Booting a DVD in Linux

Q I want to install Linux an older PC, dual booting with Windows 98SE. This computer is a seven-year-old Athlon 600 in an MSI motherboard with 128MB RAM, two hard drives, one DVD-ROM drive and a CD-RW drive. The BIOS of this older PC hasn't an option to boot from a DVD-ROM drive. The boot sequence allows me to use a CD-ROM drive as the first device and I am comfortable with boot sequence changing. The forums told me to install Windows first, if dual booting is required (it is). I used Partition Magic V5 to set up both FAT and Linux partitions. I believe that Linux uses a different file format to FAT but I tried using a Windows start-up floppy to 'set-up' or 'install' the DVD but failed. Would this work if your disc had been a CD-ROM? The floppy disk from Red Hat 6.1 allowed me to start running the Red Hat CD but It demanded the Red Hat CD. I tried the Red Hat CD which worked but aborted the install because I would prefer (K)ubuntu. Do I need a Linux boot floppy with DVD drivers on it, to get it installed?

A As far as your BIOS is concerned, booting from CD and DVD are the same, a DVD is seen as a large CD-ROM. Older Linux distros used a boot floppy to kickstart the CD installer, as a lot of hardware did not support booting from CDs at the time. Your vintage hardware should support booting from optical disks, whether CD or DVD. As long as you set your BIOS to boot from CD, you ought to have no problems. But, this is dependent on BIOS idiosyncrasies; some older BIOSes got confused when more than one optical drive was fitted.

If you set the BIOS to boot from CD and still cannot boot the DVD, try disconnecting the cables from your CD-RW drive so you only have the one optical drive. It is rare to need a boot floppy to install from CD or DVD nowadays but, just in case, we have provided one on the DVD. Smart Boot Manager, in the Essentials/SBM directory of the DVD, is a bootable floppy that will transfer the boot process to an optical or hard disk. Run RAWRITE.EXE in Windows, put a blank floppy in the drive and select sbootmgr.dsk as the source.

By booting from this disk, you will be able to boot from your DVD. The different filesystem formats of Linux and Windows are irrelevant at this point, as all data is coming from the DVD, which uses another type of filesystem (the same as used by CDs). Using Windows partitioning tools to create Linux partitions is known to cause difficulties. Use Partition Magic to delete the partitions you created for Linux, including the swap, leaving unallocated space. Then tell the Ubuntu installer to use the free space on the drive (free space in this context means unpartitioned space, not unused space within existing partitions). Your PC may show its age in the RAM. 128MB is not a lot by today's standards; a modern desktop, like KDE in Kubuntu, will run slowly.

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