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introductory FAQ for multi-boot

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A beginner's guide to multi-boot discs

This section of the forum deals with Multi-boot CDs and DVDs. Please read this small write-up attentively, as this covers many of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) on the forum.

Example: The sort of discs you have seen in the possession of busy sys-admins, or those with a number of differently configured PCs to support. A single CD/DVD with multiple OSes on it, or multiple versions of a single OS on it can be called a "multi-boot" disc. It is so-called because it will contain multiple boot-sectors on it, extracted from different CDs/floppies, among which you can choose when you boot-up from it. This is the section where you ask questions on how to setup a DVD with, say, Windows 2000 and Windows XP which you can then select between, from a boot menu on what to install.

People normally put 2 or more types of a windows xp/2k install on one disc when they make a multi-boot disc. Or, they might go the whole hog (just for the thrills) and put ALL 5 SUPPORTED VERSIONS of windows on one DVD. The limitation to making multi-boot discs is the capacity of your media. You can use 2 approaches to solve this - one is to simply use a DVD, the other is to "optimize" your ISO-image to cut it down to be able to burn it on a CD. All processes that you need to do, are the same whether for a CD or a DVD, the only difference being that DVD gives more capacity for your software.

It is understandable, that if you haven't yet seen a multi-boot disc previously, and have only recently got the idea of making one - a multi-boot disc is an abstract concept at best, and hard to visualize. But don't mind the fact that you might be a beginner. Don't think too much about how its going to work out, just plan out what the result should be, and start off with making it. Practically making the multi-boot will start to make things clearer, and obvious bugs in the process come out into the open. Asking theoretical questions like "I'm gonna do it in such-and-such a method, will this work?" are redundant, because there's too many variables involved, and we can't say for sure. You have to practicalise to understand it.

You would normally need to carry out multiple tests of your disc before you can confirm that it is working as planned. You can simply extract the boot-sector from a CD to get it on the disc as an option, or take the floppy of your favourite bootable-diagnostic tool and make an image of it, and add it to the list. It is seen that adding Linux as an option to your multi-boot DVDs is somewhat more difficult than adding windows OSes and boot-disks - so if you wanted to try adding linux to your install disc just for the sake of doing so, don't.

You may use either CDshell or EasyBoot for the purpose of making your disc's multi-boot menu. Use a re-writable CD to test out your multi-boot CD, (and unattended setups from the CD probably) on your machine. But, it is recommended that you make an ISO9660 CD-image (a .ISO file) of what you are going to burn onto a disc - and use some application like VMware or VirtualPC (which simulate a PC with all associated hardware and so on) to test.

Here's a guide to get you started (on how to setup a multi-boot DVD from scratch) - in most cases, that is all that you would ever need. Follow the instructions in the guide properly (for the OSes you need), and you will get a perfectly made disc.

You can't expect to be able to make your multi-boot disc without an intermediate level of knowledge about how OSes install and boot from their installation media. If you feel like a new-comer to all this, and need someone to sum it all up for you, you might like to browse around the forums for a few days, so that you start understanding what it is all about. If you have any problems, re-read this FAQ and the guide linked to above again - you might have missed out on a tiny-but-important detail.


It has been observed that making a multi-boot sometimes involves methods associated with an unattended install of windows.

nLite for slimming your Windows install source to fit on one CD

WinPE for speeding up your windows installs

Lastly, before asking a question, please use the Search function (see the link to search in the top-right corner of the page). Searching spares you some days of waiting for an answer, and the others in the forum also wouldn't need to reply with a response that has already been given and discussed lots of times in the past. Remember to set the "Search posts from..." criterion in the drop-down box to "Any Date" instead of the default of only searching for the past 30 days.

I will keep refining and adding to this FAQ, as new questions start being asked frequently.

NOTE - Using the "Print this topic" function for this page, will result in poor display of this topic, just print this page directly if you want to.


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