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After my recent experience trying out Linux on an old laptop, I liked the KDE desktop so much and Linux in general (I have used it before in the past) that I am considering installing it on my main PC. While I am at it, I have a license for XP for this box and was thinking it might be nice for compatibility with certain older games to have the option to boot into XP as well.

I am thinking I would like to try out living in Linux and gaming in Linux when possible and then booting to either Windows version whenever needed for gaming otherwise.

Currently I have a terabyte drive with a lot of data and a lot of games installed on Steam, a number of huge MMO installs, etc. Because this is all already setup and redoing all of it would be a major pain in the ass I would like to leave the Win7 install with all its stuff sitting as is and access the data (word processing, spreadsheet, pics, mp3 music, etc.) from Linux while letting it stay where it has always lived up to now. If I like this arrangement I would do things differently from the start with a new system but for now I want to add on versus completely replace I guess.

Important question: Can data be safely written to a Win7 NTFS partition nowadays? I know reading is no problem but I recall that in the past writing to NTFS partitions was sketchy and a work in progress.

Doing the actual installations: I'm thinking I'd boot a live Linux CD and use GParted to shrink the WIn7 partition by 200 gigs and then create 2 partitions each one being 100 gigs for XP and for Linux. Then I would install XP into partition 2 and Linux to partition 3 - hoping that Linux would still see Win7 and setup the bootloader for all 3 operating systems. I say this because I know XP will blow away the Win 7 bootloader and I don't know what the Linux install will look at to determine other OS's present on a system.

The last thing is which distro of two choices. I know I want KDE. The question is which is better, Kubuntu or Linux Mint KDE? Anyone who can answer that please be specific about why one choice is superior to the other. That would be a big help.

If getting all three of these systems selectively bootable starting with what I have is going to be a pain in the ass I might consider blowing away the drive and "doing it right" so to speak. I do have all important data backed up to a external USB drive.

I'm just considering this at this point and would appreciate your feedback on how to go about it, etc.
I would recommend installing Windows first on one partition. I just recently reinstalled Windows 7 SP1 and I had to kill off my Linux install.

So in short partition your drive, install one version of Windows first, then the other version to another partition, and Linux will give you he option to install beside your Windows systems.

I am not an expert or power user by any means but I found that Windows likes to be iinstalled first from personal experience thus YMMV.
Post edited March 23, 2012 by JudasIscariot
I would strongly recommend testing the entire procedure on some virtual PC first.
Writing to NTFS is still a bit hit and miss from Linux; as for installing, Linux should go on last, though I remember having to install XP first and 7 afterwards to get the Windows bootloader to recognize the XP install.
Quite a house of cards you are going to try to set up there... Who knows, maybe it is quite easy to set up (as long as you install Windowses first, and then Linux), but it might not be so straighforward if you ever need to remove or re-install one of your OSes in the multiboot system.

I prefer keeping Linux and Windows on completely separate hard drives, or even separate machines, because this makes the heavy maintenance so much lighter. On laptops it may not be as easy (some give you the option to install several internal hard drives, and set up from e.g. BIOS from which you want to boot).

Unfortunately booting between OSes just to play a game becomes old fast too, so I do that only when completely necessary (e.g. Heavy Gear, which I haven't been able to get to run reliably on either Win7 nor XP, so I boot to actual Win98SE for it).

For Linux, this means that if the system already has a secure version of Windows, e.g. Windows 7, after awhile I end up using the Win7 boot all the time, not only for games.
Post edited March 23, 2012 by timppu
ignoring the Linux issue here, why bother with WXP if you already have W7?

i used to have a dual-boot configuration with W7x64 and WXPx86. i think i used XP a grand total of... once.

out of my vast collection of old and new games, only one (Colin McRae Rally) won't run on W7 and requires XP or earlier. i'm not keeping XP installed for a 14 year old game that's gotten more than half a dozen sequels.

some older games (No One Lives Forever) and patches (Diablo: Hellfire) have 16bit-installers that won't run in W7x64. i just downloaded and used W7's XP Mode, execute or extract the 16bit-installer there and copy the contents over to W7x64. done. no need for XP anymore.
Your procedure sounds, sound enough from my experience. Linux should pick up on all your installations and I've never had it miss an OS. Though to be fair I haven't installed it next to 7 and have avoided shrinking anything out pure fear. But in theory. XP does assert itself as the only OS, then linux comes in after and fixes it.

FYI you will also need a small partition for swap space that you didn't mention. My main drive is currently hacked up into something like 5 pieces now. Two linux installs, a swap, a common drive for sharing when XP was on it, and even a drive dedicated to user directories that Suse created. Something I thought was really stupid until I started installing various versions and redoing things. Now I'm kinda sold on the practice.
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gooberking: Your procedure sounds, sound enough from my experience. Linux should pick up on all your installations and I've never had it miss an OS. Though to be fair I haven't installed it next to 7 and have avoided shrinking anything out pure fear. But in theory. XP does assert itself as the only OS, then linux comes in after and fixes it.

FYI you will also need a small partition for swap space that you didn't mention. My main drive is currently hacked up into something like 5 pieces now. Two linux installs, a swap, a common drive for sharing when XP was on it, and even a drive dedicated to user directories that Suse created. Something I thought was really stupid until I started installing various versions and redoing things. Now I'm kinda sold on the practice.
Those are some good points about partitioning. I forgot about needing a swap partition. I do recall that from past experience now but it slipped my mind. What size is recommended for that anyway? I forget that too but I'm thinking something roughly equal to the amount of memory on the machine which in my case is 4 gigs?

Also, a separate partition for /home is a good idea as well. I'd forgotten that too. In that way you can blow away an install to upgrade and all your data and settings remain untouched which is great.

I can see why some would question why I might want to do this. Basically it goes something like this:

After experiencing the KDE desktop, I like it so well that I would prefer it to be my normal desktop all the time. I like it better than Windows 7's desktop. I like the activities feature, the folder objects and object-oriented nature of the desktop and it easily looks as nice. I like the virtual desktops as well, within a given activity. It's just more flexible and I like that.

Windows XP is desirable for games like Star Craft and others which have display issues in Win7, some of which can be resolved by registry hacks but it's a pain in the ass and it doesn't fix the display of the games' cutscenes according to Blizzard. Star Craft is not the only game with this directdraw related issue. It is a good point that bothering with XP is maybe overkill and I might never wind up using it. It certainly complicates the install process potentially. In my case Star Craft is the only game I was thinking I wanted XP for and possibly Diablo II but that might be fine in Win7 and not have display issues being newer. Interestingly enough, Star Craft has platinum status with WINE so it should run flawlessly in Linux solving that little problem for me. So maybe I'll rethink this and forget about XP.

That was a good point above about running XP in a virtual machine in a pinch. I could do that for free with VirtualBox.
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AndrewC: Writing to NTFS is still a bit hit and miss from Linux; as for installing, Linux should go on last, though I remember having to install XP first and 7 afterwards to get the Windows bootloader to recognize the XP install.
ntfs-3g is stable enough nowadays for most uses short of business-critical servers, and it is set up automatically on modern Linuxen. Where you can expect trouble is if you have encrypted or compressed filesystems, or you have filename case collisions, or you require control of file permissions that exceeds the user/group/other read/write/execute semantics.

Anyway, if you install XP then W7 then Linux, it is easy to set up grub to boot all three, and I think grub gives a better boot experience than the Windows boot selector. Or you can install W7 last and use a tool such as EasyBCD to set up Windows 7's boot selector.

I have many cases in my own work where I have to have a native XP host, and neither a virtual machine or an emulation will quite get the job done. So I have a number of hosts set up just this way.
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AndrewC: Writing to NTFS is still a bit hit and miss from Linux; as for installing, Linux should go on last, though I remember having to install XP first and 7 afterwards to get the Windows bootloader to recognize the XP install.
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cjrgreen: ntfs-3g is stable enough nowadays for most uses short of business-critical servers, and it is set up automatically on modern Linuxen. Where you can expect trouble is if you have encrypted or compressed filesystems, or you have filename case collisions, or you require control of file permissions that exceeds the user/group/other read/write/execute semantics.
"Stable enough"... maybe, but it was annoying a few weeks ago when my KeePass2 database was nowhere to be found (and with it not being plain text, the only thing found by the recovery applications I tried using, was complete garbage) when I rebooted into Windows, after I got the bright idea of adding a new entry while in Linux. Since then, I use a FAT32-formatted USB stick that is always securely ejected and only connected when I need to access the DB... I really need to have a back-up copy of that file stored elsewhere.

Reading is great, but I don't trust the writing yet.
Post edited March 23, 2012 by Miaghstir
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dirtyharry50: Those are some good points about partitioning. I forgot about needing a swap partition. I do recall that from past experience now but it slipped my mind. What size is recommended for that anyway? I forget that too but I'm thinking something roughly equal to the amount of memory on the machine which in my case is 4 gigs?

That was a good point above about running XP in a virtual machine in a pinch. I could do that for free with VirtualBox.
For swap, a good first approximation is "twice RAM, up to 2GB; above 2GB, RAM + 2GB". So a 2GB host would get a 4GB swap partition, a 4GB host would get a 6GB swap partition, etc. This is overgenerous for a lot of uses, but will not be generous enough for large servers.

The sticking point with most VM implementations is the GPU. Your games end up talking to a virtual GPU that doesn't have the capabilities of the physical GPU, and they turn out sluggish or show artifacts, or can't be run, or need something like 3D-Analyze to run.

VirtualBox has Direct3D support that they warn you is experimental. Stability varies from version to version.
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cjrgreen: ntfs-3g is stable enough nowadays for most uses short of business-critical servers, and it is set up automatically on modern Linuxen. Where you can expect trouble is if you have encrypted or compressed filesystems, or you have filename case collisions, or you require control of file permissions that exceeds the user/group/other read/write/execute semantics.

Anyway, if you install XP then W7 then Linux, it is easy to set up grub to boot all three, and I think grub gives a better boot experience than the Windows boot selector. Or you can install W7 last and use a tool such as EasyBCD to set up Windows 7's boot selector.

I have many cases in my own work where I have to have a native XP host, and neither a virtual machine or an emulation will quite get the job done. So I have a number of hosts set up just this way.
It sounds then that for my simple purposes NTFS access should be fine. I just want to be able to safely save a few data files.

I can understand how XP first, then Win7, then Linux would be the optimal way to go if I was starting from scratch. However, I already have an existing large Win7 install I would like to preserve, adding the other two operating systems to the machine. As I mentioned above though, XP for me might be overkill and in that case things just got a whole lot simpler from an installation point of view.

The last thing that occurs to me now is that I could try out the scenario I want to live with without making any major changes if my system is powerful enough to run Linux and while I am at it, XP in virtual machines. I might even prefer this arrangement for my purposes if it runs really well since switching among systems would be so fast.

I have a system with an AMD Phenom II Black 3.2 dual core and 4 gigs of ram. So I should be just fine for memory. I figure I would give the other operating systems 2 gigs of ram when they run since I would not be using WIn7 at all until I exited the virtual machine anyway. The question is, is my CPU powerful enough to run a virtual machine with good speed within Win7? I would be using VIrtualBox for this I think unless there is another free solution I don't know about that is superior to it.

In any case, the experiment of living with multiple systems could be conducted without making any changes to my existing system. So if I wind up finding it to be a pain in the ass switching around after the novelty wears off, it is a simple affair to return to "normal." If I love it and want better performance then at that point redoing the hard drive from scratch becomes worthwhile. I hope my system can run VMs well enough as it would be ideal to test this out first.
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cjrgreen: ntfs-3g is stable enough nowadays for most uses short of business-critical servers, and it is set up automatically on modern Linuxen. Where you can expect trouble is if you have encrypted or compressed filesystems, or you have filename case collisions, or you require control of file permissions that exceeds the user/group/other read/write/execute semantics.

Anyway, if you install XP then W7 then Linux, it is easy to set up grub to boot all three, and I think grub gives a better boot experience than the Windows boot selector. Or you can install W7 last and use a tool such as EasyBCD to set up Windows 7's boot selector.

I have many cases in my own work where I have to have a native XP host, and neither a virtual machine or an emulation will quite get the job done. So I have a number of hosts set up just this way.
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dirtyharry50: It sounds then that for my simple purposes NTFS access should be fine. I just want to be able to safely save a few data files.

I can understand how XP first, then Win7, then Linux would be the optimal way to go if I was starting from scratch. However, I already have an existing large Win7 install I would like to preserve, adding the other two operating systems to the machine. As I mentioned above though, XP for me might be overkill and in that case things just got a whole lot simpler from an installation point of view.

The last thing that occurs to me now is that I could try out the scenario I want to live with without making any major changes if my system is powerful enough to run Linux and while I am at it, XP in virtual machines. I might even prefer this arrangement for my purposes if it runs really well since switching among systems would be so fast.

I have a system with an AMD Phenom II Black 3.2 dual core and 4 gigs of ram. So I should be just fine for memory. I figure I would give the other operating systems 2 gigs of ram when they run since I would not be using WIn7 at all until I exited the virtual machine anyway. The question is, is my CPU powerful enough to run a virtual machine with good speed within Win7? I would be using VIrtualBox for this I think unless there is another free solution I don't know about that is superior to it.

In any case, the experiment of living with multiple systems could be conducted without making any changes to my existing system. So if I wind up finding it to be a pain in the ass switching around after the novelty wears off, it is a simple affair to return to "normal." If I love it and want better performance then at that point redoing the hard drive from scratch becomes worthwhile. I hope my system can run VMs well enough as it would be ideal to test this out first.
You should be fine. I run a Q9550 (a little faster than yours) and 8GB RAM, and with four virtual machines active, I can even play TW2 without dropping frames. But VMs chew up RAM pretty fast. If you have 64-bit Windows 7 and can upgrade that 4GB to 8GB, it would be worth your while.
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cjrgreen: You should be fine. I run a Q9550 (a little faster than yours) and 8GB RAM, and with four virtual machines active, I can even play TW2 without dropping frames. But VMs chew up RAM pretty fast. If you have 64-bit Windows 7 and can upgrade that 4GB to 8GB, it would be worth your while.
Sweet. I think I am going to give VirtualBox, etc. a go this weekend at some point and see how that flies then. Thanks for all the feedback. I appreciate it.
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gooberking: Your procedure sounds, sound enough from my experience. Linux should pick up on all your installations and I've never had it miss an OS. Though to be fair I haven't installed it next to 7 and have avoided shrinking anything out pure fear. But in theory. XP does assert itself as the only OS, then linux comes in after and fixes it.

FYI you will also need a small partition for swap space that you didn't mention. My main drive is currently hacked up into something like 5 pieces now. Two linux installs, a swap, a common drive for sharing when XP was on it, and even a drive dedicated to user directories that Suse created. Something I thought was really stupid until I started installing various versions and redoing things. Now I'm kinda sold on the practice.
avatar
dirtyharry50: Those are some good points about partitioning. I forgot about needing a swap partition. I do recall that from past experience now but it slipped my mind. What size is recommended for that anyway? I forget that too but I'm thinking something roughly equal to the amount of memory on the machine which in my case is 4 gigs?

Also, a separate partition for /home is a good idea as well. I'd forgotten that too. In that way you can blow away an install to upgrade and all your data and settings remain untouched which is great.

I can see why some would question why I might want to do this. Basically it goes something like this:

After experiencing the KDE desktop, I like it so well that I would prefer it to be my normal desktop all the time. I like it better than Windows 7's desktop. I like the activities feature, the folder objects and object-oriented nature of the desktop and it easily looks as nice. I like the virtual desktops as well, within a given activity. It's just more flexible and I like that.

Windows XP is desirable for games like Star Craft and others which have display issues in Win7, some of which can be resolved by registry hacks but it's a pain in the ass and it doesn't fix the display of the games' cutscenes according to Blizzard. Star Craft is not the only game with this directdraw related issue. It is a good point that bothering with XP is maybe overkill and I might never wind up using it. It certainly complicates the install process potentially. In my case Star Craft is the only game I was thinking I wanted XP for and possibly Diablo II but that might be fine in Win7 and not have display issues being newer. Interestingly enough, Star Craft has platinum status with WINE so it should run flawlessly in Linux solving that little problem for me. So maybe I'll rethink this and forget about XP.

That was a good point above about running XP in a virtual machine in a pinch. I could do that for free with VirtualBox.
Swap space needed isn't very big, and if you ever happened to have more than one linux install they can all use it.

When it comes to installing home directories on a separate partition, it can be nice but the Mint install doesn't support it as near as I can tell. Which means you have to do some work to get it up and going. I just did it recently. The quick notes version is you have to create a partition and setup a suitable entry for the partition in the fstab so it will be mounted before you log in(I tried some of the auto mount options in KDE to no success. ) Then create a user you want there. Being sure to give it all the group and access rights of the account created by the installer. Otherwise you won't be able to do stuff like use sudo which makes life difficult.

It took some tinkering but I got it sorted out. As a word of advice, don't use the account until its right. Otherwise some things can get lost or confused. If you screw up just make a new user with your new found knowledge.

Its not wrong or right to set things up that way, but its kind of nice not having to back up an account if you do a fresh install.