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(WARNING: Major Newbie at work!) I've been considering dual booting windows and linux for a while now, but only recently have seriously decided to go for it, and have a ...
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  1. #1
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    Dual-Booting XP and Linux w/ NTFS File system


    (WARNING: Major Newbie at work!)

    I've been considering dual booting windows and linux for a while now, but only recently have seriously decided to go for it, and have a few questions.

    First, I'm working on an HP Livestrong Special Edition laptop, 64-bit AMD Turion Processor, 100 GB hard drive. I want to partition my drive into 3 sectors: One for Windows XP, one for Linux (Ubuntu, perhaps), and one for data. I'll be starting from a blank drive (deleting everything & reinstalling), so from tutorials, this is how I understand the basics:

    a) Partition the drive. Primary for windows, Primary for linux (or should this be extended?), Extended for the data. Format Windows & Data NTFS.
    b) Install windows
    c) Format linux partition to Ext3, install Linux distro of choice. (and swap partition?)
    d) Set up GRUB to dual boot, edit the boot.ini file in the windows partition.

    Is this right? I will be following tutorials, of course.


    My questions:

    1) Once I have the windows partition stable, how easy will it be to try different distros in the linux partition? I'm hoping I'll just have to uninstall the current distro, reinstall the new, and reinstall Grub. Valid?

    2) I'm trying to keep the data format in NTFS, so that windows can read it natively, and Linux can read it using the NTFS-3G driver. Will this work well, or am I asking for trouble?

    3) On the same lines, I'm hoping to keep certain application files (i.e. Firefox/thunderbird profiles) on the NTFS Data system, and set up applications (i.e. firefox) in both applications to use the same files. Will this work?

    4) Any recommendations on sizes for the three partitions? My current windows installation takes up 25G for OS + Apps, but I have a lot of apps, and I doubt I'd have that many linux.

    5) Minor question: Even though my processor's 64 bit, the Factory installed Windows is 32 bit. Can I install a 64-bit Linux with 32-bit windows, no problems?

    Any other suggestions/recommendations, or links to recommended threads/tutorials would be much appreciated!

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Linux Guru Jonathan183's Avatar
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    Welcome to the forums tallino

    Setting up dual boot is usually easy. Windows should be on the first partition of the first hard drive. You can have a separate data partition which you can format NTFS and use the ntfs-3g driver without too many problems for most distros.

    It sounds as though you need about 30GB for Windows with applications. I'd give Linux about 20GB (15GB for root and 4GB for home 1GB swap) which leaves about 50GB for data.

    By default most Linux installers will try to setup a root partition, a home partition and a swap partition. Together with Windows and a data partition you will need to create an extended partition. Linux will run from primary or logical partitions without a problem.

    By default most distros install grub as a bootloader and will automatically setup a dual boot for you. You will not need to modify your .ini file unless you want to use the Windows bootloader - which is possible but is not done automatically. I'd stick with the default and install grub.

    The swap partition is normally 2xRAM - but this only really applies upto a swap partition of 1GB (a larger swap partition is unlikely to be required).

    If you want to install a new Linux distro you can do this straight over the old Linux installation - you don't need to uninstall first.

    Sharing data files will be OK, sharing configuration files between Windows and Linux is not a good idea.

    Start with some links on the forums here which includes a link to help you pick a distro if you have not done already.

    Hope that helps ...

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by tallino View Post
    a) Partition the drive. Primary for windows,
    Yes.

    Primary for linux (or should this be extended?)
    Linux doesn't care about that litle things. You can put linux anywhere and it will work just ok.

    Extended for the data. Format Windows & Data NTFS.
    You can't store anything in a extended partition, strictly speaking.
    Extended partitions are just a particular kind of primary partitions that can hold logical partitions inside of them.

    So, you can have up to 4 primary partitions. One of them can be marked as extended, and inside that extended partition, you can host up to 59 logical partitions, theoretically. There's a reason for that number, but I won't bore you with technical details.

    The only requisite is that, as far as I know, windows can only see ONE (and only one) primery partition at the same time. That means that if I am correct -forgive me but it's long since I used that OS for my own machines- all the partitions that you need to access from Windows, except the one containing Windows itself, need to be logical partitions inside the extended one. With linux, you don't have to worry about that.

    b) Install windows
    On the primary partition.

    c) Format linux partition to Ext3, install Linux distro of choice. (and swap partition?)
    You can use primary partitions for either of this, or logical units inside the extended one. It doesn't matter.

    d) Set up GRUB to dual boot,
    Most distros do this. Some other require that you configure it manually, so, check the installation docs for your distro.

    edit the boot.ini file in the windows partition.
    There's usually no need to do so.

    1) Once I have the windows partition stable, how easy will it be to try different distros in the linux partition? I'm hoping I'll just have to uninstall the current distro, reinstall the new, and reinstall Grub. Valid?
    Most linux installers will offer you a way to reformat your partitions and install the new linux using them. Again, it depends on the distro. To read the install docs is always a good idea.

    2) I'm trying to keep the data format in NTFS, so that windows can read it natively, and Linux can read it using the NTFS-3G driver. Will this work well, or am I asking for trouble?
    I don't have a deep experience with this. But as long as you use ntfs-3g you should be fine. The native kernel driver for ntfs is not reliable for writing purposes, and should never be used unless you just need to read from (and not write to) ntfs partitions.

    3) On the same lines, I'm hoping to keep certain application files (i.e. Firefox/thunderbird profiles) on the NTFS Data system, and set up applications (i.e. firefox) in both applications to use the same files. Will this work?
    It will certainly depend on the application. You can try to host the config files into a given subdir into the ntfs partition, then you could symlink it to the correct directory into your $HOME dir and see if firefox picks it up correctly. Make sure you backup any configuration files before doing this, because sharing them between the two OSes might completely break your configs, bookmarks, etc. and give you a big headache.

    4) Any recommendations on sizes for the three partitions? My current windows installation takes up 25G for OS + Apps, but I have a lot of apps, and I doubt I'd have that many linux.
    That entirely depends on your personas tastes. 5-10 gb should be enough for a basic desktop. But that entirely depends on what you do.

    Luck on your new quest.

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    Thank you both! You've cleared up a lot.

    R.e. Home directory, am I right in assuming it's similar to MyDocs or user file in Windows, where everything personal is stored? If so, I'd think I could use a symlink method like i92guboj referred to, and make home link to my Data partition. Unless programs are stored there as well...

    R.e. Windows and active partitions, I think you're right, although I can't find anything on google that says so.

  5. #5
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    set up applications (i.e. firefox) in both applications to use the same files
    I have Win98,XP,Suse,Mepis use the same Firefox Bookmarks not sure about history, my common partition file format is FAT32. I manually edited Firefox's user.js file in each OS to point to the same file. In my case {user_pref("browser.bookmarks.file","D:\\Favorites\ \bookmarks.html")}
    , there is likely better ways but it works and I do not know better.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by tallino View Post
    Thank you both! You've cleared up a lot.

    R.e. Home directory, am I right in assuming it's similar to MyDocs or user file in Windows, where everything personal is stored?
    Well, mostly but not exactly. To be a bit more accurate: MyDocs in windows would be (by default) into C:\documents and settings\<username>\MyDocs, the $HOME dir would be C:\documents and settings\<username\

    But in any case it's not relevant. The $HOME directory is where everything related to a given user is stored. Not only documents, but also config files, the desktop files in case you use a desktop and it is usually the only place where a given user has write permissions.

    If so, I'd think I could use a symlink method like i92guboj referred to, and make home link to my Data partition. Unless programs are stored there as well...
    Not exactly. What you want to do, in any case, if to symlink some directory or files inside your home directory, not to the home directory itself. In any case this is not a trivial matter, and it would need to be done on a case by case basis. I have never tested to link windows config files to linux, and it might completely fail, because of the different encodings and file formats.

    Symlinking the data partition into another directory in your home is another matter, it's perfectly safe and possible.

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