Chainloading Extlinux from Grub

Chainloading an extlinux powered logical partition using Grub would fail. And here is why.

The topic is discussed thoroughly in the thread titled “Is it possible to chainload EXTLINUX from GRUB“, which available at many places on the Internet. The most clear and convenient place to follow the whole discussed is at,

This is the summary of that thread.

NB, Grub4dos is claimed to be able to chainload extlinux from logical partition. The thorough discussion is at,

Chainloading bootsector of logical partition with EXTLINUX installed, fails. Patch included

The Problem

case 1

I installed extlinux on a logical partition, using a command like “extlinux -i /mnt/partition”. I want to boot to that partition, so put something like

root (hd0, 4)
chainloader +1

in an entry in GRUB. SYSLINUX gets loaded but it gives a “Boot error” message and halts.

case 2

I then tried placing EXTLINUX on a primary partition and indeed I successfully chainloaded it. However this doesn’t seem to work when I put it on a logical partition.

The Explanation


However this doesn’t seem to work when I put it on a logical partition. Is there a reason why there might be a difference between the two types?

— Gavin D. Smith

Not if the chainloading code is written properly. Chainloading onto a logical partition means you have to load not the MBR but the pseudo-MBR containing the logical partition in question at address 0x600 and point DS:SI to it.

Sounds like a Grub problem to me.

-hpa (H. Peter Anvin)

In Depth

To see if Grub has a problem chainloading onto a logical partition I tried installing GRUB onto the logical partition, and it was successfully loaded. I also tried LILO on the logical partition, and it also was successfully loaded. However trying extlinux I got the same “Boot error” message as before. . . I know that the syslinux loader is loaded because “Boot error” is a message in that loader. So you say this message is due to some registers not being set correctly?

— Gavin D. Smith

You’re assuming that just because GRUB and LILO can be loaded that it is all done correctly. GRUB and LILO might not rely on, for example, the DS:SI pointer (given their design methodology I would almost assume they don’t.)

For debugging, I would run this in an simulator and set a breakpoint at 0:7C00h. This will be hit several times, one of which will be EXTLINUX entry; at this point examine the registers, and the memory pointed to by DS:SI (16 bytes) and ES:DI (64 bytes or so.)

The registers are supposed to have the following values:

DL is supposed to have the drive number.
DS:SI is supposed to point to the 16-byte partition entry, which
typically should be located in memory between address 0x600 and 0x800.
ES:DI is supposed to point to the $PnP header.

Case study

Gavin D. Smith wrote:

> Here we go. The following is chainloading extlinux on a primary
> partition, which succeeds.

(DS:SI points to a proper partition table entry)

xp /16b ds:si [bochs]: 0x000007ce <bogus+ 0>: 0x80 0x00 0x01 0x20 0x83 0x03 0x20 0x3f 0x000007d6 <bogus+ 8>: 0x00 0x10 0x00 0x00 0x00 0x10 0x00 0x00

This refers to a partition starting at sector 0x1000 (4096), which is 4096 sectors long. This is your c.img2 partition. Hide quoted text

> The following is where the problem is, chainloading extlinux on a
> logical partition.

(DS:SI points to a bogus partition table entry)

<bochs:5> xp /16b ds:si [bochs]: 0x000007be <bogus+ 0>: 0x80 0x01 0x01 0x60 0x83 0x03 0x20 0x7e 0x000007c6 <bogus+ 8>: 0x20 0x00 0x00 0x00 0x60 0x0f 0x00 0x00

This refers to a partition starting at sector 0x20 (32), and which is 0x0f60 (3936) sectors long. It has the correct length, but the wrong start address.

This is the raw binary copy of the meta-partition table entry, in your case sector 12288. The problem is that that doesn’t give the boot loader the information it wants, because the start field is relative to the beginning of the partition. In order to chainload a logical partition, the chainloader needs to adjust the start field with the position of the boot field, so that it ends up with 12288+32 = 12320 (0x3020), which is the start of your logical partition. Show quoted textFor additional information, see:

as well as com32/modules/chain.c in the syslinux distribution.



1 thought on “Chainloading Extlinux from Grub

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