System Commander 2000

SC2000's healthy 160-page manual explains how it does the job. The program analyses your current system and creates a separate bootable partition for each OS you want to add. SC2000 then replaces the original master boot record with its own version, to give you the choice of how to boot your PC. (The old MBR is saved to allow an uninstall, which worked fine when tested.) When the PC is started, SC2000 looks at each disk's partition table and collects information about each OS installed. When you select the OS, SC2000 moves any startup files into place and loads the OS's boot record. The OS is launched and SC2000 high-tails it out of memory until the next boot.

New features in this version of System Commander are an improved OS Wizard, graphical partition management, and an undo wizard.

The OS Wizard asks you a few questions about which OS you want to install, then analyses your PC and makes recommendations as to where and into what size partition your installation could proceed. You can override the recommendations if you like, such as increasing the partition size.

There is a wealth of information in the manual about all manner of upgrade permutations (e.g., keeping Windows NT 3.x and adding NT 4) and the limitations of different OSs. For example, the Windows 95/98 bootup portion (at least 20MB) must be installed in a primary partition on the first physical drive, while the balance can go elsewhere.

SC2000's partitioning manager provides a powerful way to view and change your system's primary and logical partitions. It is a simple process to select a partition and resize, move or delete it, or convert its file system (e.g., FAT16 to FAT32).

The BackStep Wizard allows you to undo previous automatic and manual partitioning tasks. It has some functional caveats but, generally, if you use the OS Wizard to prepare for a new isolated OS, the BackStep Wizard will remove the OS and undo any partition changes.

The Linux experiment

Riding on the Linux bandwagon, V-Com has included a copy of TurboLinux with SC2000, and I think they'll sell quite a few copies on this bundling arrangement alone. It is one thing to bet the house on a whole new operating system; it is another to have an each-way bet and keep your existing OS in its safe, cosy partition while you perform open-source experiments with Linux.

My first attempt at the TurboLinux install via SC2000 struck a pothole. SC2000 correctly recognised my PC's use of the EZ-BIOS driver, which provides support for a large IDE hard disk I have. In a nutshell, SC2000 said, "Proceed but be very careful", so I pulled the plug altogether. This is worth noting because the SC2000/TurboLinux bundle will appeal to many people wanting to bring life to an older Pentium system using programs like EZ-BIOS, EZ-Drive and MaxBlast. They could work with SC2000, but you should investigate first.

The second installation was successful. On a Pentium II running Windows 98, with a three-quarters-full 8GB drive, I installed TurboLinux in a new 512MB partition, as recommended by SC2000. In the process, SC2000 and TurboLinux prompted me to create four backup floppies.

I can't comment on TurboLinux's merits against other Linux installs, but after only two attempts over about 40 minutes I was logging on as "root" and then, admittedly, staring bemused at a blinking Linux command line. I strongly recommend printing TurboLinux's manual from the install CD, or checking its features online at www.turbolinux.com. After re-booting the box, a "DOS" window appeared listing a choice between Win98 and Linux. (The list can be configured with passwords, timeouts and a default OS.)But wait: there's more. Also in the box is a copy of Sun's StarOffice 5.1, a multi-platform suite of office tools that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, database, vector drawing app, scheduler and presentation tool.

As a well-documented tool for installing and managing multiple operating systems, I doubt you would strike many limitations.

System Commander 2000

Price: $134.20

Distributor: Marketing Results

Phone: (02) 9899 5888

URL: www.v-com.com

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