BIOS with a boot manager. Update or Install? Advice needed.

I had my motherboard fail and had to do a replacement. The motherboard I got has a feature (I don’t think I can shut off) that lets you select what drive you want to boot off of. I have XP installed on the first drive and openSUSE 11.1 on the second drive.

I am running openSUSE 11.2 with KDE 3.5 and I simply dropped my drives onto this new motherboard. I can boot up (Linux) just fine but am having other issues with my mouse. I am thinking of Updating to openSUSE 11.2 and the current KDE version.

Should I just update to 11.2 or do a new install. I have LOTS of data in my home directory I really don’t want to lose and have a partition for data as well that is pretty full. I don’t want to lose this stuff.

What should I do about Grub with this BIOS that lets you pick which drive to boot off of? Put Grub in the MBR of the drive with openSUSE on it and nuke the MBR of the XP drive?

Motherboard is a ASRock A780GHX/128

I would get on openSUSE and get your data off of it. Then i would do a fresh install with the grub boot from the drive, not the MBR.

I would advice to have the boot manager installed in a separate partition /boot (and to select during install of Opensuse “do not write to MBR”.
But I would leave this to the “gurus” of this forum, they will explain this much better I guess.

Before doing anything:
why don’t you backup your /home partition (in order not to risk to loose any data? It is very easy to do.
You need only a sufficiently big enough external HDD formated in EXT3 (very cheap these days, I would reccomend e-SATA because faster, especially if you have a huge /home.
The procedure is very simple.
You look how the usb disk is called (if you have two disks, the first will be sda (with the different partitons 1,2 etc) and sdb (1,2 etc).
Your external hdd will then be sdc 1 (if you have only one partition on it. Make sure it is connected and switched on.

You open a **console. **You type “su -” (don’t forgett the minus).
You get obviously superuser (#).
You create a directory “backup”: mkdir backup (or any other name you like).
You go to runlevel 1 (to be sure that you copy everything and no programm blocks the copy process). To do so you type “init 1
Do not be afraid, everything is shutting down up to the moment when runlevel 1 is reached. You will be asked again the root password.
Now when you are logged in in runlevel 1 you mount your HDD to the directory “backup” you created before. To do so you type:
mount /dev/sdc1 /mnt/backup
This will create the mountpoint for your external HDD.
Now you want to copy everything “as is” without altering the attributes (otherwise the permissions will get messed up while copying the files). So you finish typing: cp -ax /home /mnt/backup
This will copy all your home directory included hidden files to the external hdd. In case of necessity you have a backup.
Now you unmount the HDD umount /dev/sdc1 (where, you recall, stands for the name of your external hdd). Reboot or enjoy the runlevels typing init 5 and then start X (if the X server shouldn’t start on it’s own).

If you opt (what I would consider a good idea) fo a new install, you should create IMHO also a different partition for /home.
The next time (a part of that it is good to have always a backup) you will simply be able to erase the system partition and reinstall the OS if there is a problem, without loosing /home.

Ps. Once you are done, you can control that everything is copied browsing your external HDD with Konqueror from your user account.

How does it work when it’s not in the MBR? I am not sure I know how to configure that in the installer correctly. Link to a URL?

I have a backup drive installed in the system (mounted as /backup) I use to back up home (/home is huge) and am backing up right now. I log in as root and issue cp -av /home/username /backup/username as I didn’t like the options in the backup utility in YAST2

I already make a seperate /home from /. I don’t think the OpenSuSE installer will touch /home or any other partiton other than / if you tell it not to. If I am remembering correctly that is.

You are actually presented the choice on where to install the Grub installer during the installation process. If you fail to notice the moment, the summary report has a voice “grub bootloader” or similar, you click on it and you get into the choices. There if you look into the details you can choose to install it into /boot and not to write to MBR.
For what (with my primitive understanding of the bootloader) I do understand it works as follows:
The MBR (master boot record) is a little piece at the beginning of your HDD where Windows needs to write it’s boot information to. Opensuse does not need necessarily to write there. It can install GRUB into /boot. It will then refer to the values of the master boot record, but write it’s own values into /boot. The advantage is that the MBR remains functional if i.e. /boot is damaged and you should be able still to boot windows.
It is actually a very good choice not to write to the MBR if you have a dual boot.
This implies that when you create the system, you will have:
your first disk with /windows
your second disk with /boot (partiton), /swap (partition), / (partiton root), /home (partition). The sizes will be accordingly about 100-200 MB for /boot, 20 GB for /, 2-4 GB Swap (follow what yast proposes, normally same amount as RAM), the rest for /home.

If you do a install be sure double check the partition scheme before proceeding. I think /home is marked for format unless you change it. BTW I highly recommend a new install rather than an upgrade. It will assure no dross from a previous install is left to make trouble.

I forgott: for the future, try the program “lucky backup” from the community repositories (using rsync). It is cute. :wink:

@Gogalthorp: I agree to this. I never upgrade, I save home and I install a fresh system. Whatever you fiddled around will be gone…and should work again.

What I ended up doing was staying with my 11.1 install after finding out what was causing the problem (a flakey PS2 mouse connected to a old KVM switch). I removed the windows drive and repaired the bootloader from the expert mode on the 11.1 install DVD. Then I added back in the SATA drives I had hashed out in fstab on at a time after reordering the cables. My boot splash is gone but my system boots and is mostly back to normal now.

I actually did a install of 11.2 but I still had the instability and it led me to finding the real problem and fixing that. No more installing grub to the MBR for me. I now have a drive with 11.2 in a drawer with the install DVD as insurance.

good to hear. :slight_smile: