Definition

boot loader (boot manager)

What is a boat loader?

A boot loader, also called a boot manager, is a small program that places the operating system (OS) of a computer into memory. When a computer is powered-up or restarted, the basic input/output system (BIOS) performs some initial tests, and then transfers control to the Master Boot Record (MBR) where the boot loader resides. Most new computers are shipped with boot loaders for some version of Microsoft Windows or the Mac OS. If a computer is to be used with Linux, a special boot loader must be installed.

For Linux, the two most common boot loaders are known as LILO (LInux LOader) and LOADLIN (LOAD LINux). An alternative boot loader, called GRUB (GRand Unified Bootloader), is used with Red Hat Linux. LILO is the most popular boot loader among computer users that employ Linux as the main, or only, operating system. The primary advantage of LILO is the fact that it allows for fast boot-up. LOADLIN is preferred by some users whose computers have multiple operating systems, and who spend relatively little time in Linux. LOADLIN is sometimes used as a backup boot loader for Linux in case LILO fails. GRUB is preferred by many users of Red Hat Linux, because it is the default boot loader for that distribution.

This was last updated in June 2021

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