Installing SUSE 12.1 alongside SUSE 11.4


I have a Dell Dimension C521 (AMD AthlonX2) with a 160 GB internal HDD and and an external Hard Disk (Seagate GoFlex ITB capacity on USB) with 3 GB RAM. The system has dual boot for Windows Vista Home Premium and SUSE 11.4 64 bit.

The internal HDD is dedicated to Windows Vista. The GRUB is installed on the MBR of the external HDD. The booting order is DVD drive, external HDD and then internal HDD. If the external HDD is not switched/powered on, the systems boots into Windows Vista directly. I can then switch on the external HDD and access the Windows partitions (first three primary) on it. Booting off the external HDD brings up the multi-boot options for SUSE 11.4 (64 bit) regular and fail safe, Vista normal, Dell Utilities and Rescue. SUSE is installed in the extended partition on the external HDD. I have loads of space in the extended partition. All stuff is working fine. Thanks to jdmcdaniel3, lenwolf, gogalthorp and Knurpht who guided me through the installation of 11.4 on external HDD…

Now I wish to install SUSE 12.1 (64 bit) as an addition, that is without losing the 11.4. Where would it be best installed – (a) in the existing partition for 11.4 or (b) in its own partition? Also I do not wish to rewrite the existing boot menu, only add the new installation options to the existing, how do I go about it? The basic idea is that I should have one tried and tested version available.



On Thu, 02 Feb 2012 07:36:02 +0000, PrakashC wrote:

> Now I wish to install SUSE 12.1 (64 bit) as an addition, that is without
> losing the 11.4. Where would it be best installed – (a) in the existing
> partition for 11.4 or (b) in its own partition?

Absolutely in its own partition. You couldn’t install it into the
existing partition and have two working systems - there would be library
conflicts that would cause you loads of problems.

I would also recommend separate home directories for each install, as the
versions of GNOME and KDE are different and while you may get the newer
versions to work with the older settings (indeed that would be normal for
an upgrade installation), the older versions may not understand all of
the new settings.

You might do better to play with 12.1 in a VirtualBox VM (though if you
run GNOME3, you’ll get fallback mode only) and then decide which version
you want to stick with for the time being.


Jim Henderson
openSUSE Forums Administrator
Forum Use Terms & Conditions at

To add to the above. I have on my system two pairs of partitions, On each pair (a* / and a /home*) I have a version of openSUSE. Multiboot. Thus I can allways install a newer level alongside my production level, test, and then plan a switchover (going into runlevel 3 and copying the /home from production to new for the last time) and from then on running the new as production. I then still have the old file systems as a backup, which comes in handy if you want e.g. to have a quick glance at some* /etc* config file of the old system.

As long as I think it is usefull to have access to the “other” sysem’s files, I put them in /etc/fstab to mount them read-only on /mnt/oldsys and /mnt/oldsys/home (or similar).

I had a close look at “SDB: Install another distribution”. This in turn took me to “Making a Dedicated Grub Partition” at From what I gather, it would be preferable to make a dedicated Grub Partition. The following points need confirmation or further elucidation, study:

a) The Dedicated Grub Partition must be a primary partition, or could it be a logical partition, (as mentioned earlier I intend to install it on the external HDD)
b) The version of grub to use for (a) above, should it be Grub 2 or Legacy Grub,
c) The updategrub for openSUSE would be used to add new distributions or alter existing ones,
d) Any new OS added should not be writing anything to Grub or MBR during installation, how to ensure this particularly in openSUSE.

Any pointers please.


As both openSUSE levels you want to have installed use Legacy GRUB, all the precautions you mention here are not applicable.

a) I do not kno what a “Dedicated Grub Partition is”, that may have to to with the fact that I did not study Grub 2, which is not used in openSUSE.
When a partition “must be a primary partition, or could be a logical partition”:, that is a useless remark, as there are no more tastes of partion that are excluded for this usage then. This means IMHO you probably do not understan much about partitions, thus read: SDB:Basics of partitions, filesystems, mount points - openSUSE .
Also the fact that a disk is inside or outside the physical box of your system does not make it special. It’s partitioning is certainly not influenced by that.

b) There is only Legacy Grub for openSUSE.

c) updategrub is not used for Legacy Grub.

d) Installing openSUSE 12.1 on partitions alongside openSUSE 11.4 on other partitions will detect that openSUSE 11.4 and it will make you an offer in how to handle that short before it realy starts installeing. This is in the list of all other things it offers you for inspection like partitioning it will change, file systems it will recreate, software packages it will load, etc. You decide there if you like the proposals or not. You can change there or abort the install. That is the last moment you can do this and leave your existing environment untouched. You should understand all things there. If you are in doubt, please abort, write down what it proposes and why you hesutate and here first

What do you mean by “Dedicated Grub Partition”? Grub has two parts: stage1 and stage2. Legacy Grub stage1 can be installed in any bootsector, the first sector of any partition (VBR), including the extended partition which contains no data, or/and the first sector of the disk, knows as the MBR (Master Boot Record). stage2 is installed in the /boot/grub directory, which can be in any partition, primary or logical. If you install stage1 in MBR, Grub will also install and use stage 1.5 in the sectors directly following the MBR, on the first track. Having Grub in MBR is always better, because it can access the filesystem at a earlier stage.

It “should” be Legacy Grub, but it doesn’t have to. However only Legacy Grub is supported by YaST and later by the Perl BootLoader (which rewrites the menu after a kernel update). To easily install Grub2 under openSUSE, you can use updateGrub2, which is included in the updategrub package. But I don’t recommend to do it if you don’t know what you are doing, especially because Grub2 is not supported by the system. You will be on your own. updateGrub2 can be used however to refresh the menu - since the Perl Bootloader won’t.

It could… with 2 limitations though:

  • The Perl Bootloader blindly and arbitrarly removes any foreign kernel boot entry (but not chainload entries!) , whether they were added manually or by updategrub. It’s possible to prevent that by hacking the Perl Bootloader scripts or even disabling it completely (by setting LOADER_TYPE=“none” in /etc/sysconfig/bootloader. but please DON’T). The solution is to delete all but the native entries in menu.lst after a kernel update (it doesn’t happen that often) and run updategrub again.
  • Sometimes updategrub doesn’t add some of the other OSes, because os-prober doesn’t detect them. The solution is to mount the partition where the other kernel is located. This is an os-prober issue, not updategrub’s fault. There is no logic in this behaviour. It might find an OS one time an not the next time on the same machine.

On the contray, updategrub is only used for Legacy Grub. The Ubuntu’s script is called update*-*grub:

On 2012-02-05 13:16, please try again wrote:

> What do you mean by “Dedicated Grub Partition”? Grub has two parts:

There is a method for multibooting, where you create a /boot partition with
grub and nothing more, or at most, a really small Linux system, for
emergencies. It doesn’t matter if it boots from grub code in mbr or generic
code. The trick is that the menu.lst file is used to “chainload” (the
correct word is not chainload, but I don’t remember the correct word) other
grub menus on other partitions, ie, to choose which operating system you
want to boot, not to choose a kernel.

This is a meaning of “dedicated grub partition”. I don’t know if this is
what he means.

Cheers / Saludos,

Carlos E. R.
(from 11.4 x86_64 “Celadon” at Telcontar)

This is all nice digging in all sorts of details of more or less obscure regions wich do not have much to do which the OP’s original question: can I have openSUSE 12.1 installed alongside openSUSE 11.4 and Windows. The ansswer is a simply: yes, and does not need things like extra boot/grub/whatever partitions outside the partitions needed for the different OSs. And it also does not involve the need to use Grub 2. This is all making it much more difficult and ununderstandable.

@PrakashC, it is not very usefull when you study documentation about " Install another distribution" when you only want install the same distribution, namely openSUSE (only a different level).

Thanks hcvv,
I was thinking too far ahead! I would be better off sticking to basic present needs and take up advanced steps when I reach the level.


Well finally got 12.1 up and running after a couple of false starts. Also got the NVDIA driver in place. My main worry was that the existing Windows Vista and SUSE 11.4 installations should not get damaged by some seemingly small oversight!



A lot of events have occurred since my last post. Bad (for me) : The (my) external Hard Disk (1TB) developed problems. Lost everything in the extended partition and it was OpenSUSE 11.4 and 12.1. I was able to retrieve data from partition 1 & 3 (Windows Vista). The drive has been sent back for warranty repairs/servicing/replacement.

!2.2 is out and downloaded and I am now waiting for the external HDD. The point is Grub 2 issue pops up! The External HDD will have to be partitioned anew. And the question raised earlier where to place Grub 2 becomes important. What ever I read online is sketchy on this point. Of course it is clear that one can choose Legacy Grub with 12.2. But then Grub 2 appears to have a lot of advantages in multi-booting environment which I, for one, would like to use.