by August 9, 2003 0 comments

With many different OSs available for the PC, it’s only natural to want to try out a few. But, installing one does not mean erasing the other. You can install multiple OSs on your machine and boot them, one at a time. For this, you need a boot manager, which lets you select the OS you want to boot. Some OSs come with built-in multi-OS boot managers; there are Lilo and Grub for Linux and default boot managers for Win NT/2000/XP. There are also some free (such as XOSL) and commercial boot managers (such as Partition Magic). 

XOSL, a free boot manager, has mouse support, an easy to use GUI and a host of other useful features. It lets you password-protect every OS you want to boot with a different password, making your system more secure. It can also boot DOS/Win 9x/Me on any drive and not necessarily the first drive as required by other boot loaders. It comes with additional programs, such as the Smart Boot Manger (to boot from the CD-ROM) and Ranish Partition Manager (a disk partitioning utility that can be used before booting any OS). XOSL is on this month’s PCQEssential CD. Though you can install many OSs on one machine, for purposes of simplicity, we’ll talk about using XOSL in a two OS (Windows and Linux) environment.


Partition hard disk
Before you install XOSL, you need to partition your hard drive for different OSs. We recommend you have a separate partition for each OS. If you already have Linux installed, then the chances are that its boot loader, Lilo or Grub, will be in the MBR (Master Boot Record). In this case, if you install XOSL, it will overwrite the Linux boot managers, rendering your Linux installation non-functional. So, make sure the Linux boot loader is installed on the Linux boot partition and not on the

To do this for Lilo, edit your lilo.conf file and change the line boot=/dev/hda to boot=/dev/hdax, where x is the partition number of the Linux boot partition. Save the file, then type lilo command at the prompt to install Lilo at the new location. For Grub, at the prompt, type grub-install /dev/hdax. You can also do this during a fresh installation. For that, during installation, select Configure Advanced Boot Loader Options on the Boot Loader Configuration Screen and on the next screen select First Sector of Boot Partition as the location for your boot loader and not the


Install XOSL
The installation of XOSL requires DOS or Win9x. To install from Win9x you have to restart in DOS mode. If you’re using a higher version of Windows, say 2000 or XP, then use a Win9x or DOS bootable CD-ROM or floppy. You can even download floppy images of DR-DOS or FreeDOS from and, respectively.

To install XOSL, run INSTALL.EXE from the XOSL directory. On the next screen, select Install XOSL. You will be given the option of either installing it on a DOS drive or on a dedicated partition. XOSL creates several configuration files for its operation, which it needs to store. Installing on a DOS drive is the safest option and you can use your c:\ drive for it. The drive should be FAT16/32 formatted and not NTFS or Linux Ext2. This will copy all necessary files to the root directory of the drive. There will be several small files in this partition, so don’t delete them as XOSL requires them to work properly. If you do not have a FAT16/FAT32 partition, then you can install XOSL on a dedicated partition. For this, make a 1—10 MB partition of any file system type on your hard disk. Select Install On A Dedicated Partition. On the next screen, select the video mode, mouse type, whether to install smart boot manager and Ranish Partition Manager. The drive selection is also done on this screen. If installing on a dedicated partition, give the path of the new partition you created or the installation will corrupt your existing partitions, destroying all data on it. Now press enter on Start Installation and the installation is done. Reboot to see a graphical XOSL screen.


Add existing OS to XOSL
First configure XOSL to recognize all the OSs already loaded on your machine (say, the OSs are Windows and Linux). First, on the main XOSL screen, click on the Setup button to add boot items (the OSs you want to boot). This will open the XOSL Boot Items Configuration window. Here, click on the Add button to open the Add Boot Item window. Next, select the partition containing your OS. Give it a name, such as Windows 98 or PCQLinux, depending on what you have on your system. Apply the changes for the setting to take effect.

To add more OSs, repeat the above procedure. You’ll see all the OSs listed on the boot items configuration screen. Make one of them the default boot item and specify the timeout. On the Password tab, specify a password for each boot item or leave it blank. Click on Save to save the changes and then on Close. The main screen will list the boot items on the right-hand side. Click on the Preferences button to configure graphics, color scheme, mouse/keyboard and XOSL administrator password. On the Misc tab, check the Auto Save box to automatically save changes made on any window. 


Configure boot order
The normal procedure for doing this is by going through the BIOS. You can, however, do it from XOSL, as well. Go to the XOSL Boot Items Configuration window. Click on Add, select Boot Floppy and give a name like ‘Boot from floppy’ and apply. To add a CD-drive, click on Add and select Smart Boot Manager from the list. This is the boot loader to boot from a CD-drive. Give it a name like ‘Boot from CD-ROM’ and apply. When you close the configuration window, the main screen of XOSL will have these two items also listed. To boot from a floppy, select it from the list and click on Boot. To boot from a CD, select it, click on Boot and you’ll get the Smart Boot Manager Window. Select CD-ROM from this list to boot from the CD. 


Restore XOSL 
If you install a new Windows OS or upgrade an existing one, the chances are that your MBR, where XOSL resides, will get overwritten. To restore XOSL, run INSTALL.EXE from the XOSL directory and select Restore XOSL from the list and follow the instructions.

XOSL has many advanced features, such as partition hiding and drive swapping, which power users would really enjoy. The source code of the software is also available on their website.

Anoop Mangla

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