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How To Use Linux Boot Loaders With BootIt BM

This is a brief overview of using Linux boot loaders with BootIt BM.

Lilo and Grub are the two most common Linux boot loaders, and using either of them with BootIt BM is fully supported. There are two important things to know about using them with BootIt BM:

* BootIt BM can not boot Linux by itself. It requires the help of Lilo or Grub, because they are needed to actually boot the Linux kernel. When you boot Linux from the BootIt BM menu, BootIt BM transfers control over to Lilo or Grub, and they take it from there.

* BootIt BM occupies the MBR of the first hard drive. For that reason, Lilo and Grub can not be installed in the MBR or they will overwrite BootIt BM. Instead they need to be installed in the boot sector (first sector) of a Linux partition.

The Linux partition to install Lilo or Grub to is typically the root partition (/), but can also be another Linux partition such as the the /boot partition if you have one. The important thing is that whichever partition you install the boot loader to, that same partition should be designated as the partition to boot from when you set up Linux in BootIt BM. That's how BootIt BM finds Lilo or Grub so that it can pass control of the boot process over to them.

Some confusion can come into play when the boot loader questions are presented during a Linux installation. The various distributions have different ways of asking you what to do with the boot loader. Some are very specific and clear in how they ask, while others are not. Here are examples of how this happens with two different distributions:

Debian 3.1 (Sarge) an example of clear boot loader questions

The first boot loader screen is as follows:

Install the Grub boot loader to the master boot record?

<Go Back> <Yes> <No>

Answering <Yes> installs Grub to the MBR. Answering <No> brings up a screen explaining that since you didn't install Grub to the MBR, you now need to install it to some other place (device) in order to boot the operating system. It then explains how to specify a hard drive partition or the floppy drive. At the bottom of the screen is the following prompt:

Device for boot loader installation:

Below that is a place to enter the device where you want to install Grub. In most cases, you would enter your root partition here (such as /dev/hda2 for example), and that partition would be the one to boot from in BootIt BM. As explained earlier though, it doesn't have to be the root partition, as long you specify the partition you do install to as the partition to boot Linux from in BootIt BM.

Libranet 2.81 - an example of not so clear boot loader questions

The first boot loader screen is as follows:

We recommend you allow Libranet to handle booting of your system.

Do you want Libranet to handle booting your system?

<Yes> <No>

Answering <Yes> will install Grub in the MBR and overwrite BootIt BM. Answering <No> will install Grub in the root partition's boot sector. But there's nowhere on the screen where it tells you that, and it doesn't tell what it did after you answer the question. Instead, it just asks you on the next screen if you want to create a boot floppy. Depending on how you interpret the question, some may have no trouble at all with this, while others (including this author) will get tripped up by it.

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