Dual Booting Windows NT and Windows 95/98

Dual Booting
Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 95/98

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When we formulate the articles and segments we feel are necessary to our customers and visitors, we try very hard not to reinvent the wheel (so-to-speak). If there’s a knowledgeable article already in place on the Internet, or someone has already defined a practice that is complete and easy to follow, we would rather just recommend the Web site and provide a URL.

Unfortunately when it came to locating authoritative and well written articles and segments on dual and multi-booting various operating systems, our choices we disappointing at best. Nearly every one that we reviewed lacked something, and in almost every case, that something was a well defined procedure for assembling a dual or multi-boot system. In many cases there was more about the individuals computer than how the operating systems were loaded and whether there were any problems. Others, unfortunately, displayed more about their ego than the topic.

Installing Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 95/98 in a dual-boot configuration on any system, other than one that has no existing operating system, is no picnic. There are many issues that need to be considered, including whether you may have hardware that is incompatible with Windows NT. Before diving into the creation of a dual-boot involving Windows NT, take the time to do your homework to see if there are any issues that may stop you cold. Food for thought, while most computers are basically alike in the way they operate, factually no two computers are identical. Therefore you are well warned not to make any assumptions.

Let’s take a look at some of these well worn assumptions:

  1. Most articles assume that users always install Windows 98 and always on a FAT16 partition. Fat 16 has a partition size limit of 2 gigabytes for Windows 95/98 and 4 gigabytes for Windows NT. (Yes, there are exceptions to everything).
  2. Most articles assume that you, the user, are ready, willing and able to blow away (destroy) your existing Windows 95/98 operating system just to have a dual-boot configuration, without providing any alternatives.
  3. Most articles assume that the users computer came with two partitions on their hard drive. Unfortunately there aren’t many (if any) manufacturers who support this assumption. Almost all new computers today ship with a hard disk at least 10 to 30 Gigabytes in size (including those that we manufacture), therefore installing Windows 98 onto a FAT 16 partition (or drive) instead of FAT 32, doesn’t make much sense. It cost manufacturers time and money to create disks with more than one partition on the hard drive as well as create different file formats on the same drive. Therefore it makes sense for the manufacturer to use the entire hard disk space for only one file system type.
  4. Most articles assume that you will spend (or have spent) additional money for specialized software to perform disk partitioning tasks, rather than explaining “why” you should have it along with discussing alternative tools and utilities and other options.
  5. Very few of the articles we have reviewed cover the problems and pitfalls you will face when trying to dual-boot Windows NT and Windows 95/98.

Here we will try and cover the entire process for you, including answering your questions. First, let’s cover some issues that you should be aware of.

  1. If your computer has Windows 98 installed on a large hard drive, in all probability that installation consumes the entire hard drive and the file system is FAT 32. NT will not recognize a FAT32 partition, nor any data stored on it.
  2. Windows NT 4.0 requires a FAT 16 or NTFS partition.
  3. Windows 98 will not recognize an NTFS drive partition, nor any data stored on it.
  4. The common file system between Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 95 or 98 is FAT 16, therefore you will need either:
    1. One small FAT 16 boot partition on which to place the boot files for Windows NT and Windows 95/98, plus a partition for Windows 98 and one for Windows NT, or
    2. One FAT 32 partition for Windows 95/98 and an NTFS partition for Windows NT, (see our example below) or
    3. One FAT 32 partition for Windows 95/98 and make the FAT 16 boot partition (noted above) large enough to hold Windows NT.
  5. If your current Windows 98 installation encompasses the entire drive size, you do not have any space available for the installation of Windows NT. You have three possible options:
    • You can remove the current partition on your hard drive and then add the partitions and file systems you need. Caution: This will destroy any present data on your hard drive!, or
    • You can purchase utility like such as Partition Magic by PowerQuest to resize your current partition and make some space for NT, or
    • You can purchase a second hard drive and install Windows NT on this second drive.

Now Our Presumptions

Since we have no idea whether your system has Windows 95 or 98, and since we don’t know whether you have one hard drive or two, and we certainly don’t know how your present drive is partitioned, we must presume that you have resolved this in a manner appropriate to you before going any further. In any event, once you have enough room for Windows NT, you can install it onto the partition or drive and format that partition or drive as NTFS. But, as we mentioned above, there may be some pitfalls, so let’s see what they are.

Pitfall Number One

Windows NT uses bootsect.dos to enable dual-booting with Windows 95, but it doesn’t support dual-booting with Windows 98 and its FAT 32 file system. As far as bootsect.dos is concerned, a Windows 98 installation, even if present, doesn’t even exist. Windows NT does not create the bootsect.dos file, as it is included with the rest of the Windows NT files, and it will not update the boot.ini to reflect presence of  both Windows NT and Windows 98.

You should also take this opportunity to create a Windows NT Emergency Repair Disk (Floppy) and a set of Windows NT setup disks. You may need them, do please don’t skip this step!

There is a solution though!

Windows 98 must be installed on the first physical hard drive and in the first primary partition, which must be the only active partition on your computer. Now, presuming that you have installed Windows 98 on a FAT 32 primary or active partition and you have installed Windows NT on an NTFS extended partition or on a separate hard disk, you can use these steps to make it work without a small FAT 16 boot partition:

  1. Use the Windows NT Disk Administrator tool to change the active partition to the Windows 98 partition.
  2. Next, boot into Windows 98, and open the MS-DOS Prompt. You do this by clicking Start, Programs and click MS-DOS Prompt.
  3. Now type the following at the prompt:
        L 100 2 0 1     
        N bootsect.f32  

    Note: These commands are not case sensitive. This procedure will create a file named bootsect.f32 at the root of your hard drive.

  4. Next, copy the bootsect.f32 file to a 3.5″ floppy disk.
  5. Now reboot your computer to your Windows 98 Startup Boot Disk.
  6. At the OS prompt, type Fdisk, and touch the enter key.
    • You will be asked whether you want to enable large disk support. Answer no.
    • Next, choose #2 “Set Active Partition”.
    • Now select the partition that contains Windows NT to make it active.
  7. Now restart your computer and boot into Windows NT.
  8. Put the floppy disk with the bootsect.f32 file on it into the drive and copy bootsect.f32 to the root of your Windows NT partition.
  9. Next, using Notepad, open the boot.ini file (remove the read-only attribute),

    and add the following line to the [operating systems] section:

    c:\bootsect.f32="Windows 98" 

    Now save the file!

  10. Now restart your computer and you should have dual-boot capability between Windows NT and Windows 98.

Pitfall Number Two

As you have probably read elsewhere in our multi-boot area, you cannot share applications, such as Word or Microsoft Office, between operating systems. And before you send us an email telling us that you have done it, know that we have too! However, we have thoroughly tested a shared installation, and it will crash. If you want to risk your data, then feel free to do so, but just don’t tell us about it.

Here’s the situation. On one partition or drive you have Windows 98 using a FAT 32 files system, while on another you have Windows NT using the NTFS. file system. Windows 98 cannot read NTFS, and Windows NT cannot read FAT 32. So how do you share documents between them?

The easiest way to resolve this is to download the FAT 32 for Windows NT utility from the Sysinternals (Winternals) Web site that will enable you to read data on your FAT32 partition. For a small charge, the full version lets you read from and write to these partitions. Here’s a blurb from their Web site:

“FAT32 for Windows NT 4.0 provides access to FAT32 volumes under Windows NT. This utility operates transparently, making FAT32 volumes accessible just like regular FAT or NTFS volumes. Ideal for systems running both Windows NT and Windows 98/Me, where you want to share data on FAT32 volumes across both operating systems.”

Sysinternals (Winternals) also has a version for Windows 95/98 that will allow you to read data from an NTFS partition, “NTFS for Win98 is an NTFS file system driver for Windows 95/98/Me. This tool enables Windows 95/98/Me systems to access NTFS volumes created by either Windows NT or Windows 2000, allowing data to be shared across all your operating systems.”

Curing Some Potential Problems

Repairing the Windows NT boot sector
Windows NT installs a boot sector that launches NTLDR and displays the Windows NT boot menu. If you destroy or damage this boot sector, you will need to rebuild it.

Restart your computer by using the Windows NT Setup disks. During Setup, select R to repair Windows NT.

NOTE: You need to repair only the Windows NT boot sector. Do not choose to inspect the registry files, the Windows NT system files, or the Windows NT boot environment during this procedure.

If you have Windows NT and Windows 95 and you only want to add MS-Dos

You will need an MS-DOS version 6.22 boot floppy

  1. Insert the MS-DOS 6.22 floppy into the drive.
  2. Copy the IO.SYS, MSDOS.SYS, and COMMAND.COM files to C:\
  3. Now rename these files to:
    • IO.DOS

      These are hidden files, therefore you will need to change the view settings in Windows Explorer to display hidden files.

  4. After you repair the Windows NT boot sector, you can manually edit the Boot.ini file to include an option to boot to MS-DOS. The Boot.ini file is a read-only, hidden, system file that is located in the root folder of the boot drive. Add the following line to the Boot.ini file under the operating systems section:
    c:\="Microsoft DOS".
  5. On your next reboot, MS-DOS will be a boot option in your Windows NT boot loader menu.

We know there is much to read and digest here, but if you follow the information carefully and print this page, then you should have little or no problems duplicating what we have done. Obviously we wouldn’t recommend this to anyone with no real experience with computer operating systems, however if you understand each of the terms used here and what they mean, then you shouldn’t have too much of a problem.

Anytime you prepare a document such as this one, there is a conversion element to be concerned with, and that is the conversion of the actual practice to a set of guidelines to be followed. We work hard at insuring that we include all of the necessary steps, and we even use the guides afterwards to replicate a practice, but even then something can be missed. If you find that we need to include a missing step, or elaborate on one, please let us know.

Notice: Windows® 95, Windows® 98, Windows® NT, Windows® 2000 and
Microsoft® Office are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Microsoft Corporation.

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