I just completed another dual boot install, and maybe would like to suggest a few things:
I've tried every way suggested here in the past, and there was always some fly-in-the soup thingy that made me wish I'd done it differently. So, here's what I do now.
1. Download Rescue CD and burn it to CD. (The intructions on site tell you how to do this). this will give you a bootable Linux kernel, but more importantly, it will give you Qt Parted, allowing you to partion for Linux, Win, and more. This loads in RAM, so your HD isn't mounted. Very important.
2. Download GAG ( a very nice free boot manager). Make the boot disc using on-site instructions.
3. Now, go to windows, and defrag that HD. This puts your files to the front of the partition and will allow you to shrink it if necessary. (don't ask how I learned this the hard way
4. Now stick that bootable Rescue CD in the drive and re-boot. AS it re-boots, hit <delete> usually, or whatever your manual says, to get in the bios. Search for "boot sequence" and set it to boot CD, HD0, in that order.
5. Rescue CD will load; answer the questions about your keyboard and mouse. No big deal. On the screen it tells you how to run QT_Parted. A very simple and graphical partioning program. Use the help if you need to. No changes will be made till you "commit".
6. You can shrink your existing WIN partion, delete partions, add new ones, based on your needs. I used 8G for NTSF primary, a 1G linux swap (you only need ONE of these for them all), and 3 partitions of 8 G's for linux distros. Don't format these. Let your install do this for you. Slack insists...BTW, I use "logical partions" for all the Linux stuff, even swap. Why? You can have 3 primary, plus 1 extended partition CONTAINING up to 64 logical partitions. Linux doesn't care where it's installed. So, you KNOW your swap is #5 (linux names the first logical as #5, the next as #6, etc. #1 is your XP WIN, naturally. Write this down! Which distro will be on which partition. Windows needs a primary, naturally. You can also set the "type" partition you want. (type 82 for Linux swap, 83 for Linux ext-3, Fat 32, etc.) *** tip here. You may want to add a Fat 32 at the end of your disc and use for your data. That way, both Linux and Windows can access it. Also makes for easier back-ups. Linux can't write to a NTSF, I don't think. But can write to any FAT. DON'T use all your disc if you don't need to. It can save your backside later. 3G will do>
7. If you have Win installed, leave it alone. If you want to re-install, go ahead and use partition #1, XP will find it. Don't allow it to use the whole DISC! Or any distro either.
8. NOW, when you install your distros (all boot up from CD), MAKE SURE TO INSTALL LILO on the root partition, NOT the MBR. Otherwise, WIN won't boot. You may have to hit >BACK> a few times in the install process to get it right. Every distro has it's quirks. Slack plays nice, though. I believe Grub is OK, too, IF you put it in the root partion NOT the MBR and THEN set it to active. LILO does this automatically.
9. The rest is easy. Put in your GAG boot manager and re-boot. Read the instructions. Install it (either to your HD OR a floppy) I like the HD, it's easy to un-install. Add your operating systems that you wrote down (you wrote them down, right?) GAG will pick up every partition that has a bootable operating system and that is set ACTIVE. XP does this automatically, so does lilo, BUT, I believe grub does not. So, use lilo, right?
10. The fun part now. You give all your OS's a name AND a little icon to boot it with. The good news is that there is no time-out feature when you re-boot. You can get a cup of coffee and not worry the box booted into default boot, like using LILO, GRUB, or Win XP;s boot thingy which overwrites everything. BUT you can add a time-out and passwords, and remove/add OS's at anytime.
You can also UN-INSTALL GAG at anytime and it reverts back to the original XP install (it saves the MBR infor Win wrote). This allows you to dump all those installs amd get back to a WIN only system OR install more and not mess with WIN at all. I believe GAG can handle 12 or so, OS's. Plus it's prettier than all the rest (although a geek could make lilo look OK), But, if your WERE a geek, you wouldn't be reading this, right??
Have fun. And feel free to e-mail me if you want.
mr. mike (newbie of the first order)