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The History of Microsoft’s Multi-boot Sabotage

Posted in Antitrust, GNU/Linux, IBM, Microsoft, Windows at 11:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“I’d be glad to help tilt lotus into into the death spiral. I could do it Friday afternoon but not Saturday. I could do it pretty much any time the following week.”

Brad Silverberg, Microsoft

It’s no secret that Microsoft is nuking GNU/Linux partitions/boot tables, by design. While we lack correspondence to show this was deliberate and malicious, antitrust evidence provides precedence that relates to a similar strategy from the nineties.

As a little bit of essential background, here are some articles of interesting that refer to Windows Vista (and most likely Vista 7 too):

1. Vista SP1 won’t install on dual-boot systems: Microsoft

If you’re dualbooting Windows Vista Enterprise or Ultimate alongside a Linux distro, and have installed the Linux bootloader into the MBR, then you’re guaranteed to run into problems when installing Vista Service Pack 1, Microsoft has admitted.

2. Geek in Paradise – Vista Upgrade

As the HP Advisor disc was in the process of finishing, the machine froze solid. After giving it 5 minutes of no disk activity, I reset the machine to be greeted by a lovely blinking cursor. I put the Vista disc in and booted into a repair installation, where I ran the Repair tool. My hunch was proved correct when it returned a corrupted MBR, which it had fixed. Thinking all was well, I rebooted to be greeted with a black screen (no blinking cursor). Well, there’s something more going on so I rebooted into the repair tool and let it do it’s thing. This time, it found a Corrupted Partition table which it then said it repaired. Awesome! Next reboot was greeted by the same black screen, so I figured the other partition was corrupt as well and let the repair tool run again and fix the partition table again. Reboot, same thing…

3. Vista scoots to new boot, but it’s still kinda rooted

While Microsoft would like the world to believe that anyone running Windows has no need of any other operating system, that attitude doesn’t cut much mustard with many of its users.
Why settle for one OS when your PC is easily capable of running two or more?


One of the more questionable tactics that Microsoft has implemented in Vista is to automatically overwrite any existing MBR during the installation process without asking if you mind or giving you an option to back up.

Microsoft says that the Windows installation system can’t intelligently interrogate an existing non-MS MBR, although such features are quite common in the install routine for other OSes.

It also argues that an “official” Vista MBR is required for security features — such as measured boot, which works with Trusted Platform Module (TPM)-enabled chips to check that the OS hasn’t been hacked or altered each time it boots — to work correctly.

There are many more articles just like these, but that’s not the point. We are more interested in the developments behind the scenes, and particularly Microsoft’s approach towards situations as such.

Today we look at Exhibit px09040 from Comes vs Microsoft [PDF]. Herein, Microsoft prefers to “disable OS/2 in ALL cases.”

We also add a presentation about OS/2, courtesy of Steve Ballmer. Combined, these two antitrust exhibits show that Microsoft thought OS/2 was much better than windows and considered sabotage to compete, much as they did with DR-DOS. Steve Ballmer sang OS/2′s praises for a duration of 14 pages, as shown in Exhibit PX08112 [PDF], but here is what they did:

In all cases I can think of now, Janus [multiboot tool being written by the
author] will blow away the OS/2 sys files and render OS/2 useless.

Question: do we care about this? This is WAR, and in that regard, I
believe we should design Janus such that if this multiboot partition
(has a unique partition number (11)) is found, we should warn the user a
foreign OS has been detected, give them a chance to exit and read the
docs and possibly make a backup, and then repartition the disk, removing
the multiboot partition. This way, we disable OS/2 2.0 in *all* cases.

Mind the phrase “This is WAR” (capital letters in the original too). This is an exact copy of the "Microsoft evangelist" guidebook, which uses capital letters in the phrase "Evangelism is WAR!"

“It was an entirely different story when Steve Ballmer was singing praises about O/S, saying that “OS/2 will feed off Windows success.””The complete text has grousing about “feature creep” that drips with resentment for doing anything positive for the customer while trying to justify a “batch mode” for OS installation. They probably would not have thought of this feature had OS/2 not already been doing the same..

Brad Silverberg and Jim Allchin too were involved in these tactics (albeit at a higher level), as we showed in the past. Here is an exact copy of some offending code.

It was an entirely different story when Steve Ballmer was singing praises about the O/S, saying that “OS/2 will feed off Windows success.” His presentation (with handwritten notes) [PDF] has textual copy in the appendix below, but here is one highlight from his talk.

0S/2 Momentum: Role of Microsoft Windows

o The 0S/2 user Interface is the most popular graphical user interface in the
world today
{CUA on DOS}

o The compatibility of the user interface across Windows and 0S/2 makes it
possible to develop common DOS and OS/2 based applications
{eases fear of transition – large brokerage example}

o Largest base of graphical applications is portable (and being ported to)

{OS/2 will feed off Windows success}

In the appendix, one cannot really see Ballmer’s handwritten notes, but the PDF, which includes initial and rudimentary OCR output, is worth seeing. How quickly they back-stabbed a so-called ‘partner’. We remarked on OS/2 in the past (mostly Microsoft’s dirty war against it, e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14]) and we are likely to do so in the future. We have many dozens of ‘smoking guns’ in the pipeline.

Appendix: Comes vs. Microsoft – exhibit PX08112, as text

0S/2: Microsoft’s View

Steve Ballmer
Vice President, Systems Software
Microsoft Corporation

-Introduce myself
-Thank IBM
-Joke about dinner kitty thelay
-Being hot the presentor
-Market position, key improvements

OS/2 Success Factors
o Momentum: Critical mass of binary compatible Installations
o Microsoft and IBM commitment to the product
o Technical strength

OS/2 the successor to DOS in bus.
DOS + OS/2 > 85%
In 91 OS/2>DOS.
To understand we need.
-technical strength (new apts)

0S/2: Technical Strength

o Pre-emptively scheduled kernel supporting multiple concurrent tasks and
multiple threads of execution
{servers, sophisticated workstations
more dogs that don’t bark}
o Advanced memory management an dinter-process communication
{bigger, more complex, richer interation between apps}
o Extensible system services via use of dynamic link libraries
{subsystems, reusable pieces, value added}
o Integrated graphical user interface
{next generation, depend on it, lower barrier horizontal}
o Advanced networking support
{workgroup apps
- Notes/Office
- E1, E2, E3 demo}

OS/2 Momentum

DOS thdved due to Microsoft, IBM and third pady industry support

o OEM support

o DOS – 118 {some bankrupt}
o 0S/2 – 55 {and growing}

o ISVs

o DOS -2320
o 0S/2 – 200 (companies with 0S/2 products announced) {7 1/2 years > 20 MMillion}

This includes the Industry leading ISVs:
Aldus, Ashton-Tate, Borland, Computer Associates, DCA, Digital Research, ¯
Informix, Lattice, Micrografx, Microrlm, Novell, Oracle, Software Publishing,
T/Maker, Versacad, Word Perfect

0S/2 momentum is better than DOS at year one {Q1 big by Q4}

{The successor

0S/2 Momentum: Role of Microsoft Windows

o The 0S/2 user Interface is the most popular graphical user interface in the
world today
{CUA on DOS}

o The compatibility of the user interface across Windows and 0S/2 makes it
possible to develop common DOS and OS/2 based applications
{eases fear of transition – large brokerage example}

o Largest base of graphical applications is portable (and being ported to)

{OS/2 will feed off Windows success}

Microsoft and IBM Commitment

o Identical OS/2 version 1.1 products {- well tested and released [garbled]}

o Open architecture:

o Programmatic interface {no binary Unto}
o Device drivers
o Fonts
o Data interchange protoccols
{explain. most other}

o Refinement

o Speed
o Size
o Useability
{People like speed
Explain size.}

o Enhancement

o New features
o Hardware support
{Here we go}

People make investments. Want to
know they have committed partners}

The future for 0S/2

o Filesystem improvements
o Support of 386 processor
o Imaging model
o Networking
o Object oriented enhancements
o Multi-processor support

Filesystem Improvements

o Performance improvements:

o file access
o smart caching
{no need to be propietery to be great}

o Media access improvements:
o larger disk volumes
o standardised access to different media types (e.g. CD ROM)
o long filenames and extended file attributes
(e.g. ‘author name’, ‘revision date’)
{Browsing ISU’s. Key}

o Both are important initially for network server and later for
object oriented systems

{Usability [up arrows]
Filesystem is most popular
for reworking
Better database with EA’s
will go distributed
Database/Filesystem will be key

o Support of 386 Processor
{Unix ports no new app types

o Full binary compatibility: all existing O8/2 applications will run unchanged

o API enhancements:
o Access to 32-bit linear address space

o System enhancements:
o Demand paged virtual memory.
{Benefits 286 apps}

o End user enhancements
o Multiple DOS sessions

{tool ect this year
Portable API}

Imaging Model

o 0S/2 today has an open architecture for fonts and rendering.
This encourages third parties to provide products for specialised

o High quality phototypesetting
o Image capture

o 0S/2 today has a very high quality “graphics engine”, comparable to or
better than any other product. The graphics services are available to all
appitcation programmers.

There is a need to provide higher level tools for creation and manipulation
of graphics objects.

o 0S/2 today has the screen imaging model and can support printed
output in various ways: Postscript, HP PCL, other raster and vector
such as dot matrix printers, plotters and film recorders.
{Not [garbled] Integrated w/OS does not interject new constraints
clipping Font algorithms}

Some applications (e,g. desktop publishing) benefit from a single
model for both screen and printer.

Printer manufacturers will build Presentation Manager printers which support
this. {Future}


o MS OS/2 LAN Manager version 1.0 now shipping

o High performance network server
o Shared file access across network
o Suitable for client/server applications allowing distributed processing
{Named pipes LAN APIs}

o Interoperable with IBM LAN Server version 1.0
{RLP go through case}

o Planned enhancements:
o Name service
o Securtty services
o Additional RPC and program to program communication support
{CPIC & RPC compilers}
o Improvement of transport efficiency
{Net beni & others.}

Object Oriented Enhancements

Problem statement:

Today’s applications do not offer the consistency and flexibility needed to
increase end user productivity.

Application development is becoming increasingly more difficult as the
computing environment becomes more complex.

Requirements statement:

Provide an environment in which users can control multiple applications,
combine applications and interchange a wide range of information between

Provide an environment wherein applications can act as extensions of the
OS and provide future podability by virtue of this extensibility.

Supporting an object oriented system:

Support for objects in development tools (methods, classes, ….)
Support for objects in the user Interface (direct manipulation, “drag and drop”)
-Sample by
-Visual objects
Support for application images and data flies as objects within the filesystem
and across the network
-OOFS (build on filesystem)
-Control language
{Builds off object oriented messaging made of PM.}


Providing a true object oriented system is a large and complex problem which
impacts all aspects of systems software.

OS/2 and its associated tools is a great platform on which to build this.
{Will take time but is evolutionary}

Multi-processor Support

o Need to provide for both general and special purpose solutions:

o General purpose scalable solution utilising one to N similar processors:

o Same operation on N processors as on one processor, albeit
with different performance
o Hardware manufacturer has a flexible choice of product configurations

o Special purpose

o Co-processor dedicated to specific function (e.g. filesystem support)

o Multi-processor systems are initially important for use as high performance
network servers
{Explain numerics or other coprocessor
File/Database service
-File system/Database
-Driver (Net, Disk}
Virtual coprocessor design allows off loading}


o 0S/2 has early critical momentum
o Planned enhancements will consistently improve end user and developer

o 0S/2 is a great foundation for technology innovation

0S/2: The natural successor to DOS

[note that all pages were marked with the following]

X 174474

Microsoft Presentation IBM Hursley Laboratory, December 14 1988


Appendix: Comes vs. Microsoft – exhibit PX09040, as text

with delivering this product in March.

Easy Janus, on the other hand, won’t be a reality until May-ish. There
are some issues regarding documentation resources that need to be battled
in order for this product to make it.

From: bent Fri Jan 10 13:08:12 1992
To: philba
Subject: Re: Yasukoh
Date: Tue Feb 23 22:08:39 PDT 1993

Any news about Yasukoh? Thanks.

From Philba Mon Jan 6 11:00:20 1992
To: bent nancyla
Subject: Re Yasukoh
Date: Mon, 06 Jan 92 10:58:52 PST

we are working the issue now. ryoji has tentatively agreed to give us
a headcount so it shouldn’t be a problem but there are still issues
to clear before it happens. I hope to have a final answer this week. OK?

Fro:m johnpa Fri Jan 10 14:07:15 1992
To: Philba
Cc: jonpa
Subject: 2 issues to think about (long)
Date: Tue Feb 23 22:08:39 PDT 1993

There are two Janus design/spec issues I would like your help in resolving:

1. Disable Multiboot? I went over os/2 2.0 setup this morning with
dougho. As you probably know, OS/2 2.0 has a partition based boot
manager called multiboot. Dougo doesn’t think they will install or
use it unless there is more than one partition. However, if I was
IBM and had decided to bundle OS2 2.0 with PS/2′s and then I somehow
learned about Janus, I would configure them with 2 partitions, this
multiboot utility, put OS/2 on drive d: and make c: FAT. This way,
Janus will default to the “non-upgrade case, find c:, and install
both MS DOS and Win on C:. However, the multiboot utility would then
allow the user to run either MS DOS on c: or OS/2 on d: at each
reboot. In all other cases I can think of now, Janus will blow away
the OS/2 sys files and render OS/2 useless.

Question: do we care about this? This is WAR, and in that regard, I
believe we should design Janus such that if this multiboot partition
(has a unique partition number (11)) is found we should warn the
user a foreign OS has been detected, give them a chance to exit
and read the docs and possibly make a backup, and then repartition the
disk, removing the multiboot partition. This way, we disable OS/2
2.0 in *all* cases.

Moreover, how many customers are really going to want both? I say
very few, and frankly, those that don’t want both will be confused by
this multiboot screen– they thought they just installed MS DOS and
Windows, right?

WinMail 1.21 philba Tue Feb 23 22:03:01 1993

This would only affect the “non-install” case.

2. Batch Mode setup? OS/2 2.0 setup has a batch mode which disables
all UI except for floppy disk prompts, if using floppies–their PS/2
mod 57, multimedia version, has a CD ROM drive which can be used to
batch install OS/2 2.0. They don’t use a command switch for batch
install since they are booting off disk 1, rather the setup
program simply goes out and looks at every logical volume for the
presence of the batch setup file. If found, setup uses batch mode.
This only has limited usefulness in the current setup because their
current setup program will not make use of previous OS file
services. That is, if the machine has DOS or OS/2 (2.0) with
network support, the OS/2 2.0 setup does not have the ability to
access net volumes. Also currently, you must install an OS/2 2.0
net AFTER os/2 has been installed ….although if customers scream
loud enough, they may come out with a different version after initial
ship according to dougo.

Shifting gears and thinking about corp account customers, I believe a
batch setup for janus would be very valuable. We can discuss this at
length if you wish, but briefly, corp accounts have a difficult time
installing and/or upgrading MS DOS and Windows. If we restrict
ourselves to the upgrade case, then I argue that giving them a way to
batch upgrade both MS DOS and Win 3.1 over a net would be very valuable.

Question: should we offer a batch mode upgrade for Janus? I think we
should, mostly because I predict Janus will be very popular with corp
accounts and such a feature will be very valuable to them. Partly
because OS/2 2.0 has some kind of batch install, limited as it is.

This is feature creep, but I have looked at it and don’t think it
will take that much work and Davebe has already told me he is willing
to do th work. Bradsi told us to “make Janus great” –batch install
would certainly be a tangible improvement!

If you agree, we can also consider this for the non-install case. I
am not sure how big a problem this case really is for corp
accounts–would need to get some data.

Let me know what you think about these two issues. I will be working
on the spec the rest of the day…


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Pages that cross-reference this one


  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    January 24, 2009 at 12:57 pm


    Don’t let anyone act like this is new or accidental. MS has established a practice of breaking competitors’ software, including applications.

    However, to focus on the bootloader, Be Inc (maker of BeOS) beat M$ in court, but lost the battle anyway simply because M$ had no intention of ever complying with the court.


    In contrast, all other systems do a pretty fair job at getting along, even if there is no effort made to intentionally accommodate other systems on the same machine.

    For example, dual booting OS X and Linux (pick a flavor) is a breeze. Triple booting OS X, Linux and BSD (pick a flavor) is easy, too.

    Market share and control are the only currencies the M$ movement values, so any fines must bite into those or else are doomed to be ineffectual or even harmful to the market. The EU needs to enforce a 1 year ban on M$ formats and protocols. That would have benefits lasting for years, even if M$ shaped up and complied enough that the ban were lifted.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 24, 2009 at 3:12 pm


    Here is what the Comes Petition said about BeOS:

    DR-DOS and OS/2 were positioned to compete vigorously against MS-DOS and early versions of Windows. Through a series of predatory acts from 1988 through 1994, however, Microsoft essentially eliminated both DR-DOS and OS/2 from the market. BeOS, on the other hand, emerged later (around 1998), long after Microsoft had established its monopoly power in the operating systems market. When Be threatened Microsoft’s hegemony by pursuing a “dual boot” strategy to overcome the applications barrier to entry, Microsoft responded with a series of anti-competitive acts which drove Be from the market.


    124. During the late 1990’s, Microsoft confronted a new operating system entrant in Be’s BeOS. BeOS was developed as a powerful, graphical, easy to use computer operating system capable of handling the vast streams of data required by multimedia applications. From the time of its release in the Fall 1998, BeOS for Intel-compatible PCs received widespread praise from journalists and industry leaders for its technical capabilities, speed and ease of use.

    125. Recognizing that the applications barrier to entry made any immediate attempt to displace Windows prohibitively expensive Be attempted to position BeOS as a “complement” to Windows and thus adopted a “dual boot” strategy. Microsoft, however, used anti-competitive OEM licensing terms, coupled with threats, to force OEMs not to pre-install BeOS alongside Windows on their PC products.


    Microsoft’s Predatory Conduct Toward Be

    137. Be was founded in 1990 for the purpose of creating a powerful, graphical, easy to use operating system capable of handling, on low-cost personal computers, the vast streams of data required in multimedia applications, in Fall 1998, Be—in collaboration with Intel—created a version of BeOS for Intel-compatible PC$ which received widespread praise in the industry.

    138. Be recognized the obstacle posed by the applications barrier to entry, and consequently Be offered to license BeOS to OEMs for pre-installation on PCs in a “dual boot” configuration. Such a configuration would allow the end user to choose which operating system (BeOS or Windows) to load when the computer was turned on. Be’s “dual boot” strategy would circumvent the applications barrier by allowing consumers to use BeOS if they wanted to take advantage of its multimedia capabilities but then boot into Windows if they needed to write a letter, create a spreadsheet or take advantage of other applications for the Windows platform. Be predicted that as its operating system became more widely deployed on “dual boot” computers, its growing user base would make it a more attractive platform for application developers.

    139. Like Microsoft, Be recognized the importance of pre-installation in the OEM channel. Indeed, overcoming the applications barrier required BeOS to be installed on as many Intel-compatible PCs as possible. To that end, Be eventually offered to license BeOS to OEMs for “dual-boot” installation at no cost.

    140. In September 1998, Hitachi verbally committed to Be that it would pre-install BeOS alongside Windows on a line of its personal computers. In November 1998, however, Hitachi informed Be that it could not install Be’s boot manager or BeOS launcher on its computers; instead, BeOS would have to be booted from a floppy disk (which would significantly impede end user access to the operating system). Hitachi eventually explained that the terms of its license with Microsoft prevented it from offering another operating system in a “dual-boot” configuration. Hitachi also informed Be that after it had notified Microsoft of its intent to pre-install BeOS, Microsoft sent two managers to Japan to express Microsoft’s anger over the arrangement. Microsoft also threatened to raise the price of Windows to Hitachi if Hitachi installed Be’s boot manager on its computers.

    141. Be’s attempts to market BeOS to other OEMs confronted similar anticompetitive obstacles. Despite backing from Intel, the technical superiority of BeOS for multimedia applications, and the fact that Be eventually offered to license BeOS without royalty, Be was unable to convince even a single major OEM to risk Microsoft’s ire by offering a dual boot PC with BeOS pre-installed. Be has thus been excluded from the market.

  3. ram said,

    January 25, 2009 at 10:23 pm


    I never understood why the other players such as IBM decided to ‘play nice’ with Microsoft. If OS/2 had automatically removed Microsoft OS and if OS/2 apps trashed a Microsoft installation then IBM would be in a much much stronger position today.

    Even today, Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu, with a more aggressive installation proceedure are doing best against distributions that install much more cautiously. Seems nice guys finish last.

  4. Roy Bixler said,

    January 25, 2009 at 10:37 pm


    Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu, with a more aggressive installation proceedure are doing best …

    What aggressive installation procedure does Ubuntu use? Are you saying that it wipes out other OS’s like Windows does? If so, then I see no technical reason for that and it does violate a Linux tradition of trying to play nice with other OS’s (even those others would be Windows.)

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 26, 2009 at 3:29 am


    It’s very much the opposite with every distribution I’ve installed. Users’ needs come before ruthlessness.

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