to do the following partitioning operations to prepare for installing Red Hat 7 or another OS of your choice. If not, please read Dual-Boot Linux & Windows to Get the Best of Both Operating System Worlds and set up a dual-boot system before proceeding here.

Partitioning Operations

Partitioning Tools

First, before engaging in partitioning procedures or enabling boot management, make sure you fully backup at least all your critical files. It's best to do a full backup. If something goes wrong when you are working with drive partitioning and/or boot management, you easily can lose the entire enchilada if you have no backup.

Also, if you never have done this sort of partition and/or boot management stuff, it's best to do it the first time with a more experienced friend or associate looking over your shoulder. Better safe than sorry.

There is a variety of hard-drive partitioning tools such as the DOS/Windows fdisk, the Linux fips, Disk Druid, Partition Commander, and Partition Magic utilities. However, fdisk easily could be the most horrible computer program ever devised by mankind. It is tricky to use and can completely destroy all the data and files on a hard drive without even blinking an eyelash. Fips is not that much of an improvement over fdisk.

On the other hand, Partition Commander and Partition Magic are non-destructive partitioning tools. Partition Magic was used for the partitioning operations in the below example. In this partitioning example, the hard drive configuration from our previous Dual-Boot article is repartitioned to accommodate the addition of a third OS.

Figure 1. Screen shot showing the Windows FAT32 C: partition (dark green), the Linux Ext2 partition (maroon), the 750-MB unallocated space (gray), and the extended partition which includes the Linux Swap file partition (maroon).
Please consider the partitioning procedure below an example only. Just what you have to do to free up and reallocate drive-space in order to create a third primary partition will depend upon your hard-drive's current layout.

Example Partitioning Procedure

The hard drive used in the Dual-Boot article had a primary partition with Windows 98 SE installed on it, a primary partition with OpenLinux 2.4 installed on it, about 750-MB of free (unallocated) disk space, and an extended partition. (Please see Figure 1.)

Copyright 2000 - 2004 -- MozillaQuest -- Brodheadsville, Pa..USA -- All Rights Reserved
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