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Hi all,

I have some questions about partitioning a new hard drive and installing Linux on it. Although I have looked everywhere for the last few days, I have not found answers that fit my particular situation. I am hoping someone here can help.

Here is the situation:

I am currently running Win2K Pro on a (nearly full) unpartitioned hard drive. I have just bought a nice, big new drive to be used (1) to make more space available to Win2K (2) to install one or more versions of Linux as alternate Operating Systems (3) to install other operating systems (such as MINIX).

I obviously want to be able to do this without having to touch or do anything dodgy to my current drive (with all my valuable data on it).

I've been reading around, and gather that the general method is to:
(1) connect the new drive as the slave, with the old drive as master. Make sure the BIOS recognises it, yadda yadda.
(2) partition the new drive with one partition as extra space for Win2K, plus other partitions to give to all the other OSs I want to install.
(3) install the new OSs in their respective partitions
(4) do some magic so that upon booting, I can choose which of these OSs to boot.

My questions start with (2), partitioning. The big, main question I have is:

Is hard disk partitioning OS independent?

If not, what can I do? Since the only OS I have running now is Win2K, the only software I can run is Win2K software, meaning any partition software I run will be doing things from a Win2K point of view. Will this mean I will only be able to create some sort of M$-friendly partitions on the new drive that Linux or other OSs might not like?

Someone told me that if I run the installer for a Linux distribution, I will be prompted as to whether I want to partition the drive, and so I can partition the drive through Linux instead of through Win2K. But does this really work? Can I be sure that the Linux installer won't start messing about with my old drive? And furthermore, if I create the partitions this way through Linux, will they be recognised by Win2K and other OSs?

Assuming that there is a way for me to partition my new drive in such a way that all OSs (or at least Linux and Win2K) will recognise the partitions, my next questions are with step (4), i.e. being able to choose which OS to boot.

In particular, will there be any issues with the fact that the other OSs will be on the second, slave hard drive, while Win2K is left on the first, master drive? Would it be worth or is it necessary to copy my old drive, OS and all, to the new drive, and make the new drive the master, so that all the OSs to choose from will be one the one, master drive? Or would I just be asking for trouble?

Thanks in advance, and apologies for the long-windedness of this e-mail.


Get a copy of partition magic for windows. You can use this to create all your partitions etc.

You will need a good bootloader in order to be able to pick and choose your OS'es. I'm not sure if Grub & Lilo (both come with linux) will be suffiencent for minix etc. You might need some third party boot loader like norton or something.
Thanks Joey for the incredibly quick response!

So Partition Magic can create Linux friendly paritions from Win2K? Excellent! Sounds like what I need.

I reckon Lilo or grub will be good enough for the time being, since for the near future anyway, I will just be choosing between Win2K and Linux.

Thanks again,
Yah it works great for linux. Newer versions of partition magic even support ext3.

Lilo/grub should be fine then.

Let us know how it turns out.
Alright then, I've got my drive, I've got Partition Magic 8, and I've got SuSE 8.2 - I'm all ready to go!

Tomorrow, after a good night's sleep, I'll see how much of a mess I can make wink.gif

In the meantime, if you (or anyone else) who has done this sort of thing before can offer any tips, or mention anything I should be aware of before I start, that would be great.

Also, you mention the ext3 file system. Is this something you'd recommend using for my new installation? I'll confess, I haven't played around with Linux for some time, and am a bit behind on what's what. That's actally part of the reason I am doing this, to get up to date with Linux. Anyway, I'll do some research on file systems choices tonight, but any personal opinions from actual users of the file systems would be invaluable.

Thanks again for the good advice,
I would definitely go with ext3 as it has support for journaling. You can find some info about ext3 at

As for tips, take your time and do not copy any files over until you have everything set up. This way if you screw up you can just format the sucker and start over.

A) Install windows first

cool.gif Install Partition Magic and partition the drive
You will need at least 2 partitions, one ext3 and one linux swap. The linux swap is normally 2-3 times the amount of ram you have. If you have 256 megs of ram, try making a swap partition of 512 megs.

C) Pop the SuSE installation cd into your cdrom drive and reboot the box and install linux

E) During the install make sure you create a boot disk/rescue disk (you'll thank me later)

F) Find a stuffed penguin and give him a hug.
OHHH if possible don't use NTFS when you install 2k. NTFS support in linux sucks, you'll only have read only access to the filesystem under linux with NTFS.
Wow, excellent advice, this is what I've been looking for for days! Thanks loads!

Unfortunately, I'm already running W2K on my old drive, probably with NTFS, so it is too late for me to take your second bit of advice. I'm thinking it should be okay though, since I don't anticipate that I'll want to write much from my Linux file systems to my W2K FS. If I really want to copy a file from Linux to Windows, I guess I could always do something creative like e-mailling it to myself as an attachment, and reading the attachment in Windows.

That's interesting about the Linux swap partition, I didn't realise I would need that. This is really good to know, so that I can plan my partitions now for future OSs. I had only thought I needed one partition per OS!

One final question: Does any of your advice change considering the fact that I already have W2K installed and don't want to install it on my new drive, but rather just leave it as is on my old drive? That is, can I take all your advice as is, just skipping step A?

Thanks once more,
I'm not sure how well windows will work if you just copy the whole lot over. You're probably better off reinstalling 2k on the new drive, installing linux and then copying your old files over to the new hard drive.

Once you're done installing both OS'es just attach the old drive as a secondary ide drive and then windows should detect it. You can then use windows explorer or whatever to copy over your files.

I was hoping that I wouldn't have to copy anything over, or re-install 2k. I thought I could essentially preserve my existing set-up on my old drive, an only install the new OSs on the second drive. Is this not possible?

If not, I may have to re-think the whole thing. My 2K machine is remarkably stable, and I have loads of customizations and installed software that would be a nightmare to reinstall. Not to mention all the little tweaks made here and there in order to get it into the stable state that it's in.

If there is no easy way to have the option of booting my existing OS (untouched) after installing Linux on the 2nd drive, I may look into getting a second hand PC dedicated to Linux, and forget about having a multiboot PC.

Enough years of messing about with PCs has taught me that if you have a stable machine, don't get rid of it!

Sorry, I misunderstood what you wanted.

Yes you can keep the first drive and then simply install linux etc on the other one. If the new drive is empty you can use the linux installer to create the various partitions
Excellent! I'm so glad I can do this without messing about with the old drive.

Unfortunately, a plumbing emergency prevented me from trying this all out today, so it will have to wait until tomorrow.

But while I am here, one more question has come up that I should know the answer to before I start:

Is it necessary for me to create all the partitions I may ever need now, or can I just create the partitions I want for the short term (for Windows and Linux), and make partitions for other OS installations at some later date?

Recall: For now, my main goal is to partition the new drive such that some space is given to my exisiting W2K installation, and some space is set aside for a Linux installation, but in the future I would like to install at least one more OS somewhere on the new drive.

Thanks again for the great help,
If you have partition magic you can resize the drives at any given time. Just create the partitions for what you need right now and worry about the rest later.
As long as you don't use all the hard drive space in your partitons, adding new partitions later (in unpartitioned space) is pretty easy.

Since you are going to do the install on a new drive, I would just put the drive in as a slave on the primary channel, then do a normal Linux install ....

In the SUSE installer, pick the correct drive (NOT hda [your current window's drive]... but hdb for primary slave). I would make a boot partition (256mb), a swap partiton (512 mb) and a / partition (the main linux partiton ... whatever size you want, but at least 8gb ... a fairly full linux install is 1-2 gb) using the installer. [If you are going to install more than 1 Linux OS ... and if you want to share programs between Linux installs .... you may also want to make a /opt partition ...but sharing program files between installs is not easy, so you may not want to do that]

After the SUSE install is done and you're finished with that, you can then boot into Win2K and use the Disk Management Tool (Control Panel - Administrative Tools - Computer Management - Disk Management) to create a Win2K Partition in the free space of the new disk.

Some things to remember about FAT32 vice NTFS ....

1. FAT32 is limited to a max file size of 2gb ... if you are going to have files larger than 2gb, use NTFS.
2. FAT32 has no file level security ... so if you want to be able to assign user permissions at the file level, use NTFS.
3. NTFS can't be written to safely by Linux ... if you want to share files between Linux and Win2K use FAT32.

If you leave unpartitoned space on the new drive, you can later just add new partitons for other OS's.
Thanks for the info guys, I am about to start!

Luckily, it turns out that my current Win2K drive is using the FAT32 filesystem, so I should be able to share files between it and Linux using this drive.

I can't decide whether to make the windows partition on the new drive NTFS or FAT32 though. The only reason I can see for going NTFS is if I ever will deal with single files over 2Gb in size. Seems unlikely now, but you never know...

Maybe I'll make it FAT32 for now, and in the unlikely event that I'll be dealing with >2Gb files in the future, I'll simply add a new NTFS partition for it.

Thanks again for the invaluable help,
Hi Joey and Hughesjr,

Just to let you know, I finished my partitioning and Linux installation. It all went without a hitch, thanks largely to your good advice. In fact, the whole thing was a piece of cake!

Now to move on to setting up all my hardware within Linux, which is another matter entirely...

Thanks again,
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