Comparison of boot loaders

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The following tables compare general and technical information for a number of available bootloaders.

Features

Name Software license It can reside in Boot from Can boot
MBR only MBR / VBR Floppy Hard Disk Second Hard Disk Logical partitions CD-ROM Floppy USB Zip LAN MS-DOS Windows 9x/Me Windows NT series Windows Vista Linux ReactOS MenuetOS OpenBSD Mac OS X
Acronis OS Selector Proprietary ? ? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes ? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes ? ? ? ?
Boot Camp Proprietary ? ? ? ? ? Yes ? Yes ? ? ? ? ? Yes Yes Yes ? ? ? Yes
BootIt Next Generation Proprietary ? ? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes ? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes ? ? ? ?
BootKey Proprietary No No Yes No No No Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes ? ? ? ?
bootman ? Yes No No Yes ? ? ? ? ? ? No Yes Yes No (boots NTLDR) No (boots Windows Boot Manager) No (boots GRUB or LILO) ? ? ? ?
BootX ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Yes ? ? ? Yes
Darwin Boot Loader ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Yes
Das U-Boot GPL ? ? ? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes ? ? ? ? Yes ? ? Yes (FreeBSD) ?
GAG GPL Yes (SafeBoot) No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes No (calls NTLDR) No (calls Windows Boot Manager) No (calls GRUB or LILO) No (calls bootloader) No (calls bootloader) No (calls bootloader) No
GRUB GPL No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No (calls NTLDR) No (calls Windows Boot Manager) Yes No (calls FreeLoader) Yes Yes Yes
GRUB4DOS GPL No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No (calls NTLDR) No (calls Windows Boot Manager) Yes ? ? ? ?
Gujin GPL No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes ? ? ? ?
LILO BSD license Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes ? ? Yes No (calls NTLDR) ? Yes ? ? No (calls biosboot) ?
loadlin GPL No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No Yes No No ? ?
Madboot ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
MasterBooter ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
NTLDR Proprietary No Yes Yes Yes ? ? No Yes Yes ? ? Yes Yes Yes No No (Calls GRUB4DOS) ? ? ? No (Calls Darwin bootloader)[1]
OSL2000 Boot Manager Proprietary Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No (calls GRUB or LILO) ? ? ? ?
PLoP Bootmanager freeware ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Smart Boot Manager Open source Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes ? ? ? Yes Yes Yes ? Yes ? ? Yes ?
SPFdisk Open source Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes ? ? Yes ? ? ? Yes Yes ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Syslinux GPL ? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No (calls NTLDR) No (calls Windows Boot Manager) Yes ? ? ? ?
XOSL GPL ? ? Yes Yes Yes ? Yes ? No ? No Yes Yes Yes ? Yes ? ? ? ?
zBoot Manager ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Windows Boot Manager ? ? Yes ? Yes Yes ? Yes Yes ? Yes ? ? Yes No (calls NTLDR) Yes No (calls GRUB or LILO) ? ? ? ?
FreeLoader (ReactOS Boot Loader) GPL No Yes Yes Yes Yes ? Yes Yes Yes Yes ? Yes Yes Partial[2] No (calls Windows Boot Manager) Yes Yes ? ? ?
Name Software license It can reside in Boot from Can boot
MBR only MBR / VBR Floppy Hard Disk Second Hard Disk Logical partitions CD-ROM Floppy USB Zip LAN MS-DOS Windows 9x/Me Windows NT series Windows Vista Linux ReactOS MenuetOS OpenBSD Mac OS X
Name advanced command scriptable supported device supported architecture supported filesystem supported OS supported executable supported protocol supported decompression others
GRUB Legacy Yes No  ? i386(pc) FAT16, FAT32, Minix fs, Linux ext2fs, ReiserFS, JFS, XFS, VSTa fs FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, GNU/Linux ELF TFTP gzip
GRUB 2 Yes Yes  ? i386(pc, coreboot, olpc, mac), powerpc(mac, pegasos II), Sun UltraSparc(Sparc v9) ext2, ext3, ext4, ufs, minix, iso9660, udf, jfs, hfs, hfs+, afs, affs, sfs, xfs, reiserfs, tar, cpio, ntfs, FAT16, FAT32 Linux(pc, mac), FreeBSD(pc), OpenBSD(pc), NetBSD(pc)  ?  ?  ?
LILO No No  ? i386(pc) ext2, ext3, ffs, ffs2, iso9660, jfs, minix, ntfs, reiserfs, vfat, etc...  ?  ?  ? bzip2, gzip
SYSLINUX  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?
Yaboot No No  ? PowerPC(Open Firmware) ext2, ext3, ? GNU/Linux, ?  ?  ?  ?
RedBoot yes yes (boot only)  ? ARM, Coldfire, H8300, x86, Freescale/Motorola 68000, MIPS, PPC, SH, SPARC, SPARCLite JFFS2 Linux, eCos ELF TFTP, serial (X-modem) gzip
Das U-Boot Yes Yes  ? PPC, ARM, AVR32, Blackfin, Coldfire, IXP, Leon2, m68k, MicroBlaze, MIPS, NIOS, NIOS2, PXA, x86, StrongARM, SH2, SH3, SH4, ... FAT, VFAT, ext2, ext3, jffs2, cramfs, reiserfs, yaffs2, ubifs, nfs 4_4bsd, Artos, Dell, Esix, FreeBSD, Irix, Linux, LynxOS, NCR, NetBSD, OpenBSD, pSOS, QNX, RTEMS, SCO, Solaris, SVR4, U-Boot, VXworks ELF, U-Boot image format TFTP, NFS, serial (S-Record, Y-Modem, Kermit binary protocol) bzip2, gzip
kboot  ?  ?  ? i386 most supported by Linux Kernel (ext2, ext3, ext4, reiserfs, xfs, jfs, etc..) Linux  ? HTTP, FTP, TFTP  ? SSH, NFS support. kexec-based bootloader.
Runnix  ?  ?  ?  ?  ? Linux  ?  ?  ? kexec and syslinux based bootloader.
kexec-loader No No  ? i386 most supported by Linux Kernel (ext2, ext3, ext4, reiserfs, xfs, jfs, etc..) Linux/multiboot  ? No networking gzip (for kernel modules) Kernel/multiboot module support
NTLDR No No  ? i386(pc)  ? Windows  ?  ?  ? default bootloader on Windows NT
FREELDR No No  ? i386(pc), arm, powerpc ext2, fat12, fat16, fat32, iso, ntfs ReactOS, Linux, Windows NT 4.0, Windows2000, WindowsXP, Windows2003  ?  ?  ? clone of NTLDR
boot0 ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? FreeBSD's bootloader
extipl ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? IBM IPL upper compatible
Multiple Boot Manager ? ? ? ? ? PC DOS, MS-DOS, Windows, OS/2, Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, BeOS, B-right/V, Solaris, OPENSTEP, Plan 9, EOTA[3] ? ? ?
Rockbox bootloader ? ? ? ? ? Rockbox ? ? ?
bootload (Technologic Systems) ? ? ? ARM ? Linux ? ? ? Proprietary
Name advanced command scriptable supported device supported architecture supported filesystem supported OS supported executable supported protocol supported decompression others

Notes

  1. http://wiki.osx86project.org/wiki/index.php/Chain0
  2. http://www.reactos.org/en/newsletter_37.html - Freeloader can load Windows Server 2003 directly, as long as it is on a FAT32 partition
  3. ELM - Multiple Boot Manager


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