Problems booting Linux from the hard drive

  • System reports « Drive not bootable—Please insert system disk. » You will get this error message if the hard drive’s master boot record is corrupt in some way. In most cases, it’s harmless, and everything else on your drive is still intact. There are several ways around this:
    1. While partitioning your drive using fdisk, you may have deleted the partition that was marked as « active ». MS-DOS and other operating systems attempt to boot the « active » partition at boot time (Linux pays no attention to whether the partition is « active » or not). You may be able to boot MS-DOS from floppy and run FDISK to set the active flag on your MS-DOS paritition, and all will be well.

      Another command to try (with MS-DOS 5.0 and higher) is

      FDISK /MBR This command will attempt to rebuild the hard drive master boot record for booting MS-DOS, overwriting LILO. If you no longer have MS-DOS on your hard drive, you’ll need to boot Linux from floppy and attempt to install LILO later.

    2. If you created an MS-DOS partition using Linux’s version of fdisk, or vice versa, you may get this error. You should create MS-DOS partitions only using MS-DOS’s version FDISK. (The same applies to operating systems other than MS-DOS.) The best solution here is either to start from scratch and repartition the drive correctly, or to merely delete and re-create the offending partitions using the correct version of fdisk.


    3. The LILO installation procedure may have failed. In this case, you should either boot from your Linux boot floppy (if you have one), or from the original installation media. Either of these should provide options for specifying the Linux root partition to use when booting. Hold down or at boot time, and press from the boot menu for a list of options.
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  • When booting the system from the hard drive, MS-DOS (or another operating system) starts instead of Linux. First of all, be sure that you actually installed LILO when installing the Linux software. If not, then the system will still boot MS-DOS (or whatever other operating system you may have) when you attempt to boot from the hard drive. In order to boot Linux from the hard drive, you will need to install LILO (see Chapter 4).

    On the other hand, if you did install LILO, and another operating system boots instead of Linux, then you have LILO configured to boot that other operating system by default. While the system is booting, hold down or , and press at the boot prompt. This should present you with a list of possible operating systems to boot; select the appropriate option (usually just « linux ») to boot Linux.

    If you wish to select Linux as the default operating system to boot, you will need to re-install LILO. See Chapter 4.

    It also may be possible that you attempted to install LILO, but the installation procedure failed in some way. See the previous item.