4 Best Linux Boot Loaders

When you turn on your machine, immediately after POST (Power On Self Test) is completed successfully, the BIOS locates the configured bootable media, and reads some instructions from the master boot record (MBR) or GUID partition table which is the first 512 bytes of the bootable media. The MBR contains two important sets of information, one is the boot loader and two, the partition table.

What is a Boot Loader?

A boot loader is a small program stored in the MBR or GUID partition table that helps to load an operating system into memory. Without a boot loader, your operating system can not be loaded into memory.

Suggested Read: A Basic Guide to Linux Boot Process

There are several boot loaders we can install together with Linux on our systems and in this article, we shall briefly talk about a handful of the best Linux boot loaders to work with.

1. GNU GRUB

GNU GRUB is a popular and probably the most used multiboot Linux boot loader available, based on the original GRUB (GRand Unified Bootlader) which was created by Eirch Stefan Broleyn. It comes with several improvements, new features and bug fixes as enhancements of the original GRUB program.

Importantly, GRUB 2 has now replaced the GRUB. And notably, the name GRUB was renamed to GRUB Legacy and is not actively developed, however, it can be used for booting older systems since bug fixes are still on going.

GRUB has the following prominent features:

  1. Supports multiboot
  2. Supports multiple hardware architectures and operating systems such as Linux and Windows
  3. Offers a Bash-like interactive command line interface for users to run GRUB commands as well interact with configuration files
  4. Enables access to GRUB editor
  5. Supports setting of passwords with encryption for security
  6. Supports booting from a network combined with several other minor features

Visit Homepage: https://www.gnu.org/software/grub/

2. LILO (Linux Loader)

LILO is a simple yet powerful and stable Linux boot loader. With the growing popularity and use of GRUB, which has come with numerous improvements and powerful features, LILO has become less popular among Linux users.

While it loads, the word “LILO” is displayed on the screen and each letter appears before or after a particular event has occurred. However, the development of LILO was stopped in December 2015, it has a number of features as listed below:

  1. Does not offer an interactive command line interface
  2. Supports several error codes
  3. Offers no support for booting from a network
  4. All its files are stored in the first 1024 cylinders of a drive
  5. Faces limitation with BTFS, GPT and RAID plus many more.

Visit Homepage: http://lilo.alioth.debian.org/

Suggested Read: 5 Best Modern Linux ‘init’ Systems (1992-2015)

3. BURG – New Boot Loader

Based on GRUB, BURG is a relatively new Linux boot loader. Because it is derived from GRUB, it ships in with some of the primary GRUB features, nonetheless, it also offers remarkable features such as a new object format to support multiple platforms including Linux, Windows, Mac OS, FreeBSD and beyond.

Additionally, it supports a highly configurable text and graphical mode boot menu, stream plus planned future improvements for it to work with various input/output devices.

Visit Homepage: https://launchpad.net/burg

4. Syslinux

Syslinux is an assortment of light weight boot loaders that enable booting from CD-ROMs, from a network and so on. It supports filesystems such as FAT for MS-DOS, and ext2, ext3, ext4 for Linux. It as well supports uncompressed single-device Btrfs.

Note that Syslinux only accesses files in its own partition, therefore, it does not offer multi-filesystem boot capabilities.

Visit Homepage: http://www.syslinux.org/wiki/index.php?title=The_Syslinux_Project

Conclusion

A boot loader allows you to manage multiple operating systems on your machine and select which one to use at a particular time, without it, your machine can not load the kernel and the rest of the operating system files.

Have we missed any tip-top Linux boot loader here? If so, then let us know by using the comment form below by making suggestions of any commendable boot loaders that can support Linux operating system.

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Aaron Kili

Aaron Kili is a Linux and F.O.S.S enthusiast, an upcoming Linux SysAdmin, web developer, and currently a content creator for TecMint who loves working with computers and strongly believes in sharing knowledge.

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15 Responses

  1. Maria M says:

    if I want to set up a dual boot computer between Ubuntu and Red Hat Linux. Which
    boot loader program could you use and why?

  2. saeid says:

    Hi,

    How can we install Ubuntu and Opensuse dualboot?

    How to should partitioning for that?

    Thanks

  3. Rob Burton says:

    Thanks for the guide, Syslinux sounds good, I’ll give it a try. These are all free tools, right?

  4. Rohit Goswami says:

    I’m amazed rEFInd was left out. Certainly the best for modern computers. (ie. those on EFI machines [almost everyone now])

  5. SomeGuyOnInternet says:

    For me, rEFInd is always gonna be the best. (Not a Mac user)

  6. jymm says:

    The first boot loader I used was LILO on a Xandros install and it almost made me give up Linux forever. I had nothing but trouble. I was dual booting XP and Xandros and about ever third time I started the computer it would not boot.

    At that time I had no idea what to do. I know dual boot Debian and Ubuntu, no Windows. I also can fix things myself is my computer won’t boot. Grub also is in my humble opinion light years better than LILO.

    • Aaron Kili K says:

      @jymm

      I once tried LILO for learning purposes but i faced a lot of difficulty using it just as you have expressed here. GRUB works just fine for me now and it offers modern features and components. Importantly, many thanks for offering us your thoughts and encounter with LILO, and GRUB.

    • Nizhinski says:

      GRUB should be ‘light years better than LILO’. It was developed many years after LILO, presumably to improve on LILP.

  7. Jon Loveless says:

    I used to use Burg and loved its capability to present multiple looks and feels. It apparently hasn’t been updated in years and I honestly it should be presented here without that caveat.

  8. tino says:

    Syslinux url site, not work. change https to http.

    Regards.

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