Create a boot CD containing Grub to dual-boot Windows and Linux

Q I belong to a computer club that is 98% Windows-oriented and I'd like to install Mepis 6.0 on the club's laptop to demonstrate Linux and perhaps persuade some members to try it. Installing Grub on the MBR [master boot record] is not a good idea as the laptop is also used by our members to take home and they wouldn't like the idea of choosing Linux or Windows XP at boot (some are not interested in Linux). How do you create a boot CD to boot Grub and then choose Windows or Linux? Creating a boot floppy is not an option as the laptop has no floppy drive, and using a USB floppy is a problem.

A I commend you on your mission to show your fellow club members the joys of Linux through SimplyMepis. Now to your problem. There are two possible solutions to this. The first is to use Smart Boot Manager. This is a bootloader disk that also works from a CD. You'll find an ISO image in the Essentials/SBM directory of the cover DVD. To use this, you must install the bootloader for Mepis into the root partition rather than the MBR; this option is offered during the installation process. When you boot normally, the original Windows bootloader for the MBR will be used and the computer will boot straight into Windows.

When you boot from the CD, a menu will appear, from which you can choose the partition to boot - select the Linux root partition here and it should boot. If the Linux partitions do not appear in the menu, press Ctrl+H to rescan the hard disk - I've needed this with some hardware. The Smart Boot Manager CD is only used to run the bootloader. You can remove it as soon as the Smart Boot Manager menu appears, which means you can also use SBM to boot recalcitrant DVDs and CDs. Another option is to stick with a bootloader on the MBR but hide its menu. To do this with Grub, install Mepis as normal, with the bootloader on the MBR; then boot into it and edit /boot/grub/menu.lst as root. Change the timeout to something short, say 5 (seconds), then add these lines after the timeout:

hiddenmenu
default 1

Grub counts from zero so default 1 makes the second menu entry the default. Now when you boot, users will see a message like 'Press Esc to enter the menu' and a countdown from 5 before Windows boots. Unless they press the Esc key, they will not see any reference to Linux. Let us know how you get on!

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