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max53000 06-14-2007 08:57 PM

GAG Floppy Booting Grub on Linux Root Partition Fails
While this is my first post to this forum, I have been installing and using Linux Mandriva exclusively for about five years. The reason is simple. Mandriva 9.2 was the first linux distribution with a kernel which directly supported my Promise Ultra ATA133 TX2 IDE Controller and would actually boot and install without me first having to manually input two lines of corrective instructions to the kernel.

Situation: I have had several unpleasant experiences with Windows XP Volume ID changes installing the linux bootloader to the boot drive's MBR, so I long ago resolved never to try that again. I have had success four times installing and booting Linux Mandriva using a floppy with GAG to access Lilo installed on the Mandriva root partition. The Mandriva boot loader installer wouldn't let me install Lilo so I installed Grub on the root partition instead, hoping that it would work the same as Lilo did with GAG. I used the same GAG floppy as before and was able to access Grub. But Grub announced it couldn't find the hard drive which contained the linux root partition.

Question 1. Shouldn't Grub work with GAG as Lilo did when installed on the Mandriva Root partition? (If so then I believe I know what the problem is, whose solution requires the answer to Question 2. If not, is there a way I can get to a command prompt when I get to the boot loader installer screen and install Lilo instead?)

Question 2. If I use the XP Install CD to delete the linux partions, format them with NTFS, delete them again, and finally use Mandriva's DVD to re-create the ext3 partitons, might that accomplish a more nearly complete deletion of the previous linux installation? (If not, could someone suggest a method which includes secure erasure)

Discussion: (Optional) (Unfortunately very few bootable partitioning tools can recognize my hard drives, much less securely erase them. I did use Mandriva's Installation DVD to re-format all of my pre-existing linux partitions before proceeding with the installation. Even so, I have reason to believe that a remnant of my previous installation is the real cause of the boot failure. I got a message during the installation informing me about the existence of linux software Raid components and asking whether I wanted to setup my two hard drives with Linux software Raid. Those components only existed in my previous Mandriva installation. I created them while trying to implement linux software Raid mirroring to duplicate the DOS and Windows software Raid mirroring being done with a Promise TX2000 ATA133 IDE Raid Controller. After that attempt failed, I replaced the TX2000 with my old TX2 controller. Unfortunately, the TX2000 had masked off the volume ID's of both hard drives and replaced them with what I would describe as two sets of gibberish. When I changed back to the TX2, the actual hard drive Volume ID's were again revealed. I believe the left over "gibberish" Volume Id's are responsible for the failed linux boot.)

Junior Hacker 06-15-2007 02:39 AM

So basically, you want to wipe the Linux partitions and reinstall using Mandriva's default boot loader lilo. A simple reformat and repartition job does not get rid of data written to the clusters/blocks, most people don't actually know this. I am a firm believer in wiping my partitions as I used to have problems with reformatting my first computers drive and reinstalling the Windows ME OS and still having same issues as before, then I started doing the reformat and reload two or three times in a row to get it more stable. Then I started multi-booting and tried many boot managers, I came across bootitng from Terabyte which makes partitions, resize partitions, slide partitions, makes compressed images of partitions (the best utility), and wipes partitions or volumes by writing zeros across the partition while deleting it in the MBR, then you just re-create the partition from the free space. It can even do what they call a "secure" wipe by writing zeros 35 times, that can be time consuming.
If you go to the Terabyte site, at the bottom of the page is a free utility that does that called "CopyWipe". Bootitng is under shareware license and you can use it basically for free till you install it to the hard drive for the multi-boot manager, then you have 30 day trial to play with the whole suite of tools.
Of course, as for open source solutions, you can use dd to write zeros also, dd is included with pretty much all Linux distributions and is on any Live CD. To learn how to use dd to wipe out a partition, type: "Learn the dd command" without the quotes in google and you'll find an article by AwesomeMachine written in a LQ how-to.
When you reinstall an OS in a partition which is in the same location as the prior installation, the OS installs all files in exactly the same spot, and sometimes, it will skip certain steps when it sees the files are already in place. Not all OS installations do, but it has been obvious based on past discussions with others in these forums, that both Windows and Linux systems do. I have had virus problems reappear in that Windows ME with just a reformat and reload.

max53000 06-16-2007 12:07 AM

Thanks Junior Hacker for relating some of your own experiences with un-wiped partitions. Thanks again for providing the link to the site and recommending the free "CopyWipe." And thanks also for your Google tip where I can go to "Learn the linux dd command" by AwesomeMachine. And finally thanks for your signature line which encourages and reassures every operating system user with its timeless advice, "Go for it, you can always re-install." Since I'm a newby to this group who is either too busy or too lazy to take the time to learn its posting rules, I will reply, if possible, using this thread when I finally do succeed.

ernie 06-16-2007 12:50 AM

You can configure the boot loader during the Mandriva installation when you get to the Sumary screen. You should be able to choose Lilo, and direct it to install in the root partition as you did in the past. With the release of Mandriva Linux 2007.1 (Spring), Grub is the default boot loader. If you want a graphical boot menu when the computer starts, you will have to use it. If a text mode boot is OK, Lilo is still available (just no Graphical boot menu).

If you do not like the idea of installing a third party boot manager on your hard drive, there is a way to boot into Linux using the Windows NT boot loader (NTLDR), and it is not all that hard to do. Basically, you copy the first sector of your Linux root partition to a binary file, put it in the root of your Windows C drive (along with boot.ini, etc.), and tell NTLDR to use it to boot the computer. Read this Tutorial to better understand what I am talking about. Note that using NTLDR to boot Linux is not supported by your Linux distributor or by Microsoft, but it does work. I set it up here for a while just because I could. If you install a new kernel, you will have to make a new file containing your Linux boot sector again. Make images of your partitions before you do any of this. BootitNG is a fine utility, or you can use partimage. It is included on the System Rescue CD (an Open Source Live CD) as is Gparted (a partition manager much like Partition Magic). Even if you do not try this, get the System Rescue CD, just in case.


Junior Hacker 06-16-2007 01:23 AM


Originally Posted by max53000
And finally thanks for your signature line which encourages and reassures every operating system user with its timeless advice, "Go for it, you can always re-install."

My signature reflects my attitude, I have had that attitude since I started using bootitng, it takes 8 minutes to wipe a Linux partition, create a new partition in the free space, and load the last fully updated, configured image of the OS (which is about 1.5GB). All my Linux systems reside on a 10GB partition, Windows on 15GB, takes 10 minutes to get a clean fresh installation of Windows.
So what it all boils down too --->, NO STRESS. And you can consider yourself a hacker because you end up trying things nobody has the guts or time to try because of the fear of having to start from scratch if the hack fails. My data including images are stored in another partition, so operating systems are "easy come, easy go".

ernie 06-16-2007 04:40 PM


My data including images are stored in another partition, so operating systems are "easy come, easy go".
If you suffer a fire or natural disaster, you could still be starting from scratch. If you keep data of any importance on your computer, I would suggest you develop a back up routine to meet your needs. Mandriva Linux includes Drakbackup, a backup utility with a configuration wizard. It can be set up to save backups across a network or to removable media (CD or DVD).

I do technical support as a side business here, so I keep customer information and records of any business I do. I also keep personal business records and information. Much of this data would be difficult if not impossible to replace. Even though the cost of off site data storage is becoming very reasonable, I just do not like the idea of keeping such information on some one else's server (OK, so call me paranoid). I use Linux for its dependability and security features, so it simply makes sense to me to keep good backups. I keep a set of images from when each OS installation was new and pristine immediately following customizations on DVD's so I can get back to the original set up if I want to do so. I create image sets monthly on DVD's to preserve my data in the event of disaster. The current set is kept off site in a safety deposit box at my banking institution and all previous sets are kept on site in a fire proof box. Finally, I do an incremental back up of the system daily on DVD+RW and keep it in the fire proof box as well. Following the creation of a new monthly image set, I start a new incremental backup on another DVD+RW. I keep the incremental back ups for twelve months then reuse the disks. I keep the monthly image sets for eleven years (the statute of limitations here). For my incremental back up, I search the system for files modified on the current date, compress them to a bzip file named for the current date, then store it on the DVD.

When / if time permits, I want to enhance this to add the current date to the end of the file name (in the form for each file added to the archive. Then I can use the same archive file for the entire month (saving it to DVD+RW daily) and when / if I need to recover a specific version of a file, it should be easier to find.

The length to which I take my back up system may well be far more than most people need, but hopefully this information will give some ideas to help others set up a system to meet individual needs.

I have used bootitng, and I think it is an excellent utility set. It works very well and is reasonably priced. I give it two thumbs up :). Since Mandriva Linux is my primary production OS, and I prefer Open Source software in general, I use the tools included on the System Rescue CD for system recovery, partition management and imaging.

max53000 06-18-2007 06:05 PM

Thanks Junior Hacker and Ernie For All Your Help
Junior Hacker, I managed to install Mandriva 2007 Spring with Lilo on the root partition and boot it with GAG on my first try after wiping the partitions before formatting them as you recommended. But I had to use my purchased Norton's Partition Magic v8.0 in Windows instead of Terabyte's Shareware Bootitng or freeware CopyWipe to wipe the partitions simply because I knew PM would work and happened to remember that I had previously tried Bootitng and failed because it also failed to detect my Promise TX2 Controller's hard drives, an all too common problem which continues to haunt me from time to time.

Thanks Ernie for pointing me toward the open source System Rescue CD. I look forward to downloading, burning, and using it to partition, wipe, and image my hard drives as you do assuming it will recognize my hard drives as the Mandriva installer did. Thanks also for mentioning the Drakbackup linux backup utility.

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