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Ok, so it's not quite lost. Just inaccessible. LILO doesn't pop up at boot up anymore, I don't quite remember the sting of events leading to this but it no longer matters much, I tried reinstalling Mandrake hoping that would fix the problem, and it didn't. So I poked around on the message boards and found out how to edit the LILO.conf so that it would re-find where the OS are on my system. The only problem is that I can't get to Linux, I have a master HD set up with XP on it, and Mandrake on a slave. I tried several boot disks, none of which I could make work (note that I couldn't make them work, not that they don't work.) The problem that I seem to have run into is that I can not create a linux system disk off a windows file system.... makes sense, but sorta leaves me asking how then?
so I seem to be stuck. The only way to fix it seems to be to swap the master and slave HD jumpers so that I can edit lilo.conf. Which seems rediculously roundabout. how would I fix this without opening my computer up? (mostly so I know what to do next time... I'm quite certain there will be a next time with this)
Looks like you installed LILO to the MBR of the slave disk (since you appear to be able to boot into Mandrake when you switch the drives)... and since your bios looks for a boot loader in the MBR of the master HD it won't work when you change the slave>master and vice versa.
Do you have a rescue cd? You could boot from there, "chown /dev/hdb1" (or wherever your mandrake /boot partition is) and reinstall LILO to the MBR of the master HD.
Lilo is on the MBR of the master disk, it was working for a time. Then I did something.. I think I reformated one of the drives (can't remember which one) and then it stopped working. After doing that though I tried reinstalling mandrake completely which I had thought would have fixed it, everything was installed to the same place on the same drives but lilo no longer came up. Which is locking me out of linux unless I remove the master, in which case linux boots up fine (without lilo). Dunno. I'm going to try using the install disk as a rescue disk and see if that will work.