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Old 07-31-2010, 10:40 AM   #1
ET3D
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Install Linux on a separate (but partly full) hard disk


This question is somewhat open ended, so I'll describe the specific issue, what I want to accomplish in general, and what I tried to do. It'd be a little long, but hopefully not too daunting.

For quite a while my approach to multi-OS boots has been to install each OS to a separate disk. When I want to boot a specific OS I change the boot drive in the BIOS. I find this convenient for several reasons, but mostly because I don't get boot manager conflicts. If I remove a disk or change the OS on it, this doesn't affect the booting of other OS's.

Note that when I say multi-OS, this meant until now multiple versions of Windows. I've occasionally tried some linux distros on VirtualBox, but now I want to do a full install, and see if I can use it as a main OS. (What prompted this was the recent release of Wine 1.2 and the fact that my new job doesn't involve any Direct3D or DDI work. I've always been partial to the open source movement, but I'm also fine with Windows and never before felt I could make the move without losing key abilities). My plan was (still is, if I can get it to work) to use Linux for everyday e-mail, web browsing and such, play Windows games over Wine, and install Windows 7 in VirtualBox for Windows development.

I currently have two disks, one with my main Vista x64 installation, and the other with a Vista x86 installation which I used for my previous job and I no longer need. This is the disk I want to use for the Linux installation. It has a lot of partitions but quite a bit of free space (since I copied a 80GB disk and 250GB disk into a 500GB disk and haven't taken advantage of the extra space).

My first choice of distro was Linux Mint, since it's known to be friendly to new users, and I like the software installer on it. I installed Linux Mint in the past in VirtualBox, and the latest version also installed fine, and I found installation instructions explaining how to provide my own partitions, but the installation failed during the "configuring hardware" stage. If you're interested, more details are available in this thread on the Linux Mint forums. I didn't get any reply to that thread.

I thought then that I'd try openSUSE 11.3. The live CD looked usable enough, but when I tried to install I couldn't tell how to make sure that I don't get a boot manager which will try to give me access to the Windows versions on the disks. I don't want this, and what I'm really afraid of is that an install will screw the booting of Vista x64 on the other disk (which, granted, I can disconnect for the install, but I'd rather not). At that point I decided to post a question here.

So hopefully you understand what I want to achieve. I don't much care which Linux distro I install, but I'd rather have one which gives me as much usability out of the box (or easily installable) as possible.

Thanks!
 
Old 07-31-2010, 01:07 PM   #2
bigrigdriver
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Quote:
I currently have two disks, one with my main Vista x64 installation, and the other with a Vista x86 installation which I used for my previous job and I no longer need. This is the disk I want to use for the Linux installation. It has a lot of partitions but quite a bit of free space (since I copied a 80GB disk and 250GB disk into a 500GB disk and haven't taken advantage of the extra space).
Please define "a lot of partitions". If you have more than 4 partitions, or 3 partitions plus an extended partition with logical partitions inside, there are limits to the number of partitions you may have. Any attempt to address partitions beyond those limits will fail.

Quote:
I thought then that I'd try openSUSE 11.3. The live CD looked usable enough, but when I tried to install I couldn't tell how to make sure that I don't get a boot manager which will try to give me access to the Windows versions on the disks.
When installing a Linux distro, just make certain when it comes time to choose where grub will be installed, elect to have grub written to the root partition of the installation, and not to the MBR of the hard disk. Then you will either have to configure the windows bootloader to offer Linux as a boot option, or you will need a boot diskette configured with grub to allow booting Linux. You may also use the distros installation cd, and select "boot from hard drive" in the menu.
 
Old 07-31-2010, 04:38 PM   #3
ET3D
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Thanks for the reply.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bigrigdriver View Post
Please define "a lot of partitions". If you have more than 4 partitions, or 3 partitions plus an extended partition with logical partitions inside, there are limits to the number of partitions you may have. Any attempt to address partitions beyond those limits will fail.
Lots of logical partitions. I know there's a 4 physical partition limit. I'd like the Linux partitions to also be logical, except when necessary. (When I tried to install Linux Mint, I set swap, / and /home to logical, with /boot as physical.)

Quote:
When installing a Linux distro, just make certain when it comes time to choose where grub will be installed, elect to have grub written to the root partition of the installation, and not to the MBR of the hard disk. Then you will either have to configure the windows bootloader to offer Linux as a boot option, or you will need a boot diskette configured with grub to allow booting Linux. You may also use the distros installation cd, and select "boot from hard drive" in the menu.
I haven't seen 'grub' mentioned in the installation procedures I tried (Mint, openSUSE), so I have no idea how to specify that.

Also, as I said (and it's the major point of the post), I don't want any boot loader to know about the other OS's. I'm switching disks in BIOS and expect the OS of the current boot disk to run.

Last edited by ET3D; 07-31-2010 at 04:39 PM.
 
Old 07-31-2010, 05:34 PM   #4
bigrigdriver
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Quote:
I haven't seen 'grub' mentioned in the installation procedures I tried (Mint, openSUSE), so I have no idea how to specify that.
I've used Suse and OpenSuse since version 7.3 (haven't installed 11.3 yet). I know there is a step in which you will be prompted where to install the bootloader (it may not specifically mention grub, but my memory tells me grub was mentioned). I recall two options to the prompt: install to MBR or install to boot sector of the root partition.

Quote:
I don't want any boot loader to know about the other OS's. I'm switching disks in BIOS and expect the OS of the current boot disk to run.
If you don't want any bootloader knowing about other OSs, then you must either install each OS to it's own disk (for BIOS switching to work), or make a boot diskette for each OS on the disk (other than the OS in the first partition).
 
Old 08-01-2010, 05:11 AM   #5
ET3D
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Thanks! I went through the openSUSE install options to the end (currently posting from the live CD), and when it gets to "Installation Settings" it has a "Booting" section which does mention GRUB and allows me to change options.

I've already set up a /boot partition when I tried to install Linux Mint, so I can use that for the options. I don't think I need a boot loader, but wasn't sure what will happen if I choose not to install one, so chose to install GRUB to /boot anyway.

I'm now installing and hoping the installation won't overwrite any MBR or do anything I don't expect it to, so that my Windows system will remain as is and the new disk will boot openSUSE correctly. Crossing my fingers...
 
Old 08-01-2010, 07:45 AM   #6
ET3D
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I went through the install and it didn't do anything to my Windows installation, but I get "Error 22: No Such Partition" when I try to boot Linux. I'll open another thread on this subject on the SUSE forum.
 
  


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