Linux/Windows XP Dual boot woes

  stejsmith 16:44 01 Oct 2010

Help!! My machine has two hard drives, one with Windows XP installed (which came with the computer) and one with PCLinuxOS 2010.

This second hard drive initially had Ubuntu Linux installed on it. When I installed Ubuntu, I set the bootloader to the Windows hard drive - this allowed me to boot to either Ubuntu or Windows as I chose.

However, I decided to make the switch to PCLinuxOS 2010. When I installed this over Ubuntu, following the instructions in a different magazine, I installed the bootloader to the second hard drive. I also changed the BIOS settings to boot from this hard drive first.

Now I can't access my Windows XP installation, even though the option appears on the boot menu (GRUB). If I select it from the menu, I just get a message saying "a read error has occurred". I've tried editing GRUB, I've tried fixing the bootloader fro mthe Windows XP disk, but that just mucked up my PCLinuxOS installation. I've tried booting from the first hard drive, but that just leaves me with a menu with no keyboard control (I have a USB keyboard).

Is there anything I can do to get back my WinXP installation - or is it gone forever?

  LastChip 01:36 02 Oct 2010

To be honest, you made far too many changes, but I expect you now realise that.

When you installed Ubuntu originally, it wrote to the MBR (Master Boot Record) on your XP drive. BUT, this is only a minimal piece of code and it pointed to the GRUB files on your Ubuntu drive. When you installed PCLinuxOS over Ubuntu, it destroyed the links between your XP drives MBR and GRUB.

There are a number of options you could try.

You could reinstall PCLinuxOS, BUT, allow it to write to your XP drives MBR. All being well, that should pick up your XP installation and you'll be back to square one, except you'll have PCLinuxOS rather than Ubuntu.

Or, you could run your XP installation disk and run fixmbr - do a search to find out more. That should recover your XP only installation. To be honest, in my experience it can be a bit hit and miss and personally, I'd only use that as a last resort.

Or, you could find a free third part boot manager and load that on to your XP drive and see if that would work. A decent boot manager should find all your current installations and set them up accordingly. GAG springs to mind, click here as it's well regarded. I've used Boot Magic in the past, but as far as I know, it's not free.

  stejsmith 07:09 02 Oct 2010

Thanks a lot - yes, I've made far too many changes, as you say!! Will try your suggestions (I'm not on the relevant computer now) see if it works.

Thanks again!

  robin_x 09:51 02 Oct 2010

A brief history of my mbr experiences.
And I am not an expert on this, can't even work out how to use EasyBCD.

I made a live ubuntu live usb flash card easily and quickly to try on my newish laptop but did not want a full dual boot, just made it persistent.

All fine, but when not using it, laptop booted with
'MBR Error, press any key' and then went off to W7 when I did so.

I realised this was because it was trying to boot from my ext hdd which is just data and backups.

I never managed to fix it so left it.

Then I wanted another bootloader for my old laptop to boot live usb flas.
BIOS does not support that and I have the latest BIOS (2002).

PLoP is a small free utility to boot from usb, cd, main disk regardless of BIOS.

I thought I would download, burn and mess with it first on my new laptop because my old laptop is just too slow and prone to freezes.

All well and good, but PLoP bootloader also got confused by my ext hdd and decided it was my main disc. I coulnt convince it to boot to c W7 at all.

Bugger. Although I had taken the precaution of saving my mbr first, I would need to reinstall windows to get at my backups.

PLoP says it cannot do a proper install unless it was installed from floppy (mine was from burnt cd)
But it does do a default uninstall and seems to imply it writes a new bog standard mbr.

It did and Windows booted up fine.
What is more, my 'mbr error' is gone and my live usb still works when inserted.

Tried PLoP again, without ext hdd and it correctly configured that time.
Finally uninstalled because I don't need it on my new laptop anyway. I was just testing.

Maybe PLoP is doing something like fixmbr, but I don't know because I have never tried or researched it. Ditto fixboot.

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