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I have an empty PC with 750GB of hard drive space. I'd like to install both Linux and Windows but I don't know yet which one I'll use more. The thing is that I don't want to get my fingers burned.

I'd also want to be prepared to update Windows XP to Windows 7 (if it's worth the update) or even concurrently have several Linux distros.

Maybe I'm setting the bar too high and I should simplify... but that's another issue!

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

I'm with alex on the small-main-OS-partition. If you want dual-boot main partitions, just create two 30-40gb primary partitions at the beginning of the drive. Create an extended partition on the remaining space, and any other partitions you need as logical partitions inside of that. So you have these partitions:

  • OS partition 1 (Windows, 40gb)
  • OS partition 2 (Linux, 40gb)
  • Extended partition (670gb)
  • Swap partition 3 (1-2 gb, no more needed)

If you anticipate using multiple data partitions (eg, inside your extended partition) and want to be able to resize them on the fly, a good scheme would configure the space like this (sizes can change as needed):

  • Data partition 4 (maybe 100gb)
  • Data partition 5 (maybe 400gb)
  • Data partition 6 (maybe 170gb)

Now, when I resize partitions, the space must come from somewhere adjacent. Let's assume I'll use partitions 4 and 6 for my main stuff (photos on 4, music on 6). If partition 5 is empty, or nearly so, resizing partitions 4 & 6 will be very fast -- no data to move to other areas during the resize operation.

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+1, because this appears to be thought-through. On the other hand I suggest not having that many data partitions. It's hard to predict the right size and cumbersome/potentially dangerous to resize them aftwerwards. – foraidt Oct 8 '09 at 15:50
if you know what data you'll be using beforehand, smaller partitions can help keep performance up. especially on fragmentation-prone filesystems like NTFS. lots of teensy files on a giant partition can run out of inodes before they actually run out of space. but yes, doing this in a practical way requires knowing what you'll be storing ahead of time. – quack quixote Oct 8 '09 at 16:26

The most flexible partition scheme is to have only one partition.

You would therefore install your main operating system on this partition, say Windows XP. You would also create virtual machines for the other operating systems.

For Linux, you can also use linux-on-windows solutions, with which you install and uninstall Linux as any other Windows application. Some examples are:

andLinux - complete Ubuntu Linux system running seamlessly in Windows
coLinux - free and open source method for optimally running Linux on Microsoft Windows natively
Wubi - officially supported Ubuntu installer for Windows

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Interesting solution, though it doesn't fit me as I'm not very oonfident on OS-on-DifferentOS solutions (In fact that's not very flexible if I'd want to change the main OS), but I'll take a look at those links. Thank you! – David A. G. Oct 8 '09 at 12:47
+1 for "The most flexible partition scheme is to have only one partition." This is definitely true for data partitions which all have the same file system. – foraidt Oct 8 '09 at 15:52
davidag, you can use another tool, whose name I can't remember, to convert a Linux installation in Wubi to a real partition of its own. This allows you to uninstall Windows without blowing away Ubuntu. Also, note that Wubi is not a Virtualization solution. It is a dual-boot solution, except that Ubuntu nests its filesystem inside a single windows file. – Ryan Thompson Oct 8 '09 at 23:17

Keep the main Windows partition relatively small (somewhere around 40 GB). If you want to reinstall Windows this will ensure that all your data is safe on another partition while the Windows partition is formatted. Keep all your data on a separate partition, including Documents and Settings of possible.

If you want to run Linux, for starters, the easiest way would be to run it in a VM. You can use VirtualBox or the RC of VMWare Player (3.0 will be free and will allow you to also create VMs). This ensures maximum flexibility; if you want to run Linux directly you can just take a part of the space you have left on the data partition and install it there.

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I have 3 boot patritions

5gb - winxp 10gb - vista 5gb - linux

and from rest i have 3 logical patritions(based on content)

I install all programs and have swap file on D drive(logical) and 5gb for xp is enough. I dont really use vista or linux, but i think 10gb will be enough for windows7.

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My recommendation would be to look into virtulization.

I would install a hypervisor on your host system and run your two Linux/Windows machines and virtual guest operating systems.

There are several flavors of Linux that include a hypervisor built right in. Windows Server 2008 also includes a built in hypervisor called Hyper-V.

Or you may install free stand-alone hypervisors. Citrix XenServer and Microsoft Hyper-V are both good options. The shortcoming of using a standalone hypervisor is that your host machine will not have a graphical user interface. Instead, you would have to use a second machine to remotely access/use your two guest virtual machines.

Regardless of the virtual path you choose, virtulization will give you the greatest flexibility in partitioning options. Most virtual solutions have the ability to dynamically expand the storage a partition uses.

For example, you could create a partition for a guest that appears as 120 GB to the guest machine but takes up only 5 GB on the host machine. As the guest starts filling the remaining 115 GB of virtulized free space, the actual storage requirements on the host machine will dynamically expand.

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