Experience Booting Linux Using the Windows 7 Bootloader

Greetings everyone! It has been quite some time since my last post. As you’ll be able to read from my profile (and signature,) I have decided to run ArchLinux for the upcoming experiment. As of yet, I’m not sure what my contributions to the community will be, however, there will be more on that later.

One of the interesting things I wanted to try this time around was to get Linux to boot from the Windows 7 bootloader. The basic principle here is to take the first 512-bytes of your /boot partition (with GRUB installed), and place it on your C:\ as linux.bin. From there, you use BCDEdit in Windows to add it to your bootloader. When you boot Windows, you will be prompted to either start Windows 7 or Linux. If you choose Linux, GRUB will be launched.

Before I go into my experience, I just wanted to let you know that I was not able to get it working. It’s not that it isn’t possible, but for the sake of being able to boot into ArchLinux at some point during the experiment, I decided to install GRUB to the MBR and chainload the Windows bootloader.

I started off with this article from the ArchLinux wiki, that basically explains the process above in more detail. What I failed to realize was that this article was meant to be used when both OSes are on the same disk. In my case, I have Windows running on one disk, and Linux on another.

According to this article on Eric Hameleers’ blog, the Windows 7 Bootloader does not play well with loading operating systems that reside on a different disk. Eric goes into a workaround for this in the article. The proposed solution is to have your /boot partition reside on the same disk as Windows. This way, the second stage of GRUB will be properly loaded, and GRUB will handle the rest properly.

Although I could attempt the above, I don’t really want to be re-sizing my Windows partition at this point, and it will be much easier for me to install GRUB to the MBR on my Linux disk, and have that disk boot first. That way, if I decide to get rid of Linux later, I can change the boot order, and the Windows bootloader will have remained un-touched.

Besides, while I was investigating this approach, I received a lot of ridicule from #archlinux for trying to use the Windows bootloader.

09:49 < AngryArchLinuxUser555> uhm, first 512bytes of /boot is pretty useless
09:49 < AngryArchLinuxUser555> unless you are doing retarded things like not having grub in mbr
(username changed for privacy)

For the record, I was not attempting this because I think it’s a good idea. I do much prefer using GRUB, however, this was FOR SCIENCE!

If I ever do manage to boot into ArchLinux, I will be sure to write another post.


  1. Well… it is allways a bad idea to move the windows system partition… I did this once and never tried again : the only solution wa

  2. (sorry, keybord typo sent message to quickly) so… the only solution was to restore the original disk content with the CD provided with the PC… With new laptops without CD it can be painfull !

    I discovered later that the windows bootloader cannot reach the end of a big disk, so you have to put the windows kernel not too far. Now, my windows partition is allways the first since grub doesn’t have this kind of limitation (Yes, I’m very conservative 🙂 )

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