Quantos sistemas operativos suporta um PC?


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Richard's Multiboot Menagerie

Can a PC run more than 30 operating systems? It sure can. Here's how.

By Richard Robbins

We've all heard of dual-boot systems or even triple- and quadruple-boot systems with versions of Linux, Unix, and Windows. But exactly how many operating systems can you fit in one computer? I decided to find out. On today's show I'll demonstrate how it's done.

This project started with a simple dual boot between Windows 98 and 2000. Then I added some Linux distributions and BeOS. Somewhere along the line, adding operating systems became an obsession. I wanted to see exactly how many I could stuff in one box. It also became a project to prove people wrong. Many people told me that what I achieved could not be done.

How many operating systems?

There are many points of view on exactly what an operating system is. I have concluded that I have approximately 39 separate, fully functional operating systems on my machine (as well as two that are sick at the moment). If you count my 18 DOS window managers, I have a total of 57 operating systems on my PC.

How could anyone have the time to use them all? I mainly use Windows 98 SE and Windows XP, but I do hop around to the others for the fun of it. The nice thing is the versatility. If one acts up, you spank its bottom and boot another OS.

Having many operating systems on one machine does not inhibit the normal functionality of the machine. I can do anything on my machine that I could do before I added these systems, and more.

Here's a list of the operating systems on my PC.

Before you start

Research is the key. Do the research before you start. Plan everything. Decide which systems you want installed and why.

Don't be afraid to start over completely. I had to start over on a number of occasions. It has taken me about a year to do all of this.

Get a bunch of hard drives for your system. I have six. You might need to get a PCI IDE card to expand your IDE ports.

Partition wisely. Map out your partition plans and go over their advantages and disadvantages.

Always, always back up your precious data.

And have a guitar handy. I've had quite a bit of practice while waiting for installers to finish.

The Boot Loader

One challenge was figuring out which boot loader to use and how to use it. In a multiboot setup, a boot loader is essential. It's impossible to work without one. A boot loader is the program that resides in the master boot record of the hard drive and tells the BIOS which partition to boot to.

I finally decided to use Extended Operating System Loader (XOSL). It includes support for partition hiding, boot keys, and drive swapping, and it comes in a neat 1024x768 pixel resolution (32-bit color) with mouse support.

Here's why I like XOSL as a boot loader:

XOSL can hide partitions. When you have multiple versions of Windows on one PC, you have to hide them from each other or they won't function.

XOSL can boot Windows off a logical drive. More on this later.

XOSL has boot keys. Boot keys are an essential shortcut if you want to avoid typing something, navigating through a menu, and so on. For example, if I had an NT Loader with Windows 2000 and 98, I wouldn't want to go through both menus just to get to 98. In XOSL I specify the boot keys on my keyboard using the down arrow and Enter keys. This eliminates the second menu, making the process seamless. XOSL does this by placing the keys in the keyboard buffer until they can be implemented.

XOSL looks great and is easy to install. It runs on standard VESA drivers, which let it access higher screen resolutions and depths.

Here are XOSL's flaws:

XOSL has a 24 boot-item limit and a 56 partition limit, forcing me to install more than one dedicated installation.

XOSL is also unable to boot directly to Linux. Therefore, when you install Linux you must install LILO to the boot sector of your Linux partition, not to the master boot record. Remove the timeout and point XOSL to that partition and it will "chainload" just fine.

Since XOSL has a limit of 24 boot items, I had to figure out how to install multiple instances of XOSL. I created five separate boot menus and grouped them accordingly:

DOS window managers
This made the menu system more organized. I can boot back and forth from any menu to any other menu, as well as boot CD-ROMs and floppies.

Other programs you'll need

PartitionMagic is a must-have utility for partitioning.
BootPart is a program to add partitions to the NT Loader.
Linux OSes has tons of ISO Linux distributions.
Operating System Partitions

Another challenge was to get the OSes to cooperate with each other. It's like putting a pit bull, a cat, a parakeet, a Komodo dragon, an antelope, a wolverine, a rattlesnake, and a duck-billed platypus all in a room and saying, "Now please get along, children." The best way to keep control is to give each animal its own compartment. With this in mind, the challenge was to give each OS its own compartment on the hard drive.

To do this, you have to figure out each OS's requirements, how the OS works, and how to implement the requirements. For instance, a lot of systems (such as Windows 95, 98, and Me) won't boot if they are installed past the 1,024th hard-drive cylinder, and some systems require a primary partition, a swap partition, or both.

Plan out how much space you want for each system, where you want them, and what file systems they use. You must find out which operating systems need primary partitions rather than logical drives and which systems cannot run past the 1,024th hard-drive cylinder. This cylinder runs at about 8GB and prevents many systems, including Windows, from booting past it.

Rule of thumb: Don't install Windows past the 1,024th cylinder unless it's XP or 2000 being booted from the NT Loader. Linux, Windows, BeOS, and others can be run from a logical drive. BSDs, QNX, and DOS versions, however, must be installed to primary partitions.

How to set up your disk

There can be only four primary partitions on one hard drive, or three primary partitions and one extended partition. It's a BIOS restriction and there is only one (messy) way around it. I don't recommend it, but if you want further info, go to The Real Multiboot.

I suggest sticking to the four primary partitions. I usually put the pickiest operating systems, such as Windows, OS/2, and Minix, on the first disk. Most versions of Unix and Linux will happily install anywhere else. It's also a good idea to set up two partitions as swap partitions, one for Linux and one for Windows. It saves space and is more organized.

Windows on a logical partition

You can install Windows 95, 98, and Me on a logical partition, but not directly. The XOSL FAQ has more information.

Install Windows to a primary partition.

Copy everything from that partition to the logical drive of choice. You'll have to maneuver around win386.swp or you'll get an error.

After everything is copied, install XOSL.

Hide the primary partition and boot from your Windows floppy. Make sure the C drive is the logical drive you want your Windows installation on.

From the command prompt type "sys c:" and then hit Enter. This writes the Windows boot sector to that logical drive.
Multiboot Resources

If you're compelled to go off the deep end as I did, there are many resources on the Internet that can help you. Don't forget to visit the various computer newsgroups.

OS Links

The OS Files: Free OSes
Freebyte's Guide to Free and Other Operating Systems
OS on the Net: The List

Many multiboot how-tos are available from a search at Google. Search for "Multi-Boot" or "Multiple operating systems."

List of Operating Systems

I have separated the names of the operating systems in their boot menus as they appear on my machine.

Main menu

Aos|Oberon 2.3.6
DrDOS 7.2
FreeDos 7
MS DOS 5.0

Linux menu

It's entirely possible to install almost every version of Linux on one machine. New versions of LILO eliminate the 1,024th cylinder boundary, enabling you to use up to 160GB for Linux. However, I decided to stop at around 10 versions because any more seemed redundant.


Unix menu

AtheOS 0.3.7
BeOS 5 Personal Edition
BeOS 5.0.3 Developer Edition
FreeBSD 4.4
Minix 2.2
NetBSD 1.5
OpenBSD 2.9
QNX RTP 6.0 (hosted)
QNX RTP 6.1 (dedicated)
QNX Neutrino OS 6.2
SyllableOS 0.4.0

Windows menu

Windows 1.01
Windows 1.03
Windows 2.03
Windows 2.10
Windows 3.1
Windows 95
Windows 98 First Edition
Windows 98 Second Edition
Windows 98 SE Lite (not counted as separate)
Windows Me
Windows 2000
Windows XP

DOS window managers

I have 18 DOS window managers. Here's a good site to learn more about them.

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