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Good morning; I've set things up like this (but can easily modify if the solution calls for it) on a 500GB HDD:

Win7 Enterprise 64-bit, 80GB partition; this was installed and configured first, using the Win7 setup process to partition the drive into 80GB/380GB.

RHEL 5.7, 240GB partition; this was partitioned with swap, /boot, and an LVM with /, /usr, /opt, and /home.

VFAT partition, about 140GB; this is to be used as space to be shared between RHEL and Win7. This partition was setup during the RHEL installation.

On the VFAT partition, I have "full" permissions as root (or as other users, via sudo) from the RHEL side, I can read/write without any problems; and I can read/write without any problems on the Win7 side as an administrative user. But I use "full" loosely; on the RHEL side I can't change the ownership of the VFAT partition. On the Win7 side, I didn't see a "Security" tab for permissions management.

So my main question is, what's the problem? Also, should I have partitioned differently? Maybe used the Win7 setup process to create/format the VFAT partition? Maybe used NTFS at that point?

I found this on Serverfault:

Which filesystem would you use when you need to share data between linux and windows in dual-boot setup?

It's close to what I'm referring to, but I haven't been able to find an exact match. One "quick" note; an alternative I'm contemplating is ditching the VFAT partition idea and just creating a Samba share on another system, but I'm attempting to satisfy the request of the customer if at all possible. :-) Any assistance is greatly appreciated.

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My suggestion if you really need to dual-boot is to install each OS on it's own drive, and use ntfs-3g under RHEL to access the NTFS drive. I don't if / how well ntfs-3g interacts with NTFS permissions, but you should still be able to configure Linux permissions for mounting and file access.

As for the drive layout... 80GB is too small for W7 if it's being used much. If it were my drive, I would lay it out like this...

Use gparted to create 2x250GB NTFS partitions

Install W7 to first partition

Install RHEL to second partition - your scheme looks ok, but I would skip LVM and use Ext3/4, and use gparted if I ever needed to resize the partitions - this is easier to manage than LVM

Now you have 1xNTFS(250GB), 6xLinux*(250GB), and grub installed to MBR should have correctly configured dual-booting

At this point, if you want a smaller "shared data" NTFS partition. you can shrink the main NTFS partition from W& disk management tool, and create a new partition in the free space.

Again, I highly recommend separate drives. However, following this outline, I've had the least amount of problems on my own PC.

I also recommend that you consider running the secondary OS as a virtual machine using VirtualBox or a VMWare product. It would make file sharing a bit more complicated. You could create shared folders that allowed access to the host OS from the guest, or you could configure network sharing such as SAMBA (the host & guest are connected via a virtual LAN). Direct drive access would be more difficult to configure, and would require locating suitable drivers for mounting virtual hard drive images.

One other thing you could look into would be to use some form of Unix/Posix interface technology under Windows - ie, Cygwin or Windows SUA. This might give you more control over file permissions... or it might not. :-)

share|improve this answer
Thanks Joe; I haven't tried ntfs-3g, I'll try that out. Unfortunately, the person I'm configuring these machines for had already ordered them before speaking with me, so they only have one 500GB HDD. The Win7 partition won't be used much beyond general MS Office files and surfing. I'd previously suggested the VM option, but that was shot down; the customer has become accustomed to this type of setup and wishes to stick with it. I'm going to attempt your suggestions, and use the Samba solution as an alternative solution if things go south. Thanks again! – Dizzle Oct 10 '11 at 15:39

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