The Loadlin+Win95/98/ME mini-HOWTO

Authored by: Chris Fischer,

v1.5.2, 21 Feb 2001

This document describes how to use Loadlin with Windows 95/98/ME to boot to Linux.

1. Introduction

2. About Loadlin

3. IMPORTANT: Preliminary Information and Setup

4. Getting started:

5. Frequently Asked Questions:

6. Internationalization

1. Introduction

This document describes a simple three step procedure for using Loadlin to dual boot between Linux and Windows 95/98/ME. If you prefer to use the LILO boot manager, please consult the Linux+Win95 Mini-HOWTO.

This version of this mini-HOWTO has been completely rewritten with major differences from the previous version (1.4.6). The following highlight the major differences:

1.1 Copyright

Copyright (c) 1997-2001 Protek Computer Solutions. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with with the Invariant Sections being only "The Loadlin+Win95/98/ME mini-HOWTO".

1.2 New Versions Of This Document

This mini-HOWTO is posted first at The Linux+Windows 95 Reference Page, so check there to make sure you have the most recent revision of this mini-HOWTO.

1.3 Feedback

Questions, comments, and suggestions are welcome. I am always looking for ways to improve and expand this mini-HOWTO. I rely heavily on feedback to make improvements, and will do my best to be prompt with a helpful response. I can be reached at

1.4 Disclaimer

Every attempt has been made to ensure that the information presented in this mini-HOWTO is safe and accurate. However, this information is given without any warranty, either expressed or implied, as to its suitability for a particular use. It is generally considered a GoodThing(TM) to make backups of your system files before changing system configurations and/or files. I suggest you take this precaution "just in case".

2. About Loadlin

2.1 What is Loadlin?

Loadlin is a simple DOS based utility that loads the Linux kernel into memory from DOS. Loadlin was written by Hans Lermen. See the Loadlin-1.6 User's Guide for further details about Loadlin's features and how to use Loadlin.

3. IMPORTANT: Preliminary Information and Setup

3.1 Windows ME Users

Before your read any further, I should mention that this mini-howto has some limitations with Windows ME. Based on feedback from Windows ME users, the menuing system described in the next section will only work from a Windows boot floppy instead of from the hard drive. Thanks to Olivier Guichard for pointing me to the relevant Microsoft article.

Note that only the config.sys and autoexec.bat files need to be on the floppy disk. All other files mentioned may reside on the hard drive.

If booting from a floppy is not an option for you, then please see the FAQ section for alternatives to LILO and Loadlin.

Any Windows ME users who can find a better way than using a floppy, please let me know your solution so I can include it in this mini-howto.

3.2 Things that are assumed:

3.3 Items you need before you start:

4. Getting started:

4.1 Step One:

Edit (or create) config.sys on the root of Drive C. The contents should be similar to the following:

menuitem=Linux, Mandrake Linux 7.2
menuitem=Win98, Windows 98
menudefault=Win98, 10



If your system already has a config.sys file, put those contents under the [win98] section. The [linux] section is left blank intentionally.

4.2 Step Two:

Edit (or create) autoexec.bat on the root of Drive C. The contents should be similar to the following:

goto %config%

call c:\linux.bat


As above, if you aready have an autoexec.bat file, put those contents under the :win98 section.

4.3 Step Three:

Create a file called: linux.bat. Putting it in the root of Drive C is as good as place as any (but it can go anywhere so long as you reference the path or location). The contents should be similar to the following:

@echo off
c:\loadlin c:\vmlinuz root=/dev/hda3 ro 

The above example assumes that loadlin.exe and vmlinuz are located in the root of Drive C (or C:\) and that linux is installed on the /dev/hda3 partition. Your configuration may be different.

The important thing here is to make sure that loadlin and your linux kernel file are properly referenced. Finished!

That should work for you, as that is how I have things set up on my system, which dual boots with Win98.

5. Frequently Asked Questions:

5.1 Where can I find more information on using Loadlin?


5.2 I am not sure what partition Linux is installed on. How do I find out?

5.3 Where do I find the kernel image file and how do I copy it to my MS-DOS partition?

5.4 Does it matter if I install Linux or Windows 95/98/ME first?

5.5 I currently have LILO installed, but I want to use Loadlin instead. How do I remove LILO?

        fdisk /mbr

5.6 What if I already dual boot between Windows 95 and Windows 3.x, and I want to boot to Linux using this method?

5.7 Is it possible to initiate Linux from the Windows 95/98/ME desktop?

        loadlin f:\vmlinuz root=/dev/hdc2 ro

Now save the file on your Windows desktop. Next, right click on the Linux.bat icon, then left click on Properties. Now click on the Program tab, then click on the Advanced button. Click on the box next to "MS-DOS mode" and make sure the box next to "Warn before entering MS-DOS mode is checked". Click OK, then click on OK again. Now when you double click on the Linux icon, a warning box will appear before going into MS-DOS mode. If you click on "Yes" then Windows enters MS-DOS mode and executes the Linux.bat file.

NOTE: You must be in MS-DOS mode in order to use Loadlin. Please see the manual.txt file mentioned in Section 4.1 of this FAQ for more information.

5.8 Where can I get a plain text version of this document?

5.9 Is Loadlin the only alternative to LILO?

6. Internationalization

Currently there is an Italian translation of version 1.5.0 of this mini-HOWTO, translated by Michele Martiradonna.

Any effort to translate this mini-HOWTO into other languages will be greatly appreciated. If you are interested in taking on such a task, please e-mail me at: