Dual Operating System Computer With No OS Menu!





Introduction: Dual Operating System Computer With No OS Menu!

Ok, do you want to run a dual OS computer without the hassle of boot menus? Than this is the computer mod is for you. Two hard drives, some wire, some switches, and you can simplify a dual OS (Operating System) computer to!

I'm using the master/slave pins on the back of the hard drive in conjunction with a couple DPDT switches to "set" the OS before starting the computer. So each hard drive can be set Master or Slave from the front of the computer BEFORE turning the computer on.

Be sure not to flip the switches while the computer is running... could be a bad thing :D

Step 1: Mounting the Switches

starting with a couple DPDT (Double Pull Double Through) switches. I mounted them on a unused 3.5 bay cover... but anywhere out of the way will work.

Step 2: Building the Harness

Using a couple CD drive audio cables were going to manufacture a wiring harness for our switches. I used these cables because it would hold on to all 8 jumper pins in the back of the hard drive. You could use any type of wire connector that is designed to connect to jumper pins. The wire leads from the power and reset buttons in an old case would work well too.

I removed the "thick" wire from the audio cable because it was not shielded and moved the other wire over (finished product in the second photo). Very patient/delicate work, but worth it. By pressing in on the metal tab that holds the wire in place, the wire will slide out connector and all from the molded plastic. This allows you to change the wires position in the plug.

Using a utility knife I also shaved off the "clips" and alignment pins from the molded plastic connector. They won't fit over the jumper pins otherwise.

Step 3: Wiring the Switches

Now for the solder work. Using a DPDT switch will ensure only Master or Slave is selected at any given time. Group the wires so that one set makes the jumper connection on the master and the other set makes the slave connection. On the back of the switch make sure on set goes to the top left set of solder points and the other set to the lower right. Then alternate the positions for the next switch.

That is a little confusing to say but easy to see. The second photo explains. Red wires are the slave circuit and white is the master. As you can see the switches are wired backwards of each other. this allows both switches being thrown in one direction to indicate one OS.

In my situation both switches thrown to the right sets the hard drive containing Windows XP as master. Throwing the switches to the left sets the hard drive containing Ubuntu Linux as Master.

Step 4: Making the Hard Drive Connections

Now were done with the hard stuff and coming in to the home stretch. Connect the wire harnesses to the jumper pins on the back of the hard drive.

Step 5: Assemble

Put your computer back together... Shuttle system in my case. And your done! Rough guess it cost me a grand total of $7 for the switches.

Advice for Windows/Linux users : Try not use the same model hard drive for both OS. Much easier to tell them apart if there a different brand or size. Reason being is that Windows does not like Linux... but Linux... well... it tolerates Windows. To explain, once your up and running in Linux you will be able to see, access and write to the windows drive. When in Windows the Linux hard drive is not accessible but is listed, should you attempt to open the Linux hard drive in Windows, Windows will prompt you to reformat the drive... obviously a bad thing. Easy way to avoid this "Potential Accident" is to disable the Linux hard drive in the Windows Device Manager so that it is not even listed when running Windows. May seem unnecessary, but it is my recommended "safety precaution". The instant I noticed this possible catastrophe I knew I had to find a "stupid proof" patch to keep myself from making that mistake. I almost did just that when transferring backups with external USB drives.



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    my dad did something like this way back in 2000, he had two hard drives both 44pin IDE with windows ME (lol mistake edition) one 3gb and on 40gb, the 3gb was for me and my brothers and the 40gb was for my parents. Except he used one huge switch and mounted it on a rear PCI cover. Preventing prying hands from switching it while it is running. The only disadvantage is that with a dualboot setup, the two drives can easily access the files on each other, not so with this. Nice job though.

    2 replies

    Actually If your wanting to have a dual os with 2 versions of Windoze and prevent a user that doesn't know much about computers. Just go into the hardware manager and disable the opposing hard drive in each OS. Easy to get arround but if it's rookies your dealing with it should sufice. Or if it's a more advanced user insetead of switching the master/slave jumper get a 4 pole switch and switch the power and set them both to master.

    yes but by controlling the power to the drives nothing can access the other. :)

    OK, so maybe I missed it, but can this set up be used with a SATA HDD and an older IDE drive?  If So, could you explain how to accomplish this? I just switched from XP to Windows 7 OS and I can no longer run my favorite RTS game, Cossacks by CDV (yes I know it's old but I still enjoy playing it). I have XP, along with my game on my old HDD and my Biostar M-board has connections for both. PS I LOVE your idea and I want to use it if it is possible for the HDD config I have! I like Windows 7, but... I don't like the fact that it dosen't support very many older video cards and drivers, nor some popular older games.  Hummn, I wonder if "Bill" even remembers MS "Age of Empires"?  Will it run on 7? Anybody know?
    Ted sez...

    1 reply

    Sense posting this Instructable I've had the chance to mess with SATA a bit. I'm not sure it would work. You could try interupting the power but as i remember it I had to "point" the bios to which SATA drive had the Linux os and use the Grub boot loader to do a dual boot system. On the Windoz side of things I realy don't know how you would dual boot 2 Windows opperating systems with out a boot manager of some sort with SATA. All new motherbords still have the old tried and true IDE connector and this could still be done, but there will be a performance trade off. it would have to be 2 IDE drives or 2 SATA drives. However thinking about it... I had to point the bios to the linux hdd because I was sporting 3 hdds in the same system. So It would stand to reason that if you were to Interupt the power to a SATA drive on a 4 pople switch useing a 4pin to SATA power addapter... only one hdd would be on at any given time so there would be no confusion in the bios as to which hdd had the OS. just don't add an extra hdd to the system later or you'll regret it... As for the games and such if you find the .EXE and right click on it you can get to properties and the Windows compatability tab and tell the computer this program worked on win 98 or xp or etc... don't know if that will help, I haven't gotten far with it. but it must work for something :)


    I believe you mean 'double pole, double throw'.

    Actually, you can read/write to your Linux drive/partition in Windows (although you do have to use 3rd party software). It's called "Ext2 Installable File System for Windows", I used it a while back to edit GRUB while I was in Vista.

    He said: Linux Left, Windows Right...


    your comp looks like my dad's Pro Tools comp.

    1 reply

    my pro tools pc is inside a desk draw its invisible lol.

    You have one of those mini computers? Cool! What are the specs on it? I like the idea of taking the menu screen out of dual booting. Do you like the computer?

    1 reply

    Shuttle SN41G AMD 2500+ 1g DDR 400 ram BFG G-Force 4 7600 OC 512mb video Maxtor 80g ATA133 (Windows XP sp3) Samsung 40g ATA100 (Ubuntu Linux 8.10) Top of the line stuff... well it was... 5 or so years ago :P I have just seen no real reason to upgrade, she's still fast enough for whatever I throw at it... most power hungry game I throw at it is Oblivion maybe Counter Strike. The idea here was for old ATA drives. Designing the same computer "style" is still possible with newer components. The shuttle box is still around... only with newer guts, and if you use switches to interrupt the power to SATA drives you'll have the same effect as switching master/slave on ATA drives. (unnatural is dead right in his post) use the switch to turn off the drive with the unwanted OS and turn it back on if you want file access to that drive... gatta love that hot swap :P And yes I likes! considering the computers age i'm surprised it hasn't died on me yet. In 5 years I've replaced the power supply once, aside from that no problems.

    This is cool, quite an elegant solution. As an alternative for sata drives you could load grub onto a usb drive, so that it looks at the grub on the usb if it is there and boots OS1. When usb isn't there it loads grub from the harddrive which boots OS2. Nowhere near as elegant, but its a solution.

    I think this is a creative approach. However not the smartest thing to do, besides I don't see why you would not want to use a boot manager but thats just my $0.02

    1 reply

    I was forever walking away from the computer after turning it on and ending up in the wrong OS. I just kept missing the grub menu and needed to restart the computer. Just a "lazy man's" fix.

    also....unless you're using the linux file system (EFS?) windows can detect the drive and use it....so if you're using your computer specifically for a dual disk-dual boot scenario where you want to access either OS's drives from the other OS.....then format your linux drive in NTFS when you're setting it up


    Great idea, except.. surely most people l33t enough to want to use dual boot will be using SATA drives these days? I've been using SATA hard drives since my first Shuttle in 2006 (before I started dual booting). If you can think of any other way to do this I will be your biggest fan forever, I hate that moment when you realise you weren't concentrating on the boot menu so are loading into the wrong OS and have to restart.

    I tried with a boot floppy once that just had a copy of GRUB with the opposite boot order to the copy on the hard drive, so disk in = Windows, disk out = Linux, but couldn't make it actually boot from the floppy.

    2 replies

    Just a theory: maybe pointing the switches to the power lines, so you can choose what drive will be powered on? Assuming the motherboard is smart enough to boot from the right disk each time :D

    If i remember correctly, i did see a computer mod, where the box was turned upside down for linux, and right way round for windows.. Goes to google it.