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I plan to install Windows Vista on my second hard drive partition, with Ubuntu Hardy remaining on the first partition. How likely is it that any security holes that may exist in Vista could allow malicious code to find its way to the Ubuntu partition or otherwise damage the system?

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This is not fully related to your question, but I know XP has always been selfish when being installed it would not play nice with other OS's. You may need to "fix" grub afterward installing Vista so Ubuntu will boot again. –  Jon Mar 16 '09 at 15:10
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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Darn near impossible (or at least impractical). The proportion of computer users who dual-boot Windows/Linux is so small that it's not worth anyone's time to write the code required to access a Linux partition from Vista and corrupt it. And it would have to be done intentionally; I'm sure it's safe to say that Windows will not have a major bug in the filesystem code that wreaks havoc on the HD with complete disregard for partition boundaries.

So what I'm saying, in less-than-eloquent terms, is not to worry about it. At all. (Unless you install a driver to access your Linux partition(s) from Windows, then, you might want to worry just a little bit.)

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Never say never.... :) –  Kev Mar 14 '09 at 4:43
    
Why, are you working on a cross-platform virus? ;-) absolutely right, though, it could happen, but I don't expect to see it anytime soon. –  David Z Mar 14 '09 at 7:04
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The major threat is here to install Windows after Linux. You might loose the boot-loader. Check RecoveringUbuntuAfterInstallingWindows on Ubuntu's wiki.

Now, regarding malicious code, David answered very well.

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If you want to prohibit access to your Linux data when running Windows in a dual-boot scenario, just use encrypted filesystems.

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