Dual boot WinXP and FreeBSD 5.3

Scott Bennett bennett at cs.niu.edu
Mon Dec 27 17:25:49 PST 2004

     Tom Connolly <tomc at cqg.com> wrote:

>Hello list.  I wish to put FreeBSD 5.3 on a new hard drive and have it
>dual boot with the existing Windows XP system (separate HD).  Can I just
>simply go through the FreeBSD install and have it install the FreeBSD
>boot manager/loader on the XP drive?  I can't risk doing any damage to
>the XP system as it has a thermal analyzer program on it that won't run
>on FreeBSD (otherwise I would have no use for XP at all).  I would like
>to know if there are any "gotchas" or anything that could be a problem.
>I would really like to hear comments from anyone who has set up such a
     What hardware would this be on?  For example, if it's a Dell computer
as shipped by Dell, then, yes, there is a potential problem.  Dell ships
its computers with three primary partitions already allocated and populated:
a (hidden) service partition, the Windows XP partition, and the Windows XP
system restore data partition (also hidden).  That leaves only one unused
primary partition entry in the Master Boot Record.  If you use Norton Ghost
to back up your Windows XP system, you will discover that Norton Ghost
has an undocumented misfeature that will appear when you allocate that last
unused partition table entry to FreeBSD (or to anything else).  Norton Ghost
expects to find an unused primary partition entry for its own temporary use
while doing a full backup.  (Grid only knows why it would need *any* kind
of partition table entry, but it refuses to do the backup if it doesn't
have one available.)  The Windows XP system restore partition can be changed
from a primary partition to a logical partition, and Windows XP doesn't
appear to care.  However, creation of a logical partition entry chain ties
up one primary partition entry in the MBR, so converting the system restore
partition alone doesn't buy you anything.  If you then also convert the Dell
service partition to a logical partition, Windows XP will no longer complete
its startup procedure because there is at least one module (HAL.DLL) that its
boot/startup routines will try to load from the service partition, which the
startup routines aren't smart enough to find if it's a logical partition.
Dell's technical support people eventually told me that the only way around
that problem was to wipe out Windows XP and reload it from the CDROMs that
they shipped with the computer.  But if you do that, you may then have
trouble reinstalling Norton Ghost and getting it to accept the fact that you
do already have a paid-for license.  Instead it may insist that it is just
a demo version due to expire soon and reject the license number when you
attempt to reregister it.  Symantec, of course, is unreachable if you try to
get them to support the license and software.
     But perhaps you do your backups a better way.

                                  Scott Bennett, Comm. ASMELG, CFIAG
* Internet:       bennett at cs.niu.edu                              *
* "A well regulated and disciplined militia, is at all times a good  *
* objection to the introduction of that bane of all free governments *
* -- a standing army."                                               *
*    -- Gov. John Hancock, New York Journal, 28 January 1790         *

More information about the freebsd-questions mailing list