w3.1 - 95 - 98 - ME - 2K - XP - 6 - 7
* Please read the site disclaimer here. *
I own numerous old PCs running a mix of DOS-w3.1, w95, w98 and later.
Out of curiosity I've been doing some testing on multi booting w9x to see what's possible.
I've found it is possible to multi boot combinations of DOS-w3.1, w95, w98 and ME (and also other versions such as Windows 2000, XP and 7) in either dual, triple, quad or quad+ boot versions - although depending on the number of OS's to be booted and their boot architecture, there are a few quirks to be overcome.
Also note that the multi boot examples on this web site and explanation(s) thereof only apply to versions of Windows that can be installed using the MS MBR (or in some cases, an extended MBR) partitioning scheme.
After a fair bit of futzing around, I've been able to:
Generally, the more OS's added to the mix the more quirky it becomes, due to w9x versions over-writing each others boot files.
Using a boot manager such as OSL2000 simplifies things, although it is still possible to multi boot without a boot manager.
DOS-w31 adds another complication as w9x installers insist that partition 1 for their boot files be FAT32 and not FAT16, but this can be overcome.
Multi booting w9x with later Windows versions is simple, as these OS's are multi boot aware.
I've been testing out various combinations of w9x using VirtualBox 6.1.26.
This website has all the multiboot VirtualBox VHDs I've uploaded to the Internet Archive.
Click here to see the multiboot VHDs I've created (the DLs will also be faster from this site than the Archive).
If you'd like to find out more about some of the pitfalls of multibooting Windows 9x based on advice I received from Dr. Web . . . click here.
For my conclusions (so far) on the Windows multiboot experience (and some quirks thereof) and also my experience with using various boot managers (namely OSL2000, XOSL and BootitNG) . . . click here.
For details on what's probably the quirkiest way to install an OS in VirtualBox (or any VM) . . . click here.
For the easiest way ever to install either DOS 6.22 or Windows 3.1 from a CD . . . click here.
And if you're interested in visiting my Internet Archive site . . . click here.
Maximum Number of MBR Partitions:
The definitive answer to that old question . . . " What is the maximum number of MBR partitions ? "
If you want to know what the maximum usable number of partitions for an MBR hard disk is . . . click here.
As I have a passing interest in DOS, I've been trying out some DOS GUIs lately to see if there are any good ones around these days.
I've tried out 70 DOS GUIs so far and I've uploaded 30 of these to the Internet Archive (in 26 posts).
Of these 70, I've picked out 22 DOS GUIs that I think are well worth trying (as of December 2022).
For more details of these DOS GUIs - and the install files for each . . . click here.
Included with each one is a VirtualBox VHD I used for testing and the source (install) files for each GUI.
50 Boot Managers for DOS and Early Windows:
Just out of curiosity I decided to see just how many boot managers I could find on the web that would suit DOS and early versions of Windows (W3.1, 95, 98, ME, 2000, XP).
So far, I've managed to find 50 boot managers.
Most of the boot managers are from the 1990's and early 2000's and are getting very hard to find on the net now, so uploading them to the Internet Archive is a way of preserving them so they're not lost when the few existing sites that have them disappear.
While there are 50 different boot managers, there are 125 versions of them in total.
For more details of these boot managers - and the install files for each . . . click here.
15 Windows 3.x Alternative Graphical Shells:
Following on from my look at DOS GUIs, I've rounded up some alternative graphical shells for Windows 3.x.
I've found 15 different shells (with 34 versions in total) and packed the install files in a zip file
For more detail on the shells - and the install files for each . . . click here.
270 DOS & Windows File Managers, 600+ Versions:
I've uploaded all the DOS and Windows file managers I've accumulated over the last 25 years.
There are 270 file managers (give or take a few) and roughly 600+ versions of them.
I've uploaded all I have so that some of the earlier and more obscure ones won't be lost to time.
For more detail on the file managers - and the install files for each . . . click here.
Small-Tiny-Micro Windows Freeware Programs:
I've been something of a freeware collector over the last 25+ years and during that time I've collected around 100,000 programs (give or take the odd 1,000 or 3).
I had planned on putting all the small Windows programs (<500kb) I've accumulated on this site for download - however I did a check today of the programs I have in this category and it was well over 7,000 programs.
As I'm not inclined to spend the time classifying and cataloguing all of these, I'm going to limit my efforts to only doing the tiny and micro programs that are 100kb and less, which is around 1,800 programs.
* Note: These are intended to be GUI programs that run on Windows 2K/XP and up (or down to w9x) - I won't intentionally include any DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 9x only, Windows 7+ only, or XP CMD line programs.
It will be a work in progress for some time as classifying, cataloguing and uploading 1,800 programs is not a small task.
For a progress update . . . click here.
I also have an FTP server with various Freeware I've collected over the last 25+ years at:
Login as "anonymous" using your FTP Client of choice.
And for all you script kiddies taking a break from PG13 television or TikTok . . . by all means, keep trying to log in as "Admin", "Server", "Synology", "Web", "Trash", "LetMeIn" etc. as it provides some amusement on dull days.
And just for SnGs, my collection of round tuits . . . click here to browse.
For no particular reason . . . some pictures of my recent offices:
A stand-in this week, euro 5, fly by wire - Office #3711 (it's Movember again)
My current kinda-permanent office . . . . . Office #1530
Various previous office spaces . . . . . . . . Office #8444 . . . . Office #7471 . . . . Office #1531
This really gets my goat:
A brief rant on the latest crop of internet forum richards who loudly proclaim no Windows 64 bit OS can be installed on an MBR hard disk . . . click here for details.
Final thoughts on multibooting:
Everything on this site is a result of my experience multibooting Windows, from w3.1 and w9x (w95-w98-ME) through 2000, XP, Vista, 7 and 8.
The biggest take-away after doing this, and the best advice I can offer to anyone, is that if you want to boot two or more versions of w9x (or DOS-w3.1) then do it the easy way and use a boot manager (such as OSL2000 or XOSL) and avoid the hours of frustration with w9x over-writing common boot files.
Both OSL2000 and XOSL are free products and handle multiple DOS-w3.1-w9x installs just fine (although are a little clunky for 2000-XP-6-7-8 installs).
If you only want to multiboot Windows 2000 - XP - Vista - 7 then do it the easy way and use the standard Windows installers as these are multiboot aware.
And if you really want to stretch multibooting and install every Windows version on one hard disk, then use the BootitNG boot manager which can install to multiple extended primary partitions (15+ at least), although be aware this is a shareware product (but the license is relatively inexpensive).
However, if you just want to explore multibooting for yourself and find out what works and what doesn't work, then do the same as I did and install VirtualBox or VMware, download some boot managers (as there are quite a few around) and try them out and see what works for what you want to do.
From my own experience, every hour spent testing your multiboot plan in VirtualBox or VMware will save about 5 hours of frustration in the real world.
Testing in a virtual machine will be a lot quicker than testing on a physical machine and different install approaches are easy to try out.
And to save too much repetition while testing in a virtual machine, plan each step and take a backup of each as you go, for example:
If your plan is to install DOS-W31-W95-W95-ME, then:
1. * Create a VM and hard disk image (VHD, VDI, etc.) with space for all installs
* Partition the drive using a tool such as MiniTool, Aomei, exFdisk, etc.
* Backup the VHD (copy and paste is easiest)
2. * Install DOS-W31 and test - if OK:
* Backup the VHD
* Else revert to the previous VHD and adjust the install
3. * Install W95 and test - if OK:
* Backup the VHD
* Else revert to the previous VHD and adjust the install
(Note W95 will need the fast CPU fix applied during
install to run with CPU's clocked over 2.1ghz)
4. * Install next OS, etc.
5. As you'll find out, this quad boot config needs a boot manager
(as W98 trashes W95 boot files and ME trashes W98 boot files)
so revert to the DOS-W31 VHD from step 2, install OSL2000 (or
XOSL, etc.) and continue the install process
6. Welcome to DOS-W31-W95-W98-ME
Even if you're still running Windows XP, VirtualBox will run on XP 32-bit up to version is 5.2.44. The last Oracle certified version for XP, i.e., guaranteed to work, is 5.0.20 but I've found all v5.n.n work fine on XP.
My own preference for XP is the portable version of VirtualBox 4.2.16 as it's lighter on resources and I used it on XP for yonks.
Check my FTP server for some portable versions of VirtualBox in the folder:
There are also some early v1.n.n versions by Innotek for Windows 2000 (although not portable).
The bottom line is that you can multiboot any version of Windows in combination with any other version - you just need to plan out what you want to achieve and pick the right tool for the job (or in lots of cases, no tool at all other than the Windows installers).
Try out multibooting with a VM - when you suss it out I guarantee you'll be as happy as a dog with 2 tails.