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I have an HP DV6 2005AX laptop, which came pre-installed Windows 7 Home Premium. It has two partitions C: and D:, the latter is a backup partition to restore the laptop to the factory default state. The restoration can be started by pressing some key at startup.

I desperately want to install Linux distros side-by-side, but I'm scared that I may lose that backup partition when I install it. I don't have any Windows installation disk. All I want is my genuine Windows, nothing else. How should I proceed? (I am prepared to re-install Windows if required). Is it enough if I just know my Windows keycode?

Also, any advice on how I should partition my disk in case of a multiboot configuration would also be appreciated.

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why not just image the whole disk? It won't be that large, assuming the disk is mostly unused, and you can be fairly sure you can restore everything as was. –  Journeyman Geek May 11 '12 at 7:14
    
+1. What's the best way for it? –  Max May 11 '12 at 7:17
    
@max: Most "LiveCDs" today come with a tool called "partimage", which can not only image partitions, but also make a copy of the boot sector. But imaging like that requires a separate medium to write the image to. A USB hard drive could come in handy at this point (and is generally useful anyway). –  DevSolar May 11 '12 at 8:29
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Well, yes and no. The key on the DVD will work with the same version of windows, but its not the one you have installed right now. The recovery partition applies a specific configured image to your system

The tricky thing is setting your bootloader to boot off the recovery partition, since in many cases, there's a specific bootloader or at the very least a certain configuration of bcd you will need to use.

The best general solution to me is to do a full disk backup - and saving everything currently on your disk. I'm currently using macrium reflect free or clonezilla - the former is simpler, the latter i trust more with crazy, multi os configurations, or where i'm not running windows. If anything goes wrong, you can just image back in the whole drive, or the appropriate partitions, and things should work again.

I actually do this with each variation of installation on some systems so i can roll back OS installs easily.

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About the key, what I meant was if I find out my own Windows 7 key by running some sort of program in Windows, can I use that key to validate Windows 7 after re-installing it using a DVD? –  Max May 11 '12 at 7:29
    
oh, that won't work. Basically it'll only work on System Locked Preinstallation installs, and OEMs will do that. The key on the sticker will work, however –  Journeyman Geek May 11 '12 at 8:11
    
Oh so as long as I have the sticker I have genuine Windows. Should've known that. :| –  Max May 12 '12 at 9:34
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If done right (manual partitionning, no auto !), installing Linux cannot harm your backup partition (provided you have enough space on your system one to shrink it and share some space with the 'nux one.)

However, if you're afraid of losing anything, and have a spare hard disk (usb drive ?), I'd recommend doing a backup of your existing partition. Which Linux flavor are you interested in using ? Most of the desktop-oriented ones comes with a LiveCD nowadays, which would allow you to use its tools to copy / ghost your disk to a USB drive.

About partitionning your disk, I'd recommend the following:

  • 1 Windows partition, NTFS. (Your C: system partition, shrink it).
  • 1 Windows backup partition (Your D:, optional, you could probbaly just keep the one on the backup drive to save space)

  • 1 Linux "/" partition, ext3 or ext4.

  • 1 Linux "/boot" partition, ext3 or ext4. (Very small)
  • 1 Linux "/var" partition, ext3 or ext4. (Depending on available space.)
  • 1 Linux swap partition.

  • 1 bigger partition with all the remaining space for your files, FAT32. (You will lose some features of NTFS / ext4, but will be able to access the data from both OS with no hassle.)

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I don't think you understood my question properly. I don't want to make a backup of the backup partition, I just want to be able to run the backup process even after installing Linux. Will the partitioning affect the backup process? And secondly, can I install Windows from someone else's DVD, and use my own keycode for it? –  Max May 11 '12 at 7:06
    
As Journeyman Geek confirmed, making a backup of the whole disk (and thus backuping the restore partition) will allow you to be sure you won't ever lose the opportunity to reinstall. However, be careful with that restore partition utilities, it will probably wipe linux and any extra partition you might have when reinstalling windows. –  Silver Quettier May 11 '12 at 16:03
    
Thanks for the partitioning info. Some more questions- Last time I tried to shrink one of the drives to free space for Ubuntu, it converted to a "Dynamic Disk" and then the Ubuntu setup was showing a weird disk graph in the partitioning screen. A similar problem: superuser.com/questions/89304/… Does it convert every time on shrinking? And, why make 2 different partitions for /boot and /var? Until now I only made 2..for "/" and a swap space. And lastly, why FAT32 instead of NTFS? NTFS is supported on both, no? I've been using that only. –  Max May 12 '12 at 9:30
    
Normally, if you use Ubuntu's installer to manage partitions, it should not convert to a Dynamic Disk. I have little experience with this kind of partitions, but I think you shouldn't use them for Linux / Windows dual boot. Concerning my partitioning choice, you could simply do a "/" and a swap partition. Adding a separate small partition for "/boot" is because this is where the bootloader (GRUB or Lilo or Something) will be installed. It's as much for your Windows and Linux installs. The "/var" thing is because of "/var/log". You may want to restrict how much space the journals can fill. –  Silver Quettier May 14 '12 at 6:27
    
(sorry, ran out of space) Concerning NTFS, I guess its support became better in the recent versions of Ubuntu, so you could use that for the shared partition. I recommend using ext4 for your Linux-only partitions, however. –  Silver Quettier May 14 '12 at 6:29
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  • Create a recovery disk if you have the option to do so

  • Use wubi to try out Ubuntu first. Its relatively low risk

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