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By Jim Dennis, Ben Okopnik, Dan Wilder, the Editors of Linux Gazette... and You!
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(?) uninstall linux

From Gordon Van Vliet, Randy Filkin, Les Barron

Answered By Ben Okopnik, Heather Stern... and Les Barron.

i just read one of your previous posts re removing linux from a system.

i installed linux mandrake 6 in a dual boot win98 setup.

i just wanted to learn about linux a bit at a time but now im tired of it and want to remove it and lilo completley. I formatted the entire c drive and nothing would run because lilo was still there and parts of linux. How and where do I remove lilo? I read about the lilo -u , but where,when do i do this?

Since I'm bothering you anyway.. I have a compaq presario with all the pre-installed crap. I would like to format everything completley and install a clean win98-me but even prior to any linux i tried this and it says this version of win is unsupported by your bios .so i am forced to use the compaq re-install disk that has all the garbage. what can I do to nuke everything and start fresh ??

thanks for any help

(?) [Randy Filkin] does anyone have suggestions for uninstalling Linux Mandrake 7.2?

I have searched high and low and cannot find any help in this regard.

(!) [Ben] Strange; a quick Google search of the Web gives me over 1200 hits on "uninstall Linux" with 68 of those containing the word "Mandrake". Even a search of the past issues of LG comes up with 16 hits. What is your definition of "high and low"?

(?) [Randy FIlkin] I have an HP Pavilion that had windows 98 on it. After exhausting all resources that I know of, I ran the recovery CD, doing a recover once or twice and then doing a full FDisk and then recovery.

(!) [Ben] What could you possibly hope to recover after doing a "full fdisk"? I don't know which recovery CD you ran - Windows? Mandrake? There is no such generic term as a 'recovery CD', anyway - or what it was supposed to do, so the above provides no useful information.

(?) [Randy Filkin] Everytime I would seem to successfully recover my original system configs and reboot,

(!) [Ben] Which system? What are 'configs'?

(?) [Randy Filkin] Linux would still be there, I would get the root password, and then I would once again insert my recovery CD and reboot to initiate the recovery process. I have checked their web page at http://www.linux-mandrake.com/en as well as help files on the CD and cannot find any info of getting rid of Linux

(!) [Ben] Have you checked Microsoft's site for instructions on how to get rid of Windows? I haven't but I'd be willing to bet that you won't find anything like that - any more than you will find instructions on the General Motors site on how to trade in a Chevrolet on a Ford. You're looking for information in a place that obviously would not have it.

(?) [Randy Filkin] Thank you for your time and attention!

I am a very irritated customer of Linux. All I want to do is a successful uninstall of the O/S and no matter where I look in your documentation, I cannot find any info on this!

(!) [Ben] No, you're not an irritated customer of Linux. You may be irritated, and you may be someone's customer - Mandrake's, perhaps? that is, assuming that you actually bought their CD - but not of Linux, since Linux doesn't have customers. Friends, perhaps. Fans. Advocates. Customers, no. Linux is an operating system and a community - not a business.
Whenever someone writes in with a misconception as basic as that, I usually ignore their request, since it carries the presumption of "you owe me help, I'm an irritated customer!", and it's one I don't appreciate. All of us here at TAG are volunteers, and we put out the effort to do this for our own reasons - but I believe that all of us like to have our efforts recognized and appreciated; for me, it's one of the major 'returns' on my investment of time and effort here. To be told that we "owe" it is an up-front refusal to "pay" that appreciation and recognition, and a demand that I, personally, find delete-worthy.
However, I'm going to go ahead and assume that your statement was based in lack of understanding rather than a "reputation hostage play" - plus, I have a habit of "paying in good coin" whenever I hijack someone's request to discuss a point of my own. So, here is my slight variation on what Jim Dennis has so capably covered in the past issues of LG (#s 25, 36, 46, and 48, to be exact):
Assuming that you want to clear off the entire drive and have no concerns about losing any of the data that is on it, boot Linux and enter
dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda bs=512 count=1
NOTE: this will completely wipe your entire Master boot Record! Not only will you not be able to boot from this drive, you will not even be able to read it once you've rebooted: it will require partitioning (via fdisk) and formatting. Be sure that you have your new OSs boot floppy close to hand!
If you wish, you can partition the disk while still in Linux (wiping out the MBR only makes itself felt after you reboot); "fdisk" and "cfdisk" will happily write DOS partitions to your drive.
If you have to do this from DOS, try entering the following commands:
lock c:
Several folks have reported having no luck with "fdisk /mbr" - which, in my long experience with it (I discovered it by reading the strings in "command.com" in DOS5.0 well before someone documented it as an "undocumented feature") both succeeds and fails silently. I believe that in the case of Windows-based installs, this is due to the fact that Windows disallows "raw writes" to the disk: a useful thing to prevent a certain percentage of viruses, but a hindrance when you need to fix something. "lock c:", above, "locks" the drive to allow them, and should make "fdisk/mbr" effective.
If you have further questions, or need a really radical (but guaranteed to work) solution, please see my article "Clearing out the Master Boot Record" in the mid February 2001 edition of LG: http://linuxgazette.net/issue63/okopnik.html

(?) [Randy Filkin] Thanks for your time and attention.

(?) [Les Barron] Dear Answer gang
Mandrake is the only system that I know of that uses a Linux extended partition that nothing else can read. could this be part of the problem.

(!) [Ben] Just to correct wrong information: 'ext2' is the standard filesystem for Linux, whether Mandrake or otherwise. Saying that "nothing else can read [it]" shows, at the very least, lack of familiarity with the issue (a number of other OSs, including Solaris and MSWindows, are capable of reading 'ext2'-formatted partitions - though software may be required.)

(?) [Les Barron] I formatted my hard drive before I found this out. Personally I find SuSE the easiest to set up & the most stable of the 6 or 7 distros that I have tried.

...flame bait and apologies for same, ellided. discoveries, though...

(?) [Les Barron] I am very sorry about my previous statement. However what I actually meant is that Mandrake marks the extended partition type 85.

I have made a mistake when I stated windows that I lost windows. I had windows98 on a primary partition and Windows 2000 on the first logical drive Windows2000 was no longer bootable after installing Mandrake. whereas redhat suse and others mark the extended partition as a win or dos type.

I do not mean to knock any linux distribution I have enjoyed using all of them.

I do very much enjoy the Linux Gazette and downloaded all of the back issues this evening.

cheers :-) les

(!) [Heather] Glad you're enjoying the Gazette, Les; it makes all my hard work worth more to me knowing folks find it helpful.
(!) [Ben] As they say, "no worries". The etiquette of getting along with other, perhaps strongly opinionated, people ("opinionated, me? Surely you don't mean me!" <grin> ;) is a learned skill - one that I find is somewhat forcefully taught in the various Linux (and other) newsgroups. Be sure to bring along an asbestos overcoat at first, though. <smile>
By the way, good move on downloading the back issues of LG. I find that they are an excellent "local" reference for me: I've zipped all the text versions into a single file, and do a "zipgrep" on it whenever I can't find an answer to a Linux question in the manpages or "/usr/doc". As a side note, I use "zip" and "zipgrep" because that combination returns the "internal" filename that matches the "grep", whereas "gzip" and "zgrep" do not.
I haven't played with Mandrake all that much, except for fixing up a minor configuration problem on a friend's machine, but I do find it sort of surprising that it would mess up another OS. Does Mandrake actually automatically mark the partition with type 85, or is that an install option? If I recall correctly, '85' says that the entire extended partition should be of type 'ext2',
(!) [Heather] This is not quite correct. While it is true that the (linux) fdisk label for type 85 is "linux extended" - it merely means logical sub items (I am led to believe) are allowed to be larger than those of DOS... I've never seen anything that enforced that its further contents should be ext2 at all, except (merely?) that DOS won't even look in there. It would be less useful if it did - swap volumes aren't ext2 !
I've actually had to personally use this type to keep win98 from spotting the extend; with a standard type 5 extend... it went into deep space looking for a D: that simply wasn't there :( And hanging a newbie's system on boot we know is a Bad Thing(tm)
(!) [Ben] ... which would indeed prevent Windows from being installed there, but it definitely should not do so automatically - especially if there's already a defined extended partition in place (I believe that it would be marked as '5' (DOS extended) or 'F' (Win95 extended).
(!) [Heather] It should be possible to allow the D: and any other extra partitions to live in a type 5 or type F while declaring a new Extend of type 85 to house Linux partitions. That's the other thing. You can't have two of the DOS type extend volumes or MSwin will have a tantrum. I'm not sure two of type 85 will be allowed either. But I think you can have one of each safely.
(Someone ought to test that.)
(!) [Ben] Overwriting an existing partition definition would be even worse than anything that Windows does (overwriting an existing boot sector),
(!) [Heather] This I agree with! Anyways the much more critical thing is that all the DOS visible portions have to be to the front of the drive. Unless MS has changed something this winter, it will stop searching when it finds partition types it disfavors, and if it doesn't know how to boot by then, you will hang.
Which, sadly, is why we have all these questions about having a horrible time with a replaced MBR - most flavors of MS' bootloader simply won't chain over to other OS partitions (NT a possible exception, forcing it with LOADLIN is also possible) - so we have to replace the MBR with our own, which can be trained to do the reverse (boot windows safely). But, it isn't always perfect and when it fails - ouch! People have a good reason then to bail, but rarely know what it's safe to do next...
...of course the glitzy installers do NOT anticipate failing at their job, so folks have no real instructions what to do.
There have been some fairly creative self-inflicted disasters seen amongst our querents.
There needn't be very many of the linux-adopting population suffering this problem anymore - until it's just plain zero, I can simply say, every one of them who does, will be gnashing their teeth and asking someone for help.
(!) [Ben] ... and would merit an emergency-level bug report to Mandrake. You might want to play with that, and if you can confirm it, you'd be doing the entire Linux community a favor by reporting it.

(!) [Les Barron] They do have a fix for the problem posted at

I just wonder how many newbies this discouraged and stopped them using linux. However I suppose linux is not for those who give up easily.

(!) [Ben] There, I agree with you completely. It does take a bit of perseverance - not to say a certain bloody-mindedness - to get over that initial hump. Once over, though, it's all downhill (note that I've very carefully refrained from saying which meaning of 'downhill' I refer to... :)

(?) [Les Barron] Thank you for your forbearance I shall now retire my typing finger and forever hold my peace :-)cheers. Les Barron

(!) [Ben] You might want to revisit that decision. Consider that your experience has caused this very useful (to any Mandrake folks) bit of information to percolate into a widely-read publication. That's a contribution that's got some good value to it - and the real strength of Linux, its underpinnings, is the fact that folks who use it are willing to give feedback on their experiences, good or bad. You've made a small but positive difference - and I invite you, and all of our readers, to set that sort of good example.
(!) [Heather] Amen to that, brother AnswerDude.

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Published in issue 64 of Linux Gazette March 2001
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