Network Server Setup: Multiboot

Multiboot installations enable you to have more than one network operating system (NOS) on a single computer. Of course, only one of these operating systems can be running at any time. When you boot the computer, a menu appears with each of the installed operating systems listed. You can choose which operating system to boot from this menu.

Multiboot is most useful for software developers or network managers who want to make sure that software is compatible with a wide variety of operating systems. Rather than set up a bunch of separate computers with different operating system versions, you can install several operating systems on a single PC and use that one PC to test the software.

For production network servers, however, you probably don’t need to have more than one operating system installed.

If you still insist on loading two or more operating systems on a network server, be sure to install each operating system into its own disk partition. Although most network operating systems let you install two (or more) operating systems into a single partition, doing so is not a very good idea.

To support two operating systems in a single partition, the operating systems have to play a risky shell game with key system files — moving or renaming them each time you restart the computer. Unfortunately, things can go wrong.

For example, if lightning strikes and the power goes out just as the NOS is switching the startup files around, you may find yourself with a server that can’t boot to any of its installed operating systems.

The best way to set up a multiboot system is to install each operating system into its own partition. Then, you can use a boot manager program to choose the partition you want to boot from when you start the computer.