install suse alongside an existing install

i have a backtrack install that i would like to keep while installing suse for an everyday OS;
i start the install process but when it gets to partitioning the hard drive, it doesnt seem to recognize anything already being on there;
it just gives me the setup for suse, ie:
sda1 ext3 = OS
sda2 or sda5 = swap

do i have to configure a partition scheme?
i installed ubuntu on a desktop alongside windows very easily due to grub graphical install/partition;
is there not a similar function for suse?

Does free disk space already exist to install openSUSE? If not, I might use gparted to shrink an existing partition to make room for SuSE.

GParted – Live CD/USB/PXE/HD

You would need to do a manual edit of the proposed installation setup, to point to the free space you have created. openSUSE will offer to shrink NTFS Windows partitions, but the more complicated the hard disk setup, the more likely you must do the partition setup yourself. Don’t forget, the most number of PRIMARY partitions is Four. To have more than four partitions total, one of them must be logical, which can contain many more logical partitions. It is possible to share a swap file partition between distributions. Grub must be located in either Master Boot Record (MBR), or in one of the PRIMARY partitions which is set to be Active for booting (and the MBR contains generic partition booting code). When loading more than one Linux distribution, it may be up to you to combine grub menu.lst entries. A few distributions may be using GRUB2, which can be a problem when combining these distributions, as openSUSE uses the original grub version, not Grub2.

Thank You,

Yep you have to change the partitioning. If free space is there, or you know which partitions you want to reuse for openSUSE, enter the partitioner. Take a good look around, read all the help, and you will find the expert option ‘Rescan Devices’. That will find all your existing partitions. Up to you whether and where to mount them on your openSUSE. But do yourself a favor and do some reading before you start. It will save you lots of time and sweaty moments. If you don’t succeed, get back here, it will work.

thanks, you answered a couple questions that i had forgotten to ask;
so i will go into backtrack and use gparted or something to shrink the main partition;
i dont have to alter the swap;
i will not be making a separate home folder, so i should have a total of 3 partitions;

one question though:
how do you alter or access the MBR?
i dont need an in-depth answer for this (obv) but should MBR be a separate partition or will i alter by command line?
if that is beyond the scope of a quick answer, i will read about it, i am just on kind of a time constraint and need a more everyday/functional OS than backtrack for a long bike trip but that OS needs to be free
thanks for the help

When you install openSUSE, it will default to loading grub in the MBR for you in the default boot drive (normally /dev/sda), but you can redirect it to a different hard drive if you are setting your BIOS to not boot the first hard drive. You also have an option to place grub in your openSUSE partition. Should you do this, you must load a generic MBR for your boot drive and set the openSUSE partition as the Active (booting) partition. The boot loader options can be set during your openSUSE install.

Remember that the boot drive will always be considered the logical drive HD0, no matter its physical device designation (sda,sdb,sdc and so forth). It is possibly to manually combine grub menu.lst files entries. Come by and ask should this be another issue you need to handle. Finally, when you add another partition, if is not at the end of the partitions on that drive, the partition part number will change, which may require a manual edit of any other existing Linux distributions you want to load from grub.

Thank You,

awesome, this forum is much more accepting of new people than some i have seen;
or if accepting, tend to be uninformative;

i ended up erasing backtrack because i had installed tor and polipo which somehow caused the comp to run super hot nonstop;(!?)
i installed suse with format and it auto put the mbr in the suse partition;
so now i will do all the instructions but from the other direction sort of;
great software and great help in the forums;
if there is any way for a noob to help out, i would be glad;

Happy to help bboyreason and thank you for using the openSUSE forums. What I suggest is that you come back often and browse through the sections for things that interest you. First off, you will begin to learn more and more about using openSUSE. Second, you start to see that you know the answers to some of the questions and you should make an attempt to help if you can. All of this effort helps expand your knowledge of using openSUSE and Linux in general.

Thank You,