Multiple bootable hard drives

Ok, so I’m looking at putting the openSUSE system on my computer. I’m already running Ubuntu and Windows XP, dual boot.

I could buy a monster drive and triple boot I suppose. I don’t really like that idea too much, but it might work out fine.

How about using multiple hard drives, with the option of booting from either of them?

I’ve seen switches and hard drive trays, where you can swap hard drives. That’s certainly an option.

How about setting up a boot loader to have a choice from different systems on different hard drives to boot from? Is that a possiblity? My current IDE cable has a connection for one more, I’m not sure if I have another IDE connection on my motherboard or not?

Ideally you would have one OS per hard drive. Would you need to set the jumpers on each hard drive to “master?”

I really haven’t had issues with Windows and Ubuntu existing on the same hard drive. Adding a secondary drive may be the cheapest way for me to add that third OS, provided I had the option to boot to it. I’ve only got 160 gig on the current drive, so a third OS on this isn’t too appealing to me.

I would like to ditch Windows, but I find myself using it for certain things, and I need to keep it around since I work on computers that largely have this system on it. Putting openSUSE on the machine would give me a taste of a different flavor of Linux, and give me another option of an OS to install and work with in my business.


3 hardrives will work
i personally prefer it, i run vista on 1 drive and opensuse on another and i just use grub to boot to which OS i want, so i would imagine a third drive would work also i’ve done it for testing beta opensuse but had to put the hardrive in another computer
so to answer some of your questions yes it would work
as far as the jumpers go you would have to use master and slave jumpers

So, I guess you would set up GRUB on the last Linux install? Seems logical to me.

You say “master/slave;” master on Drive 0, the other two slaves?


Of course if you are using SATA drives, master/slave does not come in to the equation.

Load VIRTUALBOX and install windows on a virtual machine in linux, then delete the windows instalation. I run windows in VB only for tax software that has not been ported to linux. :slight_smile:

I didn’t have much luck the last time I used Virtual Box. It just stopped working. It was kind of neat while it lasted. I kind of want a stand alone installation of XP, so I can run games like Serious Sam 2, which still doesn’t seem to run in Wine. But, Serious Sam SE does run quite well in Wine though. I just don’t think Virtual Box will run a 3D game like this very well, right?

I’m still working with IDE drives at the moment.

I may just get an 80 gig for my main OS, and leave the other two OSes in dual boot on the 160 gig drive. Of course, as cheap as hard drives are now, who knows, I may just go for 3 hard drives. I do have a SATA card I could pull into play as well.


Usually when you have multiple OSes on multiple disks, one of the
disks has the boot loader and the boot loader is configured to
offer booting from partitions on the other disks. In that case,
only the disk carrying the boot loader is actually bootable from
the hardware/BIOS point of view, and you do not need to mess with
master/slave jumpers or BIOS settings.

Some OSes like Windows try to insist on being installed on the
“first” hard disk, ie. the one that’s physically bootable. But
GRUB can fake that for them by swapping the drives around behind
their backs. Still it might be easier if you keep Windows on your
actual boot disk and put Linux, which can cope with living on a
different disk just fine, on a separate one.


Tilman Schmidt
Phoenix Software GmbH
Bonn, Germany

Just to add a couple thoughts to the posts above . . .

There is certainly no need for switches or trays or external devices if your motherboard has sufficient capacity for the drives. If you are only using IDE, then usually there are 2 channels (the mobo connectors) each supporting 2 devices. So traditionally there is support for 3 hard disks plus and optical drive. The cheapest way to extend that is a PCI card; just be sure that the controller device on the card is supported by linux (most are).

Also, there is absolutely no relationship between Master and Slave or drive jumpering vis-a-vis the OS. And, there is no technical reason to have a disk exclusive to an OS; a user may have a personal preference for doing so, but if connectivity capacity is a constraint then that can be an unaffordable luxury. On my development machine I have a disk on which W2K, 2 instances of XP, Vista, and 3 instances of Linux co-exist quite nicely.