Partitioning of a (new) Windows 7 HD

Just acquired a new laptop, Gateway NV, i5-430, 4GB, 500GB HD, Intel GMA, and, of course, Windows 7. I wish to install openSUSE (as I have on my other laptops and boxes, with Windows/XP and (sigh…) one Vista). No problems with partitoning any of them, but I have not partitioned a Windows 7 HD.

I do wish to keep Windows 7, but SUSE has become my primary OS. So the question is: do I use Windows 7 utilities to “shrink” its main partition and then install 11.3 ? Alternatively, I can use the 11.3 install DVD to do the “shrink”. I have already run the install up to, but NOT INCLUDING the actual partitioning.

Windows has commandeered the first three (3) primary partitions, so SUSE goes to an extended partition. Windows looks something like:

1: 12GB (Recovery Partition)
2: 102 MB (System Reserved)
3. 453GB Windows 7 primary partition

The 11.3 install proposes reducing #3 (above) to 163GB and allocating the remaining to SUSE (swap, /, and /home). I will probably tinker with the sizes (I really do not need a 280BG /home), and I want some space for an alternate distro.

Any and all advice on the partitioning choice(s) will be appreciated. I did also attempt “GParted” from the Ubuntu liveCD, but the only way to boot that liveCD was to use “-xforcevesa” and I was not completely confident of that!

(Note: already created the “factory recovery” DVDs and the apps/drivers DVD. I may dry run them before I do the actual partitioning. There is no data or software on it.)

Yes just free some space to install to.

You might want to run a OpenSuse CD or other bootable Linux and do a fdisk -l to make sure there are no hidden surprises. Windows often does not show you the whole truth about a drives partitioning.

gogalthorp, have you ever consider buying an external hard drive then loading openSUSE on the external hard drive and booting from that drive to use openSUSE? IT can be done and it allows you to keep your internal drive unmodified. It does cost more to have such a drive, but for instance I found a 500 GB external USB 2.0 hard drive (Small size with no external power supply) for $80 plus tax here at a local computer store.

Here are some things to consider. You already have three partitions. You can only have four PRIMARY partitions per hard drive. You will need to shrink the Windows partition, create a Logical Partition with perhaps three logical drives within for SWAP, / root partition and /home. You MUST load the grub boot loader into the MBR (Master Boot Record). Finally, should a new service pack come out for Windows 7, you will be unable to load it using this setup. Should something happen to openSUSE, your entire hard drive might not boot.

Anyway, loading on an external hard drive is not without risks, but the result is Much better when it works.

Thank You,

I burned and booted the KDE liveCD. All runs correctly, although the initial load (Bienvenue …) screen was a bit wonky. The “fdisk -l” shows

linux:~ # fdisk -l

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: 0x9dd6057a

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sda1               1        1567    12586896   27  Unknown
/dev/sda2   *        1568        1580      104422+   7  HPFS/NTFS
/dev/sda3            1581       60802   475694210    7  HPFS/NTFS
linux:~ #

Apparently, no surprises from Redmond or Gateway.

Jim raises good points on the GRUB in the MBR. I am looking into an eSATA external drive (a USB external might be slow, although USB-3 is supposedly quick).

In my original post, I had asked the pros and cons of the Windows partitioner vs. the openSUSE installation DVD partitioning tool. I am leaning towards the latter, although I would appreciate any thoughts thereof.

BTW: the 11.3 KDE liveCD works like a charm, except it does not like to connect to secured routers. I am on the new laptop with that liveCD, and a rather long ethernet cable lol!.

Yes, I had to do that with my ThinkPad because Lenovo and MS used up the whole disk with three primaries.

Finally, should a new service pack come out for Windows 7, you will be unable to load it using this setup.

First time I heard this, can you explain a bit more? Why wouldn’t the SP load?

Should something happen to openSUSE, your entire hard drive might not boot.
Yes, but that is why one should burn the two recommended Factory Recovery DVDs before using/changing the system as shipped, in any way.

SeanMc98, sorry on my first post, I did not put in your name, but I was being rushed to go to supper.

I highly recommend you consider loading openSUSE on an External Hard drive. Here is some information about loading openSUSE on that external or secondary hard drive from another post I made in the forum.

So openSUSE and in particular, grub do indeed work properly when ran from an external hard drive. The issue is really the same for any computer when you decide to boot from a drive that is not the first boot drive. For instance lets say I have a sda and a sdb, sdb must based on hardware be second, but if I boot from sdb through a BIOS setting or manipulation, grub did not know that when it was installed. If you put grub on the boot drive when it is first or sda, all things work, even if openSUSE is on sdb.

So, what is the problem/fix when you install openSUSE and grub to an external hard drive?

  1. What ever boot drive you select by any BIOS means is HD0. That is the problem in that if I boot from sdb, then it is HD0.
  1. When you installed openSUSE, you did not boot from the external hard drive, so it was NOT labeled by grub as HD0. openSUSE has no way to even guess what hard you are intended on booting from if it is not the first hard drive?

The fix must be done in one of two ways, depending on where you are at. Are you going to do a new install to an external hard drive or are you trying to fix an existing installation on an external hard drive?

If it is a new install here are the basics I would follow.

  1. Keep the number of partitions at four or below.
  2. Use all Primary Partitions (no logical Ones)
  3. Install a generic Master Boot Record (MBR)
  4. Install Grub in the “/” root partition. Make this the Active or booting partition.
  5. During the install, you must modify the booting section so that the external drive is HD0 in and in the menu.lst file. Assign other hard drives in the remaining hardware order.

That is it in a nutshell. Do the above and it will work like a champ. Be for warned that you are trying to NOT install anything on your normal boot drive. Make sure that the booting section is setup just as I say above. Make a backup of any Windows partitions you can not save or restore.
I would add that you need to back up any critical data. You should always have a boot disk, like GParted, tested and known to work, to help fix any odd issues that might come up. If there is anything more you want to ask, fire away.

Thank You,

The first tasks I did was to burn those two recovery DVD’s, and the drivers/apps DVD. I am led to believe that those can restore the laptop to OOTB condition.

As far as a Microsoft Service Pack update, MS$ has always (XP & Vista, cannot speak for W2K or ME) installed SP’s via Microsoft Update, in situ. That part does not scare me. As far as the MBR business, if the HD is corrupted, I can recover the MBR using the Windows Recovery disc (a separate disc that I burned).

Has anyone every booted SUSE using the Windows boot loader ? I have read up on booting Debian and *buntu via Windows (creating a “bootlinx.ini” file), and updating the Windows “boot.ini”. (Just raising the question, as I like GRUB, and will use GRUB).

consused, I am sorry I missed your post. It just snuck in on me.

About Loading Windows Service Packs.

First time I heard this, can you explain a bit more? Why wouldn’t the SP load?
Basically, if the MBR is not generic or the Windows Partition is not marked bootable, the Service Pack will fail to load. This has been true through Windows Vista. Since Windows 7 SP1 is not out, it is hard to say about that, but I bet it will be true again. If you beg to differ, try it yourself on a disk where Windows is not the active boot partition and see how far you get loading a missing Service Pack.

Thank You,

I followed other strong advice on the forum earlier this year, and used the W7 utility to shrink the large W7 partition. However, it wouldn’t shrink below about 50% (IIRC) of its size. I lived with that for now. I used the openSUSE partitioner to setup the three or more extended partitions. During the install (11.2) as the proposal was unsuitable, I used the custom partitioning option.

I had once read that Windows 7 places part of the $MFT (Master File Table) dead center of the original install HD. Since the $MFT is (almost) always unmoveable, and no version of Windows 7 can boot without it, that would explain the 50% shrinkage. I cannot speak for Win 7, but Windows/XP WILL boot with a fragmented $MFT.

Thanks for your prompt reply. I couldn’t possibly beg to differ as I hadn’t used Windows since Win95, and W7 is so new. Although with 11.3 on the machine, I don’t get to use W7 very often. :smiley:

My approach is not to dual boot. I just run XP in Virtualbox. Note if you want Windows for high end games this is not the best idea. VM graphics is still slow when it comes to 3D. But it is fine for most buisness apps. Being able to copy and paste between Windows and Linux is cool.

Interesting, that sounds a plausible explanation. I had planned to keep W7 at least until the machine’s warranty runs out.

Does the VIrtualbox provide the SATA support for the XP client ? (Windows/XP, unless modified with SATA drivers, does not support SATA drives).

I don’t get this.
I install XP for people all the time. SATA is never an issue., real install or Virtual.
BIOS might need to be switched to compatibility mode though.

My thoughts on the Windows subject is you already have the full product loaded. If you need to use it, you can run it cause its yours and you paid for it. It is good to protect the Windows load, but I would spend the rest of my time getting openSUSE loaded somewhere, working just as you like. Except to reduce Windows size should you decide to load openSUSE on the main hard drive, I would not do anything else with Windows, at all. I would not corrupt a Linux installation to run with a Windows Virus magnet load of any sort inside of Linux. This is just my humble opinion. When you run Windows, make sure your virus protection is up to date, or do not run it at all.

Thank You,

I would first defragment the partition from windows (although on a new system it should not be needed ), Ihave not had any problem with using windows, gparted or the SUSE partitioner to do the resizing. My preference is gparted from the PartedMagic livecd and seting up the partitions while there, although if you are familiar with the SUSE partitioner that’s fine also. I don’t have a problem fixing the MBR, but if you are concerned about it you could make a backup with

dd if=/dev/hdx of=/path/to/image count=1 bs=446 

and restore the MBR with

dd if=/path/to/image of=/dev/hdx count=1 bs=446

A brief summary (or, … the story so far …)

  1. Used the Windows Disk Management to “shrink” the Windows main partition. All OK.
  2. Used the DVD install to allocate swap, / and /home, reducing the size of /home leaving (about 115GB free for a shared data partition and alternate distros). All OK.
  3. DVD install was a bit messy, and after some trying restarts, arrived at a GRUB-bootable environment. According to YAST and the boot loader, GRUB is loading from the extended partition (!). This was confirmed by accidentally booting into the Windows 7 recovery partition.

The net is a shared SUSE 11.3-x64/Windows 7 environment. Windows seems happy, but a new problem has arisen. I could originally boot 11.3 in failsafe only. Booting into normal SUSE hanged with a black screen, which (miraculously) becomes a normal “Login” screen if I depress the power/on button. The shutdown/restart menu appears, and, when canceled, allows me to boot.

Now booted normally, and I am configuring the wireless, and will post back.

GRUB is loading from the extended partition (!).

Work thru your issues in an orderly fashion and take your time.