When I first started to use Linux a few months ago, I knew from browsing the Red Hat Web site that Linux was compatible with the FAT file system that Windows 9x used. Yet, I could never access my DOS partition from Linux. Thanks to a friend, I finally found out how to set up Red Hat Linux 6.1 so it can read the DOS partition on my computer.

It’s all in the setup
The first problem I encountered seemed almost too simple. In the previous installations, I had let Linux install on its own. If you want to be able to read a DOS partition, however, this is a big mistake. Instead of letting Linux do its own installation, you must choose to set up the OS in custom mode.

At the boot prompt, when you first load the Linux setup, you are given a few choices for installing the software. You can install it via the standard GUI installation, the standard text installation, or the expert text installation. I recommend using the GUI or the standard text installation unless you really know what you are doing. If you are more familiar with Linux, you may consider using the expert installation. After answering a few questions, you will be prompted on how you wish to install the OS. You are given a variety of choices: GNOME Workstation, KDE Workstation, Server Installation, or Custom Installation. Select Custom Installation and continue.

Mount the DOS partition, baby!
During the setup, you will eventually be asked to select how you wish to have your partitions created for Linux. You will notice that there is already a partition listed on the screen, reserved to hda1. This is your DOS partition. The trick here is to actually mount the DOS partition so that it is available for Linux to use, just as you would mount your floppy or CD-ROM drive.

Simply select the hda1 partition, and then select the Edit button with your mouse if you are using the GUI interface, or tab to the button in the text interface. You will be given a list of options that may be applied to the partition. First, you must give the partition a name. I recommend using something that will stand out from your Linux directory, such as /WIN32, so that you will later be able to recognize this as the DOS directory. (It is important not to forget the forward slash.) Next, you must select the option to mount the partition. You will see the word “mount,” with a selection box to the side. Make sure mount is selected and then click OK to continue.

Start Linux, and DOS is there, too
Now that you have the DOS partition mounted onto Linux, you need to complete the rest of the setup for Linux. Once you have the setup completed and have booted into Linux, simply apply your username and password. Type the command CD / to access the root folder (assuming that you have logged on as root or a user with root permissions). Once there, type CD /Win32 (make sure you have the caps correct), and you’ll have access to your DOS partition.
Have you faced any interesting challenges trying to accomplish a particular task in Linux? Share your experiences by posting a comment below or by sending us a note .