System Administration Guide: Basic Administration

Chapter 15 x86: GRUB Based Booting (Reference)

This chapter contains information about x86 boot processes, including GRUB implementation details and additional GRUB reference information.

For overview information, see Chapter 9, Shutting Down and Booting a System (Overview).

For step-by-step instructions on booting a system, see Chapter 12, Booting a Solaris System (Tasks).

x86: Boot Processes

This section includes information about boot processes that are unique to booting an x86 based system.

x86: System BIOS

When a system is powered on, the system is controlled by the read-only-memory (ROM) Basic Input/Output System (BIOS). The BIOS is the firmware interface on Solaris Operating Systems that have x86 64-bit and 32-bit support.

Hardware adapters usually have an on-board BIOS that displays the physical characteristics of the device. The BIOS is used to access the device. During the startup process, the system BIOS checks for the presence of any adapter BIOS. If any adapters are found, the system then loads and executes each adapter BIOS. Each adapter's BIOS runs self-test diagnostics and then displays device information.

The BIOS on most systems has a user interface, where you can select an ordered list of boot devices that consists of the following selections:

The BIOS attempts to boot from each device, in turn, until a valid device with a bootable program is found.

x86: Kernel Initialization Process

The /platform/i86pc/multiboot program is an ELF32 executable that contains a header which is defined in the Multiboot Specification.

The multiboot program is responsible for performing the following tasks:

x86: Solaris Support for the GRUB Bootloader

The following sections contain additional reference information for administering GRUB in the Solaris OS

x86: GRUB Terminology

To thoroughly grasp GRUB concepts, an understanding of the following terms is essential.

Note –

Some of the terms that are described in this list are not exclusive to GRUB based booting.

boot archive

A collection of critical files that is used to boot the Solaris OS. These files are needed during system startup before the root file system is mounted. Multiple boot archives are maintained on a system:

  • A primary boot archive is used to boot the Solaris OS on an x86 based system.

    Note –

    On the x86 platform, when you install the Solaris OS, two primary boot archives are created, one 32-bit archive and one 64-bit archive.

  • A failsafe boot archive that is used for recovery when a primary boot archive is damaged. This boot archive starts the system without mounting the root file system. On the GRUB menu, this boot archive is called failsafe. The archive's primary purpose is to regenerate the primary boot archives, which are usually used to boot the system.

boot loader

The first software program that runs after you power on a system. This program begins the booting process.

failsafe archive

See boot archive.


GNU GRand Unified Bootloader (GRUB) is an open-source boot loader with a menu interface. The menu displays a list of the operating systems that are installed on a system. GRUB enables you to easily boot these various operating systems, such as the Solaris OS, Linux, or Windows.

GRUB main menu

A boot menu that lists the operating systems that are installed on a system. From this menu, you can easily boot an operating system without modifying the BIOS or fdisk partition settings.

GRUB edit menu

A submenu of the GRUB main menu. GRUB commands are displayed on this submenu. These commands can be edited to change boot behavior.

menu.lst file

A configuration file that lists all the operating systems that are installed on a system. The contents of this file dictate the list of operating systems that is displayed in the GRUB menu. From the GRUB menu, you can easily boot an operating system without modifying the BIOS or fdisk partition settings.


A minimal, bootable root (/) file system that resides on the Solaris installation media. A miniroot consists of the Solaris software that is required to install and upgrade systems. On x86 based systems, the miniroot is copied to the system to be used as the failsafe boot archive. See boot archive for details about the failsafe boot archive.

primary boot archive

See boot archive.

x86: Functional Components of GRUB

GRUB consists of the following functional components:

You cannot use the dd command to write stage1 and stage2 images to disk. The stage1 image must be able to receive information about the location of the stage2 image that is on the disk. Use the installgrub command, which is the supported method for installing GRUB boot blocks.

Naming Conventions That Are Used for Configuring GRUB

GRUB uses conventions that are slightly different from previous Solaris releases. Understanding the GRUB device-naming conventions can assist you in correctly specifying drive and partition information when you configure GRUB on your system.

The following table describes the GRUB device-naming conventions for this Solaris release.

Table 15–1 Conventions for GRUB Devices

Device Name 



First diskette 


Second diskette 


Network device 


First fdisk partition on first hard disk


Second fdisk partition on first hard disk


Slice a on first fdisk partition on first hard disk


Slice b on first fdisk partition on first hard disk

Note –

All GRUB device names must be enclosed in parentheses.

For more information about fdisk partitions, see Guidelines for Creating an fdisk Partition in System Administration Guide: Devices and File Systems.

Naming Conventions That Are Used by the findroot Command

Starting with the Solaris 10 10/08 release, the findroot command replaces the root command that was previously used by GRUB. The findroot command provides enhanced capabilities for discovering a targeted disk, regardless of the boot device. The findroot command also supports booting from a ZFS root file system This command replaces the root command that was formerly used by GRUB.

The following is a description of the device naming convention that is used by the findroot command for various GRUB implementations:

How Multiple Operating Systems Are Supported by GRUB

This section describes how multiple operating systems that are on the same disk are supported with GRUB. The following is an example of an x86 based system that has the Solaris 10 10/08 OS, the Solaris 9 OS, Linux, and Windows installed on the same disk.

Table 15–2 Sample GRUB Menu Configuration

Operating System 

Location on Disk 


fdisk partition 0


fdisk partition 1


fdisk partition 2

Solaris 9 OS 

Slice 0

Solaris 10 10/08 OS 

Slice 3

Based on the preceding information, the GRUB menu would look like the following:

title Solaris 10
			findroot (pool_rpool,0,a)
			kernel$ /platform/i86pc/multiboot -B $ZFS-BOOTFS
			module /platform/i86pc/boot_archive
title Solaris 9 OS (pre-GRUB)
			root (hd0,2,a)
			chainloader +1
title Linux
			root (hd0,1)
			kernel <from Linux GRUB menu...>
			initrd <from Linux GRUB menu...>
title Windows
			root (hd0,0)
			chainloader +1

Note –

The Solaris slice must be the active partition. Also, do not indicate makeactive under the Windows menu. Doing so causes the system to boot Windows every time. Note that if Linux has installed GRUB on the master boot block, you cannot access the Solaris boot option. The inability to access the Solaris boot option occurs whether or not you designate it as the active partition.

In this case, you can do one of the following:

For information about the Solaris Live Upgrade boot environment, see Solaris Express Installation Guide: Solaris Live Upgrade and Upgrade Planning.

x86: Supported GRUB Implementations

In the Solaris Express release, GRUB uses the direct boot implementation. The contents of the menu.lst file varies, depending on the Solaris release you are running, the installation method that is used, and whether you are booting the system from a ZFS root or a UFS root.

Note –

In this implementation of GRUB, the multiboot module is no longer used.

Description of the menu.lst File (ZFS Support)

The following are various examples of a menu.lst file for a boot environment that contains a ZFS boot loader:

Note –

Because the miniroot is mounted as the real root file system, the entry for failsafe booting in the menu.lst file does not change to the ZFS bootfs property, even if the failsafe archive is read from a ZFS dataset. The ZFS dataset is not accessed after the boot loader reads the miniroot.

Example 15–1 Default menu.lst File (New Installation or Standard Upgrade)

title Solaris 11 s10x_90 X86
findroot (pool_rpool,0,a)
kernel$ /platform/i86pc/kernel/$ISADIR/unix -B $ZFS-BOOTFS
module$ /platform/i86pc/$ISADIR/boot_archive

title Solaris 11 failsafe
findroot (pool_rpool,0,a)
kernel /boot/platform/i86pc/kernel/unix -s -B console=ttyb
module /boot/x86.miniroot-safe

Example 15–2 Default menu.lst File (Solaris Live Upgrade)

title be1
findroot (BE_be1,0,a)
bootfs rpool/ROOT/szboot_0508
kernel$ /platform/i86pc/kernel/$ISADIR/unix -B $ZFS-BOOTFS
module$ /platform/i86pc/$ISADIR/boot_archive

title be1 failsafe
findroot (BE_be1,0,a)
kernel /boot/platform/i86pc/kernel/unix -s -B console=ttyb
module /boot/x86.miniroot-safe

Description of the menu.lst File (UFS Support)

The following are examples of a menu.lst file on a system that supports booting from UFS.

Example 15–3 Default GRUB menu.lst File (New Installation or Standard Upgrade)

title Solaris 10 5/08 s10x_nbu6wos_nightly X86 
findroot (pool_rpool,0,a)
kernel /platform/i86pc/multiboot
module /platform/i86pc/boot_archive

title Solaris failsafe
findroot (rootfs0,0,a)
kernel /boot/multiboot kernel/unix -s -B console-ttyb
module /boot/x86.miniroot-safe

Example 15–4 Default GRUB menu.lst File (Solaris Live Upgrade)

title be1
findroot (BE_be1,0,a)
kernel$ /platform/i86pc/kernel/$ISADIR/unix
module$ /platform/i86pc/$ISADIR/boot_archive

title be1 failsafe
findroot (BE_be1,0,a)
kernel /boot/platform/i86pc/kernel/unix -s -B console=ttyb
module /boot/x86.miniroot-safe

Description of a menu.lst File That Supports Hypervisor Technology

You can run the Solaris OS as a virtualized control domain, with the hypervisor. To run the Solaris release with this support, there must be an entry in menu.lst file that specifies the hypervisor. This entry can either be the default boot menu item, or you can select this entry manually at boot time. After you upgrade your system for the first time to a Solaris release that includes this support, the bootadm command automatically adds a GRUB menu.lst entry for the hypervisor.

The following are menu.lst entries for this GRUB implementation:

title Solaris on xVM
kernel$ /boot/$ISADIR/xen.gz
module$ /platform/i86xpv/kernel/$ISADIR/unix /platform/i86xpv/kernel/$ISADIR/unix -B $ZFS-BOOTFS
module$ /platform/i86pc/$ISADIR/boot_archive

Note that the path to UNIX in the menu.lst entry for the hypervisor uses i86xpv, not i86pc. The options that are interpreted by the hypervisor are added to end of the kernel$ line, after the xen.gz file information.

If you choose to run the Solaris release as a stand-alone OS, you can continue to use the same GRUB menu entries that you used previously.

For example:

title Solaris Nevada ... X86
kernel$ /platform/i86pc/kernel/$ISADIR/unix -B $ZFS-BOOTFS
module$ /platform/i86pc/$ISADIR/boot_archive

For more information about how to modify GRUB menu.lst entries, see x86: How to Modify Boot Behavior by Editing the menu.lst File.