How can I install Windows and keep my current files?

I want to install Windows without deleting my current filesystem/home. Currently I have 4 partitions, should I delete 3 and keep the filesystem/home? Or does Windows require all 4 partition slots? (For the record my drive is formatted to ext4, and has 130 gigabytes of taken space with 120 unallocated.)

$ lsblk
sda       8:0    0  298.1G  0  disk
 ├─sda1   8:1    0   1023M  0  part /boot
 ├─sda2   8:2    0      2G  0  part [SWAP]
 ├─sda3   8:3    0   12.5G  0  part /
 └─sda4   8:4    0  241.3G  0  part /home
sr0      11:0    1   1024M  0  rom  (output)
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    I really don't know what you are asking here. What do you mean by install partitions apart from filesystems. I would guess all your partitions have some filesystem on them. In any case, I strongly suggest you make a backup to different media before you do anything. – Zoredache May 6 '16 at 22:18
  • Run lsblk to clarify your actual partition setup and share the output with us. – Julie Pelletier May 6 '16 at 22:23
  • Basically, I plan on installing Windows while keeping the old partition of my filesystem. – Laurence May 6 '16 at 22:25
  • NAME MAJ:MIN RM SIZE RO TYPE MOUNTPOINT sda 8:0 0 298.1G 0 disk ├─sda1 8:1 0 1023M 0 part /boot ├─sda2 8:2 0 2G 0 part [SWAP] ├─sda3 8:3 0 12.5G 0 part / └─sda4 8:4 0 241.3G 0 part /home sr0 11:0 1 1024M 0 rom (output) – Laurence May 6 '16 at 22:25
  • If they're important files, then the only guaranteed way to keep them is a backup (on media not even connected to the computer, some OS installers are very determined to find & overwrite data ;-) – Xen2050 May 7 '16 at 7:02

Firstly, you cannot install windows to a partition formatted to ext4 - you will need NTFS or Fat32 for a windows installation.

Secondly, you can format just one of your partitions to NTFS or Fat32 and then install Windows on this partition (NTFS is best for newer versions of Windows). It would be fine to delete the partitions other than the one with your filesystem on it, but remember to format the new extended partition to NTFS before installing Windows.

Remember tho, you will not be able to view your linux files from Windows as windows cannot read ext4.

Edit: I agree with Zoredache above; make a full backup before doing anything.

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  • Sorry, I think I might not have phrased this clear enough, I want to install Windows on a separate partition from my current filesystem/home. – Laurence May 6 '16 at 22:33
  • And there are some ext4 explorers for Windows. – Laurence May 6 '16 at 22:34
  • True, but I was not considering 3rd party software. I am not sure I understand what you mean entirely. Maybe edit and rephrase the question? – Matthew May 6 '16 at 22:36
  • Ok, I think you should reduce the volume of your sda4 home partition to free up enough space for the Windows partition (About 60Gb if you want space for programs, updates, etc). Format the new space to NTFS and install Windows to that partition. You will have a problem because the drive will be able to support a max of 4 partitions, so consider deleting your swap partition to make room for the Windows partition. – Matthew May 6 '16 at 23:35

With your current partition layout it will be extremely difficult to install Windows in parallel and keep your current system. Computers can have a max of 4 primary partitions, and you are using all four. Windows needs at least 2 free to install.

While I can imagine how it might be possible to re-arrange things to install Windows an maintain the Linux install, I think it would be extremely challenging, and likely to result in all your data lost. It will almost certainly be easier to just make a full backup of your Linux install and data, then reinstall using LVM so all your linux filesystems will use a single MBR partition, then restore your data. After that install Windows.

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  • Converting to GPT is supposed to be quick & easy, but any OS installs or partition editing really demands a backup of important data +1 – Xen2050 May 7 '16 at 6:58
  • What if I simply delete my root, swap, and boot partition, then convert the unallocated space remaining to an NTFS partition for Windows to install on? Would that allow me to keep my filesystem/home? – Laurence May 7 '16 at 13:00
  • 14GB really isn't enough space for Windows, and that is what you get if you remove those partitions. I don't know of a safe way to shrink home, in a way that it would make more contiguous space available for Windows. I don't think it is possible. – Zoredache May 7 '16 at 17:07

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