Two-disk trouble takes a 'dual' fix

Helpline

December 25, 2003|By James Coates | James Coates,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

When I bought a new computer with a 120-gigabyte hard drive, 512 megabytes of RAM and Windows XP, I had the seller install as a second drive my old 20 GB hard drive with Windows 98SE. However, when I turn the machine on, it does not offer that drive as a choice. Instead I have to go to setup and have that Windows 98 drive as the selection on all three drive selections, the floppy, the CD, and the second hard drive. How can I have my computer let me select either operating system or hard drive like Partition Magic does when you install another operating system on the main hard disk?

A lot of small businesses get into this bind when they find a need for Windows XP to handle stuff like modern e-mail and Web access but that also have software, particularly the once-common 16-bit software, that requires earlier operating systems such as Windows 98.

This is doubly significant in light of Microsoft's plans to announce an end to support for Windows 98 and 98SE in mid-January. With an estimated 27 percent of computers still using 95 or 98, this is another bid to force customers into XP.

To move a hard drive from an old PC into a new XP box, one really needs a so-called "dual-boot" program to present a choice to boot to any available drive when the computer is switched on or restarted.

A superb $39 shareware offering from OSLoader.com offers a good number of safety features to head off disaster. Dual booting is a dicey proposition when done by amateurs because it requires rewriting data on the essential first few bits on the main hard drive to offer the option to boot from another source.

With that warning in mind, there are a wealth of free dual-boot programs and other shareware at sites such as Tucows .com and Download.com.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing paper. James Coates can be reached at jcoates@ tribune.com.

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