As you probably know, MS-DOS used to be and Microsoft Windows (in its various versions from Windows 95/98 to Windows XP) continues to be the most popular operating system for 80386, 80486, and Pentium PCs. Because Linux started on 80386/80486 PCs, a connection between DOS/Windows and Linux has always existed. Typically, you start the Linux installation with some steps in DOS.
Linux has maintained its connection to DOS/Windows in several ways:
Linux supports the older MS-DOS file system called FAT (file allocation table), as well as the newer Windows VFAT (long filenames) and FAT32 file systems. From Linux, you can access MS-DOS and Windows files on a hard disk or a floppy disk.
Linux supports read-only access to NTFS file system that is used in Windows NT/2000/XP. You can build (or download) and load a driver module to incorporate the NTFS support.
Linux features a set of tools (called mtools) that manipulates DOS/Windows files from within Linux.
An ongoing project called WINE is developing a free implementation of Windows for the X Window System under UNIX (see http://www.winehq.com/). WINE enables you to run Windows 3.1/95/NT programs. WINE works on some versions of UNIX for the Intel x86 systems, including Linux and FreeBSD.
Chapter 12 describes how you can access DOS from Linux and explains the use of the mtools utilities.