I'm looking to install a Linux distro on my Windows 7 machine. Could anyone suggest any tools to handle the multiboot? (I may install 2-3 distros to try out)
Installing a Linux-distribution usually gets you a decent bootmanager (in most cases it's Grub). You shouldn't need to worry about installing a bootmanager by yourself. Simply install a Linux-distribution of your taste and it should do the rest for you.
As stated before, you should install Windows first, preferably on the first primary partition of your hard disk. THEN, install Linux on supplemental partitions of your hard disk. This will avoid the problem that Windows usually overrides the boot record to impose its own, which ignores Linux partitions and such.
Even then, if you upgrade Windows to a new major version or have to re-install it for any reason, chances are that it will override the boot sector. In this case, there are ways to actually recover the boot record of your computer, but it is not the easiest thing to do.
Always make GOOD BACKUPS FIRST !!!
If you happen to be in this situation, you will need to find a way to boot again from one of the installed Linux in its own partition. For this, I recommend the following general guidelines:
- Boot from one of your existing installed Linux distribution, login as root
- If you're using Ubuntu version 9.04 or earlier, or any other distro with GRUB, try to look at the file /boot/grub/menu.lst
- Note the boot parameters for one of the LINUX options.
- Restart your computer with, say, a live CD from Ubuntu, and re-enter this parameter for a manual boot.
At this point, you should be able to boot directly in that Linux partition. You can then do the following:
- cd /boot/grub
- grub-install /dev/sda (or whatever your hard disk)
You should have a grub-based boot record back again, and then you can perhaps manage it from this point on.
Another solution, which can save you lots of trouble is to install Linux on an external device, such as external hard disk, or USB stick. Many distributions today can do this. The only requirement is that you need to be able to boot from USB. You then have a portable, complete, customizable installation of Linux, which you can boot from any USB-boot-capable PC, and which will never install or mix with a Windows PC.
Using Linux this way helped me restore lost data for several friends who had their Windows computer unable to boot.