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Starting out with an operating system you wrote, how could you run it and test it on a computer? Would you have to delete the current operating system that is being used, or could you run one separately?

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Good question. Back on the original PC it was a simple matter to boot from diskette, but things aren't nearly as simple anymore. – Daniel R Hicks Oct 2 '13 at 0:38
Welcome to Superuser, You would just add a new entry to your bootloader if you wish to multi boot – 50-3 Oct 2 '13 at 0:38
up vote 16 down vote accepted

The easiest way to run or test new OS, whether or not it is home-made, without deleting current operating system would be to virtualize it. You can use free and commercial tools for that. Best known are VirtualBox (free), VMware Player (free), VMware Workstation (commercial), Windows Virtual PC and so on. You can find much more on Wikipedia Category:Virtualization software

Basically, you create a virtual hard disk image which behaves just like a new, blank hard drive. When you install operating system it is within that disk image entirely being totally isolated from your main operating system. Aside from testing and booting an operating system you can also test various programs within an isolated environment. There are many possibilities so I recommend you explore that area.

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qemu might be a good choice here, at least initially, its a full emulator - which while slower isolates your experimental os from the main system completely, and its open source. – Journeyman Geek Oct 2 '13 at 1:17
I have had good luck with QEMU and Bochs as well for OS development. – Jon Purdy Oct 2 '13 at 2:50
another advantage of Qemu is that it allows debugging through GDB. Actually once I created a multiboot compliant kernel which I ran through GRUB on the bare metal. A disadvantage of Bochs is that it doesn't support x86-64, at least the last time I checked. – Ramchandra Apte Oct 2 '13 at 4:42

I used to use bosch for emulation back when I was playing around with OS development. IIRC I followed this tutorial:

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