Beware Fedora Core 2 Linux if you dual boot Windows XP

by Uche Ogbuji

Related link:

UPDATE: A commenter kindly pointed me to the equivalent Mandrake 10 bug. From what I can read it seems the handling of this problem in Mandrake has been as worrisome as that in FC2. The bug is marked as "fixed" although comments make it clear that the mooted workaround is not sufficient for some users. As such I extend the same warning to those considering any version of Mandrake 10.0. Be very careful if you have a dual XP boot set-up.

UPDATE: See this article quoting a response from a Fedora developer.

I have used Red Hat since 4.2, and it has been my distro of choice. I've earnestly tried Debian, Mandrake, Gentoo and SuSE at various times, but I've always come back to Red Hat, probably not because of any of the silly reasons you see bandied about in flame wars, but rather because I'm already comfortable and familar with Red Hat. When the natural evolution of Red Hat took me to Fedora Core 1, I followed and have been very happy so far.

I've been eyeing the progress of FC2, which includes Kernel 2.6 and other goodies. I tried the third and final FC2 test release but had problems with the installer that were already listed in bugzilla and decided to try again upon the final release, scheduled for this week. Before doing so I browsed the mailing list to see what success others were having and came across this posting, from which I quote:

A very serious bug exists which can render dual-boot Windows XP
installations inoperable. The problem has been discussed in other
threads here on this list, and can be found in bugzilla, so I won't go
over it in more detail. Please see bugzilla bugs 120128 and 115980.
This problem happens on my hardware even if the harddrive is wiped, and
a fresh Windows XP install is performed before FC2-test3.

Note: bug #120128 is a dupe of #115980.

This bug is still acknowledged as unfixed on the eve of the final FC2 release. On reading further, several things alarmed me:

  1. The attitude of many in the thread who violently flamed those who were raising the alarm
  2. The overall silence of core developers and release notes on a matter of such magnitude
  3. The very fact that such a major distribution does not treat a widely reproduced bug with serious consequences of data loss as a show-stopper, or at least a code-red priority

Before commenting further I do want to make sure I reiterate that people see the actual bugzilla item for the raw facts as they're known. Also see this thread which is a bit more focused on solutions and narrowing down the problem than the flame war over whether the Fedora community is taking this bug too lightly.

There has been some discussion as to whether this is actually a bug in Grub, in Kernel 2.6 (some say they came across is in Mandrake 10), or in Windows XP. None of the uncertainty over root cause excuses a responsible distribution from treating any such issue with the utmost seriousness. This bug could cause a significant cross-section of users to lose data, and so at the very least it should be affixed with a clarion horn, bold letters and blink tags in the various release notes and announcements. Instead, the sorts of discussion I see about this situation include jibes at dual-booters and even snide suggestions that FC2 is doing users a favor by neutralizing their Windows paritions. I can be as spiky in a flame war as anyone else, but I'm very surprised at how a matter that could so seriously damage the reputation of Fedora is being treated with so little apparent seriousness by all but those who have themselves lost time and data.

Speaking for myself, I have two computers on which I'd planned to make the upgrade. One (my laptop) is a dual-boot to XP. Yes, I usually back up before such upgrades and installations, but I don't have the time to go through the reinstall-XP-then-restore dance so I'm not taking the chance on my laptop and will leave it at FC1 until there is a fix for this issue. I shall upgrade the Linux-only box right away and, I hope, not run into an other unpleasant surprises.

The most important matter is fixing the bug. Do you have any new data that might be useful in doing so?


2004-05-17 21:18:13
Related bug in Mandrake 10 Community Edition
MDK 10 CE has a resembling bug for dual boot system:

2004-05-18 04:31:01
You do not loose data
Accroding to the bug, switching the bios to use LBA will solve the problem. Yes it's a bug, but no data is lost - except if you delete the partition with fdisk....
2004-05-18 06:20:15
You do not loose data
As I read things, switching to LBA works for some people, but not for everyone. If someone has to reinstall WinXP because it won't boot, they may lose data. I didn't say losing data is inevitable. I said it's possible, and that's enough for me to raise a loud warning. I still agree with the sentiments in the last posting to this bug: "Shouldn't this bug be considered a showstopper?"


2004-05-18 06:25:21
Related bug in Mandrake 10 Community Edition
Thanks for the link. I'd heard this was more widespread than FC2, and I'm not surprised since it seems there's agreement that the problem is that parted sets gemetry in the MBR from LBA to CHS (I thought the days of futzing with cylinders, sectors & heads were long gone). Supposedly there is now a candidate parted patch.


2004-05-18 09:15:10
XP has never played well with others
To be fair, Windows XP has never been cooperative with other operating systems.

It wouldn't surprise me if MS were pulling the same tricks that they pulled on DR-DOS.

That doesn't excuse the Distribution developers and managers not to highlight what is a severe problem. But then when was the last time that MS announced that dual booting XP with other operating systems caused problems and could kill your machine.

Yes I do expect more from Linux Developers than MS but the problem is as much MS' responsability as the Linux Vendor/Developers and people should be chasing them. After all that cash you parted with for XP (whether included in the price of the PC or otherwise) theoretically provides that kind of thing.

2004-05-18 11:21:29
Related bug in Mandrake 10 Community Edition
Wasn't there similar problems dealing with LBA related disks under LILO as well? Maybe someone should look to see if there are similar problems here...Under this case I think one of the issues was the partitions to be booted were beyond a specific disk had to be something like within the first 512Meg or some such thing that I can't remember at the moment..

Not sure if it will help, but also noticed a HOW TO that might be of use to some.

2004-05-18 21:18:57
I wish I'd known about this before
I sure wish they would advertise this. I had no problems installing FC1 on my desktop so I didn't expect my XP installation to stop working. I don't mind so much, but my wife is quite upset that she can't use her Windows apps until I get a chance to re-install everything. This is a big problem. Where's the fix?
2004-05-18 23:03:10
I wish I'd known about this before
Please do not use this advice without care. I am not vouching for it: I'm just repeating existing reports on the problem.

For some of those affected, flashing the BIOS to a more recent version has helped. For others going into the BIOS menu, selecting Standard options and manually setting LBA mode for the affected IDE disk worked. In such cases I think the advice was still to use Partition magic or some other tool to fix the corrupter MBR after this workaround.

Also, read the information at:

Which is very interesting (someone posted it on a related article). They offer some possible fixes.

Good luck, and I'm sorry to hear you got bitten.


2004-05-19 13:49:21
I wish I'd known about this before
Is anybody aware of whether this problem exists if updated via yum?
2004-05-20 09:08:20
You do not loose data
I have an "Auto" and a "Disabled" option on
my (recent) Nforce2 Mobo, neither will allow a working FC2 install/(multi)boot. I had to resort to sfdisk to fix the MBR after attempted installs.

I'm not going risk an install on any other machine until this is clearly resolved.

2004-05-20 12:01:37
Fixing the damage after an FC2 install
I found that a Fedora Core 2 fresh install into a
free partition on a machine that multiboots winXP (installed first), FC1, Debian and Gentoo rendered everything unbootable. GRUB hung at stage 1_5.

The machine had previously been booting using the GRUB from FC1 and I had instructed it during the install _not_ to touch the bootloader, although I had used the Disk Druid to manually set up the FC2 root. (Is this where things are getting munged up perhaps?) There was a message early in the install about misaligned partitions which has appeared since RH9, previously without ill effect, and which I made the mistake of ignoring this time.

Following the advice floating around on the forums, using sfdisk got me back to the
previous working bootloader configuration
The FC2 partition won't boot at all from this
setup, but all else is sane again....

My way of sorting out the MBR mess:

boot from Fedora Core 1 (not 2) boot CD into linux rescue mode

chroot /mnt/sysimage

sfdisk -d /dev/hda | sfdisk --no-reread -H255 /dev/hda


boot from Fedora Core 1 boot CD again

chroot /mnt/sysimage




It may work with the FC2 disk as well
(and maybe then boot the new FC2 partition too?), but I didn't tempt fate .. :)

2004-05-20 22:12:43
Fixing the damage after an FC2 install
Yes. See this thread:

But most importantly:

Which indicates the fix you posted. In that case he uses -H240, but your example of -H255 is more typical.


2004-05-23 09:29:56
XP has never played well with others
I blame nobody but the b*st*rds who decided to release an official distro in the full knowledge that it was fatally flawed. After a weekend of grief and loss of sleep and still unable to recover my HD to a working condition, I would personally like to strangle those responsible.

2004-05-24 16:17:26
Fedora Core & dual boot - probably Grub
I have the same problem, but with RH9 and Windows ME. I had RH9, Lycoris and WinME installed, but did not install Grub at the insistence of another user of the system. When the computer was replaced, and became the second system, I installed Grub, and the system became unbootable to ME, and RH9 could only be booted from a diskette or CD. I did a fresh install of Lycoris Update 3, installing the bootloader, and can now boot RH9 & Lycoris from the hard drive. However, WinME
be booted. I can still access the files on the ME partition via RH9 and Lycoris.

I was about to install FC2 on the new computer to allow multiple booting to WinME which I installed on a second HD when I ran across this thread. Whew!!

2004-05-25 17:16:16
Fedora Core Dual Boot Problem

for a way to avoid the Fedora Core dual boot problem during installation.

2004-08-08 02:14:03
You do not loose data
No doubt you don't if you know what you're doing
but when FC2 zapped my windows I also lost
accesst to the internet which means I had
no way of finding a solution. Two weeks
ago I had no idea what an LBA was, let
alone how to change it. I'm suspect that
I'm not exceptional.


2004-08-21 11:30:39
Your article is so true see some responses to my query especially the last extract
Hi I have recently submitted information to various linux forums regarding the fedora 2 bug. I explained that I have been using linux for 2 to 3 years and when installing fedora 2 that data on a completely different physical drive got destroyed. I also explained that some of the data that was destroyed was materials for an assesment from my HND programming course, I have passed that unit but this year the unit in question has been mistakenly missed out buy the scottish qualifications authority, so basically if I cant get this sorted out with the SQA I will have to re-sit one of the most difficult parts of my HND course. Anyway now that you have the crux of my discussion I shall inform you of the response, well firstly in all fairness I did get some concerned & helpfull responses however I did get some negative responses to the affect of "Stop Bitching" and also others like "ow how can you complain when you havent tried suse and mandrake" (which I have consequantly). I also got a response
LMFAO and "go and buy another hard drive there cheap". I can go on but I wont, the thing is - to be fair I was annoyed at losing that data and shared my point of view (sensibly) however it seems thatmany only want to be told about positive aspects of linux even when it is detremental to it development....... I think the handling of this is generally terrible

Hoping they get this fixed and certain people get real.


2004-08-21 11:35:34
please Note
Sorry about the previos misleading subject heading its just I was going to share some of the quoted replys I got in regards to my problem regarding the fedora 2 bug but I though I might get into trouble so I just wrote down in my previous post some of the details from replys without quoting words to people.

One other thing I also got a reply saying roughly that "ow your in the S**t"


2004-09-17 20:38:42
Linux Fedora FC2..dual boot with XP
Well I've been reading a lot about this problem..
Of dual boot with Xp... to start with most XP disks only come with the ability to format NTFS now... even if you use the boot floppies. FC2 can't see NTFS, so its a dead loss I've tried a couple of times even trying to use a 98se disk to format into fat32 then run XP over... no chance FC2 causes problems with 98 too it cant format the free space on the drive or anything else...:(( So what to do a drive I cant format...hmmmmm...ah I know... pulls out a 98 boot disk with the dos part of BCwipe on it..

Type in the command bcwipepd w -d0 -p1 and in theory you have a clinically clean drive in 3 hours...but you don't have to wait that long..just enough to take out the boot and formatting.. and you have your drive back..format away with whatever flavor of windows you like.

Linux Fedora FC2 if I wasn't using XP on all the rest of the network I'd use looks good works well, I was pleased with it...However, can't connect with the NTFs drives... So what are the core writers up to???
Anyone with sense can see what way the NTFS is blowing. as I write this I just wiped FC2 off my network ... its useless unless it can see NTFS.

Also the method of Formatting when loading FC2 is another problem all on its far I've tried it on a partitioned 80gig drive with XP... and then a 20 G drive on its own...clutching at straws

So things to do...get rid of that FFFFing Boot loader...Grub....or sort it out.
Formatting I think FC2 is using a combine harvester to format the it sure makes a mess...for little gain... uses a standard formatting table that every other op sys can see..?...its a thought..!
Ok its free but so is air and it doesnt f up your lungs the sec you breath
Could do with a MS compat FC2 I cant stand A hole aim

FC2 also has a minor problems with older monitors...tries to push Hz that the monitor cant support ...

I like the fiddle free environment..I'm currently retrieving files off a drive one of the Kids clicked on format..!!!!so Linux future..sure...just fix the NTFS...a few help pdf's with it would be nice..

As long as you just use linux FC2..its fine...but having just hailed a taxi for real street... we live in a win world... I'd like to go all FC but its just not practical right now.

2004-10-11 07:49:09
Linux Fedora FC2..dual boot with XP
I'm very new to linux. I started my Linux experience with Fedora Core 1, and I had the exact problems listed in some of these posts with one difference. I never have problems installing FC in a dual-bool configuration and running both FC and XP until AFTER I do the package updates. I am currently running a dual-boot system and have had no problem for a week. But I have not tried to update yet, because I noticed this the last two times I tried it.
As for my system, it is an Intel 865DPERL MB with a P4 2.4GHz processor and 512 MB DDR. I have FC2 final installed on dev/hda and xp pro on dev/sda, and both are working fine. On installing Fedora, I did get the partition alignment error messages, but I ignored them, trying to test different theories. I would like to do the updates, but I'm afraid to, in case there is something in the update packages which changes the current (working) configuration.
I hope this information is helpful, and once I make a current backup of the system, I will try the updates and see what happens. When I do, I will try to post here again and give further information.
2004-11-27 16:20:00
Where the issue lies...
I've done some digging around and it seems that the issue is triggered by some app/code running when a user logs onto Windows XP, I can't find a way to track down what it is but it's a start to finding a solution if MS refuse to acknowledge it.
So you can boot to XP but not log on and your MBR is not touched but log on as either admin or standard user and XP stuffs up the mbr with it's own.

Lost Soul

2005-01-02 04:26:36
You do not loose data
Thanks for ur posting.... switching the bios to use LBA will solve the problem.
Hope this help other people too quiker than i had....
2005-01-02 04:33:15
Thanks Casper for ur post
Switching the bios to use LBA solved the problem.
I hope other people find this faster than me. All u have to do is to change the bios to use LBA.
2005-01-13 06:07:00
Solution is in BIOS
In most cases the solution lies in BIOS. Because Fedora changes MBR with bad CHS numbers (240->16heads), you must change the sector adressing mode in BIOS from Auto to LBA or Large (the values must fit to the Windows's thinking). Large worked for me...

2005-01-13 19:56:36
Thanks Casper for ur post
I am new to Linux myself. It did not take long to fix my dual boot problem thanks to this advice. I changed my bios seeting to LBA. Fedora Core and Windows on the same drive within their own partitions. Now if I can only get my Linksys router and ethernet card to work in Fedora. I will be comming back to this site. Thanks.
2005-01-18 13:45:37
About to install FC3 as dual boot with XP.....
So has this supposed bug been fixed in FC3? I've got to keep XP around because this is my work computer and I work on various projects. I don't want to spend the rest of the week trying to explain to IT why my laptop won't boot up if this issue still exists. If anyone can vouch for successful installations, that would be great.

I experienced this problem firsthand with FC2 and it was not a fun experience, so I don't want to go through it again.


2005-01-18 19:55:44
About to install FC3 as dual boot with XP.....
Sigh. this comment seems to indicate that it hasn't. That having been said, I think the workarounds are confirmed for all those who have been bitten.
2005-01-19 09:18:37
About to install FC3 as dual boot with XP.....
Well then, I guess it's more XP for me. Maybe I'll get on a project that requires Linux, so then I'll wipe the drive.....but until then.....