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I have the following configuration for a Windows XP installation and am interested in installing Windows 7 as a dual boot in a way that would be as non-disruptive as possible to my XP installation.

  1. C: is a 10 GB NTFS partition that contains my Windows XP installation, Documents and Settings folder, and not much else. My computer boots off this drive.
  2. D: is a 40 GB NTFS partition that contains my music, My Documents folder and Firefox profile. It's a slow hard drive with very little free space.
  3. E: is a ~140 GB NTFS partition that contains my Program Files directory, videos, and just about everything else and has about 80 GB of free space.

I'd like to install Windows 7 on my E: partition, without reformatting it or messing up my Program Files directory that's used in my XP installation and is on this drive. I'd then like to dual boot it with XP. Is this feasible?

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This is somewhat feasible. You can probably do it, but one of the versions of Windows may not like it. I would recommend using something like Partition Magic or gparted to shrink E: and add a new partition to install 7 on. That's the only way to have it be mostly non-destructive. The only completely non-destructive way is to use a completely separate hard drive and don't have both hard drives plugged in at the same time. Then you can't accidentally edit a file for the other OS.

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Agree with Joshua Nurczyk (sorry, can't comment yet), but don't use Partition Magic, it's messed up the partition on EVERY computer I've ever tried to shrink a partition on. Easeus Partition Manager does a much better job (and it's free!) –  BlueRaja Jan 7 '10 at 16:35
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+1 on gparted. Go grab the live bootable CD, its very easy to manage your partitions –  user155695 Jan 7 '10 at 17:03
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