Dual Booting Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 98

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I'm becoming increasingly frustrated by the articles published in networking and PC magazines relating to the dual-boot function of Windows NT and Windows 98. All these articles seem to assume that users always install Win98 on a FAT16 partition. How many new PCs that have Win98 preinstalled support this assumption? Most new PCs ship with a hard disk at least 4GB in size, so having the vendor install Win98 onto a FAT32 partition makes sense. It also makes sense for the vendor to use the entire hard disk space. So where does that leave you when you want to install NT and have a dual-boot configuration? NT won't recognize FAT32. As a result, you don't have any space available for the install. However, you do have some options. You can either buy another hard disk and install NT on this secondary drive or you can use a utility like Partition Magic to resize your current partition and make some space for NT.

Once you've made enough space for NT, you can install it onto the partition or drive and format that partition or drive as NTFS—but there's a catch. The bootsect.dos file that NT uses to enable dual booting with Windows 95 doesn't support dual booting with Win98 and its FAT32 partition; in fact, this file doesn't even recognize the Win98 installation. NT doesn't create the bootsect.dos file or update the boot.ini to reflect the two OSs. Fortunately, a workaround exists.

Assuming that you've installed Win98 on a FAT32 primary or active partition and installed NT on an NTFS extended partition or on a separate hard disk, you can follow these steps:

  1. Use NT's Disk Administrator tool to change the active partition to the Win98 partition.
  2. Boot into Win98, and type the following from a DOS window:
    L 100 2 0 1 
    N bootsect.f32 
    Press Enter after each line; commands aren't case sensitive. The procedure will create a file named bootsect.f32 on the root of your hard disk.
  3. Copy the bootsect.f32 file to a 3.5" disk.
  4. Boot the machine with a DOS bootable floppy that contains Fdisk, and mark the partition that contains NT as active.
  5. Reboot into NT and copy the bootsect.f32 file to the root of your NT partition.
  6. 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" 
  7. Reboot and you should now have dual-boot capability.

You can download the SysInternals FAT32 utility from the Web to read data on your FAT32 partition. For a small charge, the full version lets you read from and write to these partitions.

Now here's something I found interesting. I partitioned a 2GB hard disk with three partitions, 50MB, 950MB, and 1GB. I installed DOS 6.22 on the 50MB FAT16 partition, Win95 on the 950MB FAT16 partition, and NT Server on the NTFS 1GB partition. This installation gave me a boot menu with options for NT and Windows. I booted onto the Win95 partition, upgraded to Win98, and converted the partition to FAT32. Guess what? I still had the dual-boot option of NT and the boot.ini option had changed to Win98. The Win98 partition is not accessible from NT nor is the NTFS partition accessible from Win98; however, FAT32 will address one of those issues and I have a dual-boot PC with NT Server and Win98.

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