Making Vista Build 5342 dual boot with Linux

Since Vista features the new boot loader system, multi-boot is not quite so trivial. There are various guides and FAQs on how to do XP/Vista dual boot (see e.g. here or here), but getting a GRUB based OS (such as Solaris 10 U1 or Debian Linux 3.1) dual booted is not very well documented.

I used the 5342 build of Vista, which ships with the bootsect.exe command in the \boot directory of the installation medium (in my case a DVD ISO image). Ths utility is only needed if you want to go back to the original Vista boot loader by running: bootsect.exe /nt60 ALL

I first installed Vista on my system with all defaults on my first hard drive (IDE 0:0). The new boot loader was in place on the MBR for that drive.

Now I installed Debian and agreed that GRUB should take over the MBR for the IDE 0:0 drive (/dev/hda). After that, Vista became invisible and Debian booted just fine from /dev/hdb (IDE 0:1).

Now, in Debian, you have to edit the /boot/grub/menu.lst that configures grub at run time. I simply added an entry for Vista:

title Windows Vista (Build 5342)
root (hd0,0)
chainloader    +1

Then you simply reboot and – voila: it should offer you a menu item for Vista. If you select that, the Vista boot loader takes over and the Windows OS comes up.

Some notes:

  • I was using Virtual PC 2004 SP1 for this experiment. That is also the reason why I did not use Solaris 10, since VPC and Solaris are not really a happy couple. Since Solaris 10 U1 also uses GRUB, there should be no difference.
  • For some strange reason I am getting a “Boot Failure” prompt now, right after the BIOS check. After hitting the <any> Key, I get to the GRUB menu.
  • I have no idea if this will work similar on AMD x86 machines.

3 thoughts

  1. You seem to be the only person on the internet that understands this scenario, but mine isn’t working as smoothly as yours has. If you have a minute perhaps you could shed some light…

    I had a SATA drive as the one set up to boot first in the BIOS. Partition one had WinXP, partition two had Ubuntu Linux. GRUB was installed in the MBR of this drive. I put in an extra IDE drive to install the Vista Beta 2 in hopes that it’s isolation would make my life easier. Ha! I installed Vista as a clean install on the IDE drive (which went fine) but upon completion I discovered that Vista had designated itself the "C" drive, my XP partition was now the "E" drive, and I couldn’t boot into XP or Ubuntu. I thought that Vista would at LEAST put XP into it’s bootmanager!

    I did the usual "boot live Linux CD, chroot into my installed Linux, re-run "grub-install /dev/sda"". Nothin’ – it went right into Vista upon reboot. So I tried writing GRUB to the IDE drive’s MBR and switching the order in the BIOS – still no go.

    I’ve seen alot of talk about editing Vista’s bootmanager and think I can get XP added ok (although I’m not sure due to Vista’s reallocation of drive letters), but I REALLY want GRUB to be the bootloader and have the option to boot any of the three OS’s that way. Any suggestions or pointers? I don’t know if you’ll see this comment in such an old post, but I didn’t want to bother you via your regular email address. Any help would be appreciated! Thanks!

  2. Hi Aaron –

    I am currently working on refreshing my articles on dual booting. The focus will be on Vista Beta 2 and I will also try to get bootmgr to load Solaris and Linux.

    If you need help in the meantime, please feel free to contact me via email (check my homepage at for contact information).



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