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Dual Boot Headless Server Windows and Linux?

Posted on 2011-10-13
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Last Modified: 2012-05-12
I'm setting up a "lab" computer to work with Windows Server and Linux at various times.  Because of space, I'm planning to run it as a headless server and use Remote Desktop, UltraVNC, etc.  

Currently the system boots into Windows via GRUB - with Linux as another choice.

I don't thinkeither UltraVNC or Remote Desktop can be running when the GRUB menu appears.
I don't want to use a KVM.

Any ideas?  Things like "alternately boot to one or the other" (not very convenient!) or "a runtime command to boot to this or that next"
Under the assumption that Windows Server would be running "normally", is there a script one could run to boot into Linux next just one time?  Or, might there be scripts to run in both Windows and Linux to "switch to the other OS at the next boot"?

I can write batch files OK for Windows but I'm not sure about the equivalent for Linux.  Seems obvious that whatever .. would have to access one of the GRUB files .. but figuring out which one that might be is a real chore in the Linux docs.  I don't want to become a GRUB expert just to implement something simple.
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Question by:Fred Marshall
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Expert Comment

by:TobiasHolm
ID: 36971069
Hi!

You could make a floppy disk (or USB stick) that you put into the server when you wanted to boot linux. Put grub on the floppy that defaulting to linux boot.

Regards, Tobias
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garycase earned 2000 total points
ID: 36971091
With a keyboard, mouse, and monitor connected to your server ...

(a)  Install Boot-It BM as your boot manager [http://www.terabyteunlimited.com/bootit-bare-metal.htm ]

(b)  Download the free Boot-Now utility for both Windows and LInux and install it in each.  [http://www.terabyteunlimited.com/downloads-bootit-bare-metal.htm#addon]

(c)  Enable Boot-Now support in the Boot-It settings;  and set up a Boot Now shortcut in each OS to boot to the other.

Now you can disconnect the keyboard, mouse, & monitor and run headless.    From either OS you can double-click on the Boot-Now shortcut to boot to the other OS.
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by:Fred Marshall
ID: 36974757
TobiasHolm: Sounds like a workable idea.  
I have an Ubuntu install on the hard drive.
I have an Ubuntu boot install on a USB drive.... but how to modify it so it will direct the boot to the hard drive install?  startupmanager doesn't seem to work when I boot off the USB.  It *is* installed but doesn't run.

garycase: Interesting app.  Thanks.
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by:Fred Marshall
ID: 36996624
I still need to know how to make a USB boot drive point to a resident hard drive to direct the OS boot there....
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by:Fred Marshall
ID: 37001433
I don't know HOW to change what's on the USB to point to an image on a hard drive.  The Startup program doesn't even start up when running from the USB.
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by:garycase
ID: 37002334
This is SO simple with Boot-It ... and you don't need to be anywhere near the machine (to insert a USB key, etc.) => just a simple double-click from your remote login.
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by:Fred Marshall
ID: 37002676
garycase:  Well if I can do it acceptably for free with just a bit of learning then that's what I should probably do.  But I appreciate the pointer as I didn't know about Boot-It.

It's one thing to be able to dual boot but some time back I decided it was perhaps more trouble than it's worth.  But I revisit it now and then and this is one of those times.
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by:garycase
ID: 37003803
It's reasonably easy with the varioius built-in boot loaders (Windows, Linux, etc.), but MUCH simpler with a good 3rd party one that totally isolates the various systems from each other.    I have 8 bootable OS's on my main system (using it now).    All 8 OS's are on the same 1TB drive;  none of them "see" or interfere with each other;  they're all on their own "C:" drive, so there are no non-standard drive letters; and it works perfectly.    I can trivially choose which to boot when I reboot or power up the system;  or I can simply double-click from any one to boot to the OS of my choice.

My main boot menu is shown below ... and a snippet of the top-right of my 2nd monitor from the Win7 x64 system.   The other OS's all look similar, but the choices of what to boot will be slightly different, since I don't put an icon to reboot the same system -- a normal reboot would accomplish that, since Boot-It will always reboot to the last OS that was selected (unless you configure it differently).




My-New-Boot-Menu-with-Win7.jpg
Picture-of-Boot-Nows.jpg
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by:Fred Marshall
ID: 37004069
So, I take it that you just click on one of those runtime icons and it reboots to the OS wanted?
And, the same sort of icons would be in Windows or Linux so one could reboot back again?
Or, alternately, one could just have this in Windows (the default) and have it reboot into Linux and thereafter reboot automatically back to the default Windows?
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by:garycase
ID: 37004598
Yes, you just double-click on one of those icons and the system reboots to the selected OS.    You could have the same icons in Linux -- in fact I do on another system that has both UBuntu and KBuntu loaded.    You just use the Linux version of BootNow for the Linux OS's.

Boot-It also implements an extended MBR (EMBR) structure that bypasses the 4 partition limit for an MBR disk => that's how I can have so many different OSs, each with their own primary partition that they "see" as a C: drive.

Here's the boot menu for the system that includes a couple Linux choices:


MyBootMenu.jpg
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by:Fred Marshall
ID: 37004829
Or, alternately, one could just have this in Windows (the default) and have it reboot into Linux and thereafter reboot automatically back to the default Windows?
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by:garycase
ID: 37004897
Yes, you can set a default boot item and Boot-It will boot to that item in the absence of any other choice (after the number of seconds you've set for a timeout value).

If there's no default item configured, the system always boots to the most-recently selected choice => that's how I have all of mine configured, so if I do a "restart" from an OS, it will reboot to that OS.

If you configure it as you've suggested, and you were working in Linux and wanted to restart, it would be a 2-step process => when you did the restart from Linux the system would boot to Windows;  then you'd have to click on the "Boot to Linux" icon.
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by:bloodygonzo
ID: 37005757
Out of curiosity is there a reason you don't want to us virtual machines as a solution for this?  There are many free options such as virtualbox or vmware player that would allow you to run windows as the host and then create vas for any OS you would like. This also means that you would be able to access both without rebooting and taking one down.
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by:Fred Marshall
ID: 37021268
My limited experience with virtual machines suggests that there are networking issues introduced that I just don't want/need to deal with.  I'd rather add a computer.  But, certainly, it has its place in the scheme of things.  

I've still not heard back from the Linux world re the suggested USB stick for "steering" the boot.  I think it has enough appeal that I'd like to learn how to build one.  As above, I've already built one but a couple of key questions remain.

I may well use Boot-It in some situations but the USB Stick idea is intriguing enough to pursue.
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