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Old 02-10-2004, 07:12 PM   #1
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Multiple distros on same hard drive problem


Not sure where this should go on the forum, but tried here.

Due to a recent upgrade to a larger hard drive I now have room to try multiple distributions. I split the hard drive into 5 partitions.

hdb1 = boot
hdb2 = fedora core
hdb3 = debian woody (well, hope to, having problem here)
hdb4 = not sure yet
hdb5 = swap

I got the fedora installation up no problem. I switched to install the debian one and now I have a problem. I inserted the debian cd and booted from it. I get it set up how I want, get to it to put / on hdb3 and things are going good. Then I get to the point where I need to reboot my system. Here is where the problem starts. I figured I would need to make a boot disk until I get the debian up and running. However, during this process, I find out my floppy drive is dead. I am using grub as the bootloader for fedora and am not sure how to configure it to point to a partially complete debian install.

Can I configure grub to boot from hdb3 before the debian installation is complete? I figured I would look at the grub config from fedora, but when I booted into fedora, it complained until I removed the hdb3 mount command from fstab. I'm not very familiar with the grub config anyway and I am not sure if should mount hdb3 from fedora in case it causes problems.

Any help to finish the debian install and get grub set up right? Thanks.

Old 02-11-2004, 12:42 AM   #2
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First, try posting you fstab. If there's a prob there, we'll be in a better position to help.
Second, try booting Fedora. Then edit /boot/grub/menu.lst (or grub.conf, if that's what
Fedora uses, wherever it's found). Copy/paste the Fedora entry after the Fedora, then
edit the kernel, root, and initrd devices to point to Debian. Then reboot to see if that
Old 02-11-2004, 12:45 AM   #3
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I'm not familiar with Debian, but I believe that the problem you're seeing is the result of trying to share a single /boot directory between 2 different distros. You can do that with swap, but I don't think you can do it with boot.

My suggestion would be to adopt a partitioning scheme such as the following:

hdb1 = /boot (for fedora)
hdb2 = / (for fedora)
hdb3 = /boot (for debian)
hdb4 = / (for debian)
hdb5 = swap

Note that the partition size for an explicit /boot directory should be pretty small (ie, no need to make it bigger than 100Mg). Note also that you don't necessarily need an explicit /boot partition to install Linux (although I think there are compelling advantages to having them, and I applaud your basic decision) and that if you don't have one, /boot will be a directory within / Thus, you could also set up a partition scheme such as:

hdb1 = / (fedora)
hdb2 = / (debian)
hdb3 = swap

Obviously anytime you are modifying partitions and/or reinstalling the OS, you should backup any important data first. Good luck with things. -- J.W.
Old 02-11-2004, 11:01 AM   #4
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Thanks for the response


Not sitting in front of the computer right now, but I'll get those files posted as quick as I can. I tried to do something similar to what you said, but couple of things. The Debian install didn't have an initrd that I could find. I'll get the files.

J.W. :

Well, I have only had the current configuration up for a couple of days. I can start over pretty easy. Some questions though. If you have multiple /boot locations, where does the grub bootloader reside? I would have figured you would have one boot section (where grub lives), that then pointed to the correct distro. Does this mean you have two grub bootloaders in different areas of the hard drive? How does it pick which one, and do I have to maintain two seperate grubs? Thanks again for the help.
Old 02-11-2004, 12:20 PM   #5
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baue8673 - great question. I am not as familiar with GRUB as I am with lilo, but with lilo, you have the option to install it to the master boot record (MBR) which eliminates the "how would the boot process know where to look" type of questions. I don't know whether GRUB offers a similar option to install into the MBR, but if it does, you may want to explore it. (From my limited experience with GRUB, it's always been on a floppy, which also eliminates the "where to look" type of question)

Personally, I've used lilo and installed to the MBR every time, and really like it. The one caveat is that any time you edit lilo.conf, you also need to run the lilo program: /sbin/lilo (as root) in order to make those changes take effect.

Sorry I can't offer any better answers your GRUB question. If it does support being installed into the MBR however, I would expect that ought to take care of it and you'll be dual booting like a champ. Good luck with the project -- J.W.


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