I have zero actual experience with configuring disk partitions and the stuff I have read for the past few hours have been confusing me a bit, so please bear with me.

First of all, I'd like to explain what I'm setting to achieve:

Windows 7 with:

  • C:\ Windows 7 (pre-existing installation)
  • D:\ Data (Already exists and has files already)

Ubuntu 11 - Does not exist yet, but I already have a LiveCD in hand.

  • \root directory for Ubuntu
  • \home on its own partition I plan
  • \swap on its own partition with around 8GB

Here is the current situation:

I have a single 500 GB hard-disk with Windows 7 x64 installed, and the current partition schemes is as follows:

  • System Reserved: 100 MB (Primary, Active)
  • C: 100 GB - Where Windows 7 is installed (Primary)
  • D: 365 GB - Where my files are located, LOTS of free space (Primary)

Now, I would like to shrink my D: drive and create around 40 GB of unallocated disk space for the Ubuntu installation, but here what's confusing me a bit:

I'm thinking I would create an extended partition and subdivide it into 3 logical partitions for the Ubuntu setup I had in mind. (If you think my setup is a bad idea, please let me know & why. I also hope you can suggest a better one...)

I am aware that I can only have up to 4 primary partitions, or 3 primary partitions with 1 extended parition max. Now, does the System Recovery portion count as one primary partition? I'm really new to these things and it is totally unclear to me.

In shrinking my D: drive using Windows 7's Disk Management tool, I would get an unallocated free space which I don't know how to make an extended partition from. It seems like I can only create a primary partition from it, not an extended one. How do I go about it?

(I'd also like to note, if it is of any importance, that I am trying to avoid using the option to install Ubuntu alongside Windows, and much rather prefer using the custom install where I can specify which drives I wish to use and stuff. Somehow I feel its safer that way.)

  • I was writing an answer, but somehow i got stuck on several uncertainities. first off: the system reserved partition is windows' boot partition, is there any other partition on the drive you have not listed (the recovery partition?) or have you just got that wrong?
    – Baarn
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 18:10
  • There isn't any recovery partition. Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 23:43
  • @WalterMaier-Murdnelch Please do tell me what you think. The System Reserved partition was automatically created during Windows 7 installation as I was doing the partitioning using the wizard. Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 0:39
  • It is possible to surpress the windows setup to make this partition, but it involves fiddling around with some partitioning tools and a new installation of windows. You cannot simply delete it, this would make windows unbootable. I'm not really sure how the Ubuntu installation works and if it is possible to install it completely into one extended partition (including /boot).
    – Baarn
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 0:58
  • You should look at the related questions to the right, too. Maybe you'll find something of help.
    – Baarn
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 1:01

2 Answers 2


If it were me, I would move all the windows files into the single Windows bootable partition C:. More partitions are more difficult to manage—not easier. Free space is invariably on the wrong partition, and more effort is needed to find and manage files in use.

Boot up Ubuntu, delete the Windows data partition, and install Ubuntu to the remaining disk space. That will use up all four primary partitions, which is fine. With Linux, you don't need any more. (The partitions will be "system reserved", actually recovery data to reinstall Windows, Windows 7, Linux swap, and Linux.) Mount the Windows volume readonly if you want (to copy files to Linux), or read-write. Linux fully supports NTFS.

Set Linux to be the primary boot o/s. You can run Windows inside of Linux with QEMU or VMM, or whatever you want. That way the box can remain booted up for years if you want, and each time Windows crashes, you can restart its virtual machine without disturbing Linux.

Sooner than later, you might use wine to run Windows applications directly inside Linux, and not bother running the Windows virtual machine at all. Later on, you will probably prefer the native Linux versions of the applications. Especially since things "just work" and don't require arcane licensing b.s., updates-of-mystery, and incomprehensible installation hoops to jump through. LibreOffice, for example, can do everything Word, Excel, PowerPoint and others do, except better, more portably, more compatibly, and faster.

  • Wallyk, thanks for taking time to answer. Unfortunately this isn't an option. I am not planning to drop Windows 7 as I still will be using it primarily. I do want to install Ubuntu and try it out and configuring my laptop for a real dual-boot set-up, not just VM or Wubi or the likes. Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 0:43

You're on the right track. The extended partition will count as your 4th primary partition; in other words yes, the System Recovery partition is a primary partition. I would use GParted via Ubuntu instead of Windows 7's Disk Mgmt tool to shrink the current partition and add the extended one. First undo the changes you already made using GParted and then follow the tutorial below.

I believe this tutorial will help.

  • Welcome to Super User! Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. Commented Nov 23, 2012 at 17:17

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