Have new laptop; looking for advice

I just bought a new Dell Inspiron laptop. I’m looking for advice.

It came with Windows 7.

C: partition (most of disk)
Recovery partition
Dell partition

My plan is to shrink the C: partition (perhaps with an Acronis backup/restore).
I wish I could do without the other partitions, but I suspect that Windows needs that recovery partition. (With my previous Dell, I was able to reinstall without a recovery partition, but this one comes with no reinstall disk).

Can I nuke the Dell partition? (I did do the Dell recovery backup DVD creation).

I tried booting the 11.3 live DVD. The WiFi card did not show up. It’s a broadcom DW1501. Is that going to give me problems?

Should I install 11.3 as 32bit or as 64bit?

Thanks for any advice or suggestions.

Note: My desktop is an older Dell. When I originally installed opensuse (I think that might have been 10.1 in its final days), the 64bit version did not talk to the internet, though it claimed to recognize the ethernet card. So I’m still running it 32 bit (though now with 11.3). I haven’t tried 64bit 11.3 on it.

Install openSUSE alongside Win7/Vista - A Guide

My plan is to shrink the C: partition (perhaps with an Acronis backup/restore).
windows’ partitioner is good for shrinking the c partition (control panel – admin tools)

Can I nuke the Dell partition? (I did do the Dell recovery backup DVD creation).
On my Acer netbook I deleted the recovery partition after I generated the windows 7 DVD backup disk – but of course an Acer is not a Dell – you have to decide – anyway, doesn’t hurt to leave it there does it?

I tried booting the 11.3 live DVD. The WiFi card did not show up. It’s a broadcom DW1501. Is that going to give me problems?

You have to install the drivers e.g. here (where OP stumbled a bit but still, it works fine): no internet/wlan

Should I install 11.3 as 32bit or as 64bit?
I use 64 in my HP laptop – beats 32 by a country mile.

Sigh! I’ve been using linux for 15 years, so I wasn’t asking for that kind of help.

In any case, here’s the “fdisk” output for completeness


Disk /dev/sda: 500.1 GB, 500107862016 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 60801 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0xb52d54b1

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sda1               1          13      102400   de  Dell Utility
Partition 1 does not end on cylinder boundary.
/dev/sda2   *          13        1926    15360000    7  HPFS/NTFS
/dev/sda3            1926       60802   472922136    7  HPFS/NTFS

The last time I had a computer with the “not on cylinder boundary” condition, that gave me problems. And, as I recall, gparted mishandled it. That’s why I’m inclined to backup to an external drive, then restore after repartitioning.

I usually prefer to have a small “/boot” partition, which is why I am considering nuking that Dell utility partition. I was looking for any comments on that. However, I nuked that partition on my desktop, so I doubt that I’ll run into problems.

My biggest question is with the WiFi card, and what options I have for that.

The remaining issue - 64bit or 32bit, I can work out for myself. It turns out that my 11.3 install disk, booted for repair options, boots to 64 bit mode. So, some time I’ll plug an ethernet cable before booting, and see if I can get the network up and running.

Thanks. I’ll give that a try.

And, as I recall, gparted mishandled it.

hence the advice to use the windows partitioner to make space for Linux

When I get the “not cylinder boundary” issue, I dump everything (except as you said keep the data) and make a new windows 7 on a new sda1. Windows easy transfer is good for the data transfer I find. But I prefer to take the whole c:\users\myname including the hidden and system areas under …\myname (for e.g. outlook).

I don’t know why you favour a special boot partition, why is that?

nrickert wrote:
> Sigh! I’ve been using linux for 15 years, so I wasn’t asking for that
> kind of help.

if you have 15 years experience and say so, you will not get n00b
level answers…otherwise you might be interested to know that the
largest majority of folks who show up here have about 15 minutes Linux
experience…and, it is really hard to tell which is which (unless of
course they start of by asking what a partition is, etc)

> The last time I had a computer with the “not on cylinder boundary”
> condition, that gave me problems. And, as I recall, gparted mishandled
> it. That’s why I’m inclined to backup to an external drive, then
> restore after repartitioning.

of course it is alway best to have a perfect backup…you may need it
(we all know) but actually there is some magic going on with partition
placement and cylinder boundries–i freely admit i don’t know what
they are doing exactly but somehow it usually works out ok…well,
raid is tricky and some of the new monster drives have ‘issues’…

please search/drag through the fora postings looking for those
threads…as i recall this began being noted with 11.3 and ext4…

> I usually prefer to have a small “/boot” partition, which is why I am
> considering nuking that Dell utility partition. I was looking for any
> comments on that.

generally, the install disk’s partitioner will do a good job of
shrinking you win partition and setting up a dual boot–didn’t the
info caf aimed you to say that??

it will look at what you have and develop a suggested plan…it
probably will NOT suggest removing any existing partition…but, how
can we decided for you if you should or not?

> However, I nuked that partition on my desktop, so I
> doubt that I’ll run into problems.

you seem to have more experience with the Dells than i do…so…

> My biggest question is with the WiFi card, and what options I have for
> that.

well, you should not put multiple problems in one posting; and you
should make a subject line that will catch the attention of folks with
knowledge in the area you have trouble; and each problem should be
addressed to the forum in which the knowledgeable for that problem
hangs out…

so, why not hop to
http://forums.opensuse.org/english/get-help-here/wireless/ and read
the three stickies at the top of that forum and, you probably find
sufficient pointers there that with 15 years of linux experience you
may not need to ask more…but, if you do, please place them there…

its good to have another experienced person around…once you get your
new hardware going hang around and pay back…


DenverD
CAVEAT: http://is.gd/bpoMD [posted via NNTP w/openSUSE 10.3]
I feel annoyed that I can’t put my wide range of languages on stupid
Facebook. For example, I speak Sarcasm, fluently spoken and written,
and Various Forms of Geek…

On 2010-12-24 22:36, nrickert wrote:

> I usually prefer to have a small “/boot” partition, which is why I am
> considering nuking that Dell utility partition. I was looking for any
> comments on that. However, I nuked that partition on my desktop, so I
> doubt that I’ll run into problems.

Note that /boot doesn’t need to be a primary, it can be a logical, too. You
can install grub to the extended partition, mark it bootable, and leave the
MBR as generic. I have it that way.


Cheers / Saludos,

Carlos E. R.
(from 11.2 x86_64 “Emerald” at Telcontar)

I thought I had replied to this earlier. Apparently I forgot to hit the “post” button.

If I install grub on the extended partition or the MBR, that is more likely to be overwritten by MS software than if I put it on a small “/boot” partition. Also Vista, and presumably Win7, can fail to install some updates unless natively booted, which makes installing on the MBR rather iffy.

I think of primary partitions as a rare resource, since only 3 are allowed (in addition to the extended partition). I resent allowing Windows to hog all three.

On 2010-12-25 03:06, nrickert wrote:
> If I install grub on the extended partition or the MBR, that is more
> likely to be overwritten by MS software than if I put it on a small
> “/boot” partition.

Not really. MS usually overwrites the boot code in the MBR or its own
partition, not other partitions, which is why putting grub elsewhere is
safe. That is, grub in either the extended or boot is safe.

> I think of primary partitions as a rare resource, since only 3 are
> allowed (in addition to the extended partition). I resent allowing
> Windows to hog all three.

which is why I suggested using the extended for grub :slight_smile:


Cheers / Saludos,

Carlos E. R.
(from 11.2 x86_64 “Emerald” at Telcontar)

Note that /boot doesn’t need to be a primary, it can be a logical, too. You
can install grub to the extended partition, mark it bootable, and leave the
MBR as generic. I have it that way.

Same here.

And it’s true, you can have windows ‘Jeff’ up the MBR or you may need to restore the MBR for windows to install a service pack. But it’s very easily fixed and grub restored.

As an update, this is a quick summary of what I did. (I’ll followup with another message with more details for those who want them.)

I went with the suggestions to just leave the OEM partition (the Dell partition) there, and do everything in the extended partition. I mainly did that, because the Dell partition is the one flagged as not ending on a cylinder boundary, so I thought it wiser to not touch that.

I used gparted to shrink the main Windows 7 partition from around 450G to around 100G. I first attempted shrinking with Windows, but that would only allow me to shrink to around 250 G. Since I use linux more than Windows, I figured, that I should try to do better than that.

Things went reasonably well, but see the followup post for the things that went slightly amiss. I did install as 64 bit.

After installing linux, I added a packman repository. From there, using Yast, I was able to installl the drivers for the broadcom card, in accordance with the advice from one of the posters to this thread… I then did an online update, which took longer than the install. Then I rebooted, and the WiFi card now worked. Note that I was using a wired connection for installing the broadcom drivers and for the online update.

I still have some tweaking to do to get linux to work the way I want it (instead of the way that the distro preparers want it). But that shouldn’t be a big deal.

Here are the additional details that I promised.

Before doing anything, I backed up the windows system. I used Acronis True Image 2011 - reasonably priced, and I have found previous versions to work well. That’s a safety step, in case shrinking the Windows partition goes wrong.

I then set Windows to keep its CMOS clock in UTC (or GMT). For that, I googled “Windows clock UTC” (without the quotes). There were several different pages with the registry tweak needed. This avoids time sychronization interference between Windows and linux. (On the linux install, you have to then say that the hardware clock is kept in UTC (or GMT - not sure what the prompt says). This windows tweak seems to be reliable with Vista and Win7, but a bit iffy with XP.

I had decided to leave the smaller OEM (Dell) partition and recovery partition alone, and shrink the main Windows partition. To do that, I downloaded the “Ultimate Boot CD” iso, and burned to a CD. I then booted from the Ultimate Boot CD, and selected “Parted magic” (which is based on gparted).

My first problem occurred at that point. The secondary boot of Parted magic left me with a blank screen, which was a not going to be very helpful. I booted a second time. There was a boot option for “parted magic” to use an alternate display server. I tried that, and this time it displayed correctly. The display was a tad blurry, since it did not match the actual screen resolution. But it was good enough. I shrank the partition to around 100G. That was fairly quick.

Fortunately, Windows still booted after shrinking the partition. However, there was a windows boot message about checking disk and a damaged partition. The same message occurred on reboot.

I opened an Administrator command prompt in Windows, and ran
chkdsk c: /f
That required rebooting before it actually ran, and rebooting again afterwards. But it eliminated the message about a damaged disk. Incidently, “chkdsk” did not report finding any problems. There was probably only a small minor inconsistency somewhere that it fixed while checking.

The result was that I had plenty of free space on the disk for installing linux.

I went into the installer. I allowed it to suggest partitions, then I edited those to tweak them to my needs.

Picking software is a bit tedious (I need tex/latex, which is not in the default choices). But once done the install went smoothly. I went with KDE. I actually prefer XFCE, except that it doesn’t run NetworkManager, which makes WiFi harder for a laptop that is used in more than one place.

The install defaulted to putting grub on the extended partition (“/dev/sda4”), which was fine.

When all was done:

cd /windows/D
dd if=/dev/sda4 of=bootsect.lnx count=1

That creates a small file on the windows partition, with the linux boot sector.

I next went into “fdisk”, and changed the active partition to the Windows partition. That keeps Windows happier for the next step.

I booted Windows. I then used “bcdedit” in Windows, to add a Windows boot manager entry to boot the bootsector I had saved. In past experience with Vista, bcdedit failed unless the Windows partition was the active partition.

So now, I can boot either Windows or linux, regardless of whether the Windows or extended partition is marked active. The advantage is that to install some Windows patches, I might need to temporarily make the Windows partition active. And now that I can boot linux from the Window boot manage, I can get back into linux without having to boot from a rescue CD.

Thank you for the detailed report, very interesting.

Did you remember to disable IPV6 in the bootloader, in case you don’t use it? Else it makes connecting to sites very slow. You probably know about this, but no harm in asking.

Thanks for the detailed report.