How to boot up a MS Windows with a Linux Live CD

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Thread: How to boot up a MS Windows with a Linux Live CD

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Newcastle upon Tyne

    How to boot up a MS Windows with a Linux Live CD


    Sounds crazy but it is true. Not all Linux Live CD can do it though but the following can

    Linux Gamer
    Solaris (both Version 10 and Express)

    The distros colored in orange are Solaris systems. Their CD are already supplied with Grub in text mode. Strictly speaking Solaris is a Unix-like system and different from Linux but iits Grub, which has been enhanced, can be used for the same purpose.


    A Linux Live CD can only be booted by a boot loader that can read the iso9660 filing system. There are only two such boot loaders used in a Linux Live CD.

    • Isolinux (used by the majority of Live CD)
    • Grub (which has a boot loader for the hard disks and another seaprate one for CD/DVD)

    With the exception of OpenSuse and Freespire, which have been excluded from the above list because their implementation of the splashimage/gfxmenu makes a Grub prompt inaccessible, all the above Live CD use Grub and therefore can be used to boot any PC that has MS systems of Dos, Win9x, Win2k, Xp and Vista.

    For some reason the Linux distros maintainers want to present a stunning graphic screen at the boot up session by the splashimage and gfxmenu command. Such implementation prevents the user from communicating directly with Grub. It can be overcome at the boot up screen if the "Esc" key is pressed to trigger this message (before booting up any system)

    You are leaving the graphical boot menu and starting the text mode interface
    by pressing "OK" the boot screen truns into text mode.

    In text mode the Grub screen lower part has an instruction saying
    Press "c" for a command-line
    Pressing the "c" key will drop a user into a Grub prompt.

    As far as I am aware there is no installed PC operating system in existence that cannot be booted up by a Grub prompt.


    I assume you have one of the above CD and walk up to a PC that you have never seen before except you know it runs Windows. I also assume the PC has been arranged in the Bios to boot up a CD first if inserted, otherwise it boots automatically to the hard disk.

    Just insert the Linux Live CD, boot it up, at the booting screen, press "Esc" key to change into the text mode and then press "c" to get a Grub prompt.

    You first move is to see the partition arrangement of the first boot disk (hd0) by typing the command
    geometry (hd0)
    You will be presented a list of partitions starting from 0 and partition ID near the end.

    Every partition has an ID number to denote its type

    Type --- Partition
    6 ------ fat16
    e ------ fat16 (LBA mode)
    b ------ fat32
    c ------ fat32 (LBA mode)
    7 ------ ntfs

    A modern NT version of MS Windows of Win2k, Xp or Vista will normally installed in a ntfs partition. However if an older Dos or Windows is present and installed earlier then the boot loader will be placed in the first MS partition because it will be detected first. Therefore looking at the "geometry (hd0)" output one should find out the partition number of the first MS partition, by checking the partition ID.

    Grub counts from 0 so the first hard disk is (hd0) and its first partition is (hd0,0) which is the traditional residence of a MS Windows. If this is the case you will see Windows fires up after these commands in Grub prompt
    root (hd0,0)
    chainloader +1
    Adjust the Windows partition number to suit your case. Enjoy Linux and find out how a computer works.

    --------------------------------Acknowledgement----> pressing the "Esc" key to get into text mode of Grub was prompted by i845 as I wasn't aware of it myself ----------------

    You can do the same thing with a floppy, a CD or a pen drive if you put Grub inside.
    Last edited by saikee; 11-08-2007 at 06:14 PM.
    Linux user started Jun 2004 - No. 361921
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    Judge asked Linux "You are being charged murdering Windoze by stabbing its heart with a weapon, what was it?" Replied Linux "A Live CD"

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Just recording a few observations...

    Gfxboot and other such apps simply sit on top of a bootloader (Grub, isolinux, Lilo, pxelinux, syslinux, etc.), and the sole purpose of their existence is to provide the end-user with a funky interface. So far as my experience with Gfxboot goes, you can press Esc at the bootscreen to directly access the underlying bootloader. For instance, I've been able to access the isolinux boot: prompt on OpenSUSE (10.2), Ubuntu (7.04) and Xubuntu (7.10) discs by pressing Esc at their respective bootscreens (these distros use isolinux as the bootloader on their discs, with Gfxboot as the "wrapper".)

    Quote Originally Posted by saikee
    With the exception of OpenSuse and Freespire, which have been excluded from the above list because their implementation of the splashimage/gfxmenu makes a Grub prompt inaccessible,...
    That's because OpenSUSE uses isolinux in tandem with Gfxboot on its discs, and not Grub.

    Freespire appears to do the same.

    /* Posted previously...

    Maybe Freespire does the same. I'm saying this because the menu that comes up on booting a Freespire disc is very similar to that on discs of the Ubuntu family. (See this and this.) And discs of the Ubuntu family use the isolinux and Gfxboot combo.

    Update: Freespire appears to be a derivative of Ubuntu, so it's very probable that it uses isolinux as well.


    However, on being installed to a hard disk, OpenSUSE uses Grub with Gfxboot, and in that case, pressing Esc at the bootscreen unleashes the power of Grub. I can't say the same for Freespire (haven't used it) cause the Grub menu it produces (see image here) does not give me any clue on how to drop to the Grub shell ("Advanced Menu" in the pic, maybe...)

    Last edited by i845_; 10-26-2007 at 04:08 AM.

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