I currently have a quad-boot system set up, spanning across two separate but identical hard drives.
The image illustrates what is currently going on. Disk 0 (NOW disk 01) holds XP (32-bit), Vista (64-bit), a small swap file partition for Ubuntu 10.10, and Ubuntu 10.10 (64-bit). Disk 02 holds a partition called "Empty" and Windows 7 (64-bit). All 4 of these operating systems are spread over 2 250GB Seagate single-platter drives (not raided obviously).
It wasn't ever that hard to set up as I installed them in the above order (starting with XP), and upon boot I get an XP DOS-style menu giving me the 4 choices with XP as the countdown default. The system has been running smoothly for ages (although I regularly back up the MBR using EasyBCD which is installed in Vista).
Here's my problem:
I'm running out of storage and install space on Disk 03 (640GB) and although the first partition on Disk 02 is called "empty" it is not. Disks 1, 2 & 3 are SATA. Hard drive prices being what they are currently; due to (or not) the flooding in Taiwan.. I could only purchase a recertified 320GB hard drive (ATA 133). The drive has a 90 day warranty and although I have NEVER purchased a recertified HD, it installed tonight without a hitch. It formatted in NTFS just fine and then checked out with HD Tune Pro and a surface scan showed no errors. All of the SMART parameters show as OK and HD Sentinel describes the disc as "perfect". The drive is NOW Disk 0 (as it is the first ever PATA HD attached to the mobo I guess).
My stored files, games and utility installs (Misc & Empty) are more important to me than the actual operating system partitions are currently. The size of these 5 partitions (including the Ubuntu swap) comes to about 18 gigs less than Disk 0 (W:). I would simply (or not) like to migrate C, D, X and the two unknown (which are the Linux install) partitions to Disk 0 (W:). I want to free up the space on the two more "tried & tested" hard drives and put the OS'es on W: in order to give IT a good "workout" over the next 90 days. If I somehow, some way lose my operating systems I can always start over again from scratch (They're ALL getting cluttered up with driver overwrites, upgrades, uninstalls/reinstalls anyway).
I understand that:
This would best be done off a ''Live CD'' type utility.
The "pointers" from the XP boot menu to the other OS'es will probably be screwed up since they would all now be on the same, but different, disk (maybe JUST W7).
5 partitions on one HD (W:) means I can only have 4 primaries (active) and one must be logical extended but that's what they are now (please see picture).
Although I'm kind of learning Linux, I'm not quite ready to use it's utilities/apps or a command line to do this. I am willing to purchase GUI-oriented software or try any freeware that would help me migrate them all, although I DO understand I should probably sub-partition the empty W: drive first and would end up migrating each OS one at a time, starting with XP.
The only thing that gives me any trepidation about this is the fact that I don't quite grasp the concept of what the MBR is, or especially, where it resides; and how one migrates IT to the new HD. I know from the past that when I used Acronis to image a C: drive with just XP on it, the MBR was always asked to be backed up in addition as if it resided OUTSIDE of the XP partition. So I'm kind of sure I could move the 5 partitions over, but may miss the MBR altogether.
Please, I need help and I'm open to all suggestions. I'm beginning to wonder which scenario would be worse, trying to make this work and go smoothly, or simply formatting all the drives, resizing the empty space, and installing all the operating systems fresh again. Thanks to all for your time and attention.