How to: Update (re-install) grub while merging partitions and still be able to boot

I like to play around and see how things work. So I did with Ubuntu, first I added the 32Bit version of the Gutsy Gibbon (7.10) Ubuntu to my Computer, which came out of the box with Vista Business. And than I added the 64Bit version of Gutsy Gibbon to it, just to see how they differentiate and if I still can get most of the stuff running. I actually did most, but not all, so use the 32Bit version and have a fine system (now 8.04 ‘Hardy’ Ubuntu) working with Thunderbird sharing files and profiles with Vista, Eclipse and some MySQL tools. So far, so good. Running smooth enough to decide I don’t need the 64Bit Ubuntu right now, since I don’t have time to play around test. And once it’s gone I want to merge the partition it has been on with the NTFS data partition to get some more space.

Preparations and planning

Ubuntu is using grub as boot loader and so far that worked like a threat. But grub was installed from the 32Bit Ubuntu that now has to go. So grub has to be moved. And after the partitions have been merged, it has to be updated to reflect the new partition layout. Here is the process we will be going through:

1. backup the MBR (Master Boot Record)
2. backup current configuration files and setup
1. /etc/fstab
2. /boot/grub/menu.lst
3. /boot/grub/
4. output of fdisk -l
3. merge partitions
4. install/update grub
5. make sure everything still works fine, otherwise restore MBR

The assumption is that the system itself is smart enough to either recognize partitions have change and grub is automatically updated or if that is not the case, grub is smart enough to update itself when newly installed.

Now let’s get it on.

1. Backing up the MBR into my home folder of the 64Bit Ubuntu:

sudo dd if=/dev/hda of=~/Grub_backup.mbr bs=512 count=1

2. All the other files to backed up as well. Here I will just display the information important to that post.
1. the menu.lst is important to figure out which OS is installed on what partition, because we do not want to
2. fdisk -l actually gives some interesting information about the way my hard disk is set up. The same information you get from GParted in a visual way (see below):
Device Boot Start End Blocks Id System
/dev/sda1 1 815 6545408 27 Unknown
Partition 1 does not end on cylinder boundary.
/dev/sda2 * 816 6424 45050040 7 HPFS/NTFS
Partition 2 does not end on cylinder boundary.
/dev/sda3 10248 14594 34905088 7 HPFS/NTFS
Partition 3 does not end on cylinder boundary.
/dev/sda4 6424 10248 30716280 5 Extended
Partition 4 does not end on cylinder boundary.
/dev/sda5 6424 8248 14651248+ 83 Linux
/dev/sda6 8248 8613 2933248+ 82 Linux swap / Solaris
/dev/sda7 8613 10248 13131688+ 83 Linux GParted showing my harddisk partitions
3. Here the summary of what the information tells us:
* /dev/sda1 – NTFS formatted, this is the Rescue&Recovery partition of Lenovo
* /dev/sda2 – NTFS formatted, this is the actual Windows Vista system partition
* /dev/sda3 – NTFS formatted, this is my DATA drive I used to share data between Vista and Linux
* /dev/sda4 – is the extended container for the linux partitions (these are logical partitions no primary). That way you can have more than four partitions, because four (4) is the limit of primary partitions. Linux has no problems using logical partitions, Windows might be a bit picky when it comes to booting off them.
* /dev/sda5 – ext3 formatted, the current root and since I’m in working system, that is where Ubuntu 8.04 32Bit is installed – my working system
* /dev/sda6 – swap partition, shared between both Ubuntu systems
* /dev/sda7 – ext3 formatted, the 7.10 64Bit Ubuntu installatio
3. merge partitions with GParted.
Deleting the partition I can do out of my running system, but to allocate the space I have to run GParted from a live CD or the GParted standalone Live CD (Available as ISO Download)
4. update grub:

daniel@t61:~$ sudo update-grub
Searching for GRUB installation directory … found: /boot/grub
Searching for default file … found: /boot/grub/default
Testing for an existing GRUB menu.lst file … found: /boot/grub/menu.lst
Searching for splash image … none found, skipping …
Found kernel: /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.24-16-generic
Found kernel: /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.22-14-generic
Found kernel: /boot/memtest86+.bin
Updating /boot/grub/menu.lst … done

If you don’t have grub installed on the currently active system, you can install grub using:

sudo grub-install

5. totally incredible, but that’s already it! I tested it by restarting, booting Ubuntu, Windows and back again. Only thing still not working is booting both the same time. 😀
To get a proper differentiation for the Rescue&Recovery and the actual Vista system I update the menu.lst to:
# This entry automatically added by the Debian installer for a non-linux OS
# on /dev/sda1
title Windows Vista/Longhorn (Rescue&Recovery)
root (hd0,0)
chainloader +1

# This entry automatically added by the Debian installer for a non-linux OS
# on /dev/sda2
title Windows Vista/Longhorn
root (hd0,1)
chainloader +1

That’s it. There might be quicker ways, but I wanted to be sure ot take all precautions I could think of. So, if you have suggestions and comments, feel free to leave them.

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