By Floor Anthoni (July 2007)
Most people who move from Windows to Linux
will already have a working Windows system like WindowsXP. This chapter
gives advice on how to repartition the primary hard drive, in order to
dual boot Windows and Xandros. A reliable partition manager is needed,
as well as a dependable backup program.
sharp tools: not many tools pass the
test of excellence. These tools are a must-have.
keeping a system log: it is desirable
to keep track of changes made to the system, so that you know what has
changed since last backup, and should you need to revert to backup, you
know what needs to be re-done.
Most computer users became computer managers by default - managing their
own computers. This means that the buck stops right here. You are responsible
for safeguarding your data and minimising down-time. This chapter teaches
you how to do this. It also teaches you how to manage a dual-boot situation
with Windows on the C: drive and Linux-Xandros somewhere else.
A dual-boot system is one where upon starting the computer, a simple menu
makes you choose whether you wish to run Windows or Linux. You can't run
both at the same time by this method, but all the same, it gives you the
best of both worlds, as for example the tools to do this.
Your most important tool (ever) is a partition manager, even though
you may need this tool only very occasionally. The best partition manager
is still Partition Magic, now Norton Partition Magic, available
for $70 from www.symantec.com. It
provides an intuitive GUI while running in Windows, and it knows about
all available file systems, including NTFS and Reiser for Linux. More about
this later. But Partition Magic's most important feature is that it lets
you make two recovery diskettes or a bootable CD that can be run when all
else fails, for instance when you are installing a new system, or when
you have to replace your disk drive. The simple (DOS) program that helps
you, is also intuitive and very capable. Remember that partition managers
can do little when the operating system runs, so some of the changes they
make have to be done 'off-line' in DOS mode.
The next most important tool is a reliable backup manager, and one has
recently become available, Paragon Drive Backup which you can buy
for about $50 from www.paragon-software.com.
Paragon also has a partition manager which can boot from CD. Version 5
however, had bugs.
What makes Paragon Drive Backup outstanding, is that it can do a backup
while the operating system runs (hot-processing). It backs up a complete
partition to your DVD writer, while applying compression. The backup disc
can be inspected and files retrieved interactively. Although it also backs
up a Linux partition, it is unable to run in Linux or retrieve files for
Linux, but restoration works perfectly.
Your next mandatory tool is a DVD writer, which has many other
uses, and which you can buy for $50. I am using the Pioneer brand, which
has proved to be of high performance and quality. Buy a spindle of 50 DVD-R
discs which are the most reliable and the most standard.
Finally you need a disk defragmentation utility. Don't even think
about using Windows' one, because it is lazy and never completes its task.
The best defragger I've known is Norton Defrag, but it is not available
on its own. Fortunately Auslogics Disk Defrag does the job very
well and fast, and it comes free of charge from www.auslogics.com/disk-defrag/.
Bless you and thank you.
partitioning the hard drive
Most users will have adequately large hard disks, as 200GB appears the
norm these days. From reading this section, it will become clear how large
your hard drive needs to be, to accommodate all the advice given.
First of all you must understand that the Windows operating systems cannot
run satisfactorily in any other partition than the C: drive, which is usually
the primary partition on the primary drive. The PC has an internal bus
that connects drives to the processor. It is called IDE or ATA, and you
can have up to 4 drives, one of which is the primary, and one the DVD.
That leaves two more options. Diskettes have their own bus which supports
up to two diskette drives. It is quite a trick to connect new drives to
the IDE bus, because some are 'master' and some are 'slave', although today
this is no longer relevant. Do the installation of a new drive with the
advice of a hardware guru.
What you will notice is that large hard drives are formatted in the
NTFS (New Technology File system), whereas the FAT (File Allocation Table)
file system is common to DOS and the earlier versions of Windows. In fact,
Windows runs better on FAT than on NTFS, and one significant consideration
is that you won't be able to access an NTFS file system from a DOS boot
directory. The size limit for FAT is much larger than 32GB, but Windows
sets this arbitrary limit. The bottom line is: if you wish to exchange
data with other Windows systems, FAT is the file system of choice, but
NTFS wastes less space.
If you purchased WinXP on a large disk, it is most likely that the whole
disk has been formatted in NTFS. The first task is to create new logical
partitions, make these active and reformat them. The C: partition needs
to be large enough for Windows plus all your applications, and 7GB will
still compress onto a single backup DVD of 4.5GB. Note that the C: partition
contains a very large file C:\swapfile.sys, which is 50% larger than the
amount of RAM (memory). If you have 1GB RAM, the swap file is most likely
1.5GB. We are going to move this swapfile out of the C: drive later on.
Here is the plan:
create a logical partition above the primary C: partition, leaving 6-7GB
create a logical partition above the C: partition of 2GB for the swapfile,
this is D:, formatted as FAT.
create a logical partition above the swap partition, for Linux and format
this as Reiser FS, again about 6-7GB in size (it will be reformatted by
Xandros). Windows will ignore this partition when it names disks like C:
D: E: F:
create a logical partition above the Linux partition for your own work.
This becomes E:, formatted as FAT. In this partition you will store all
your documents and files. Wean yourself off the C:\My_Documents folder
and make it a habit to store all your documents and photos on the E: drive.
create a logical partition of the remaining disk space F:, formated as
NTFS and used as work space.
tell Windows where to put the swap file; restart the computer and delete
c:\swapfile.sys. If it won't let you do this, it may still be in use. Note
that you need to tell EXPLORE to display system and hidden files, with
their file extensions.
defragmentate the C: drive. The hole left by the swapfile now disappears.
do another backup of C:
if necessary, change the file system from NTFS to FAT, which is a tricky
operation but you have two backups to fall back to.
do another backup of C: when successful.
Of course you can make other plans, as long as your own work comes off
the C: drive. This is not completely possible since it still contains settings
and internet files.
Operation 1) has low risk, and this is what we do first. Then a complete
backup to DVD. Now we are safe, but it pays to go through the restoration
power the computer down and restart it with the backup drive in the DVD
the restoration program starts; the mouse works. In the first dialogue
you must choose the backup 'capsule', and here is a bug with a workaround.
Go into the top dialogue, select drive Z: and then the only backup 'capsule'
there, and only then proceed to the next dialogue. If you don't do this,
the program will later tell you that 'you cannot save the data back over
itself', which is precisely what a backup is supposed to do.
follow the process to the end but do not start the restoration, because
you have only this backup to fall back to. Security demands more fall-back
remove the disc and restart the computer.
Note! Drive Backup also allows you to back up the boot sector. Always include
this when backing up C:.
Now that we have a valid backup 'capsule', we can proceed creating
the other partitions. For each partition you do the following:
create the partition by allocating its size
make the partition active
format the partition. In case of FAT, block size is 8KB for optimal performance.
You will notice that Partition Magic remembers your instructions but won't
execute them immediately. Do one partition at a time. You may need to print
this page to guide you along.
Finally you will move your documents to the E: drive and successively
remove them from the C: drive. This you could do in a gradual way. However,
you must make regular
backups of this partition too.
To tell Windows to use the D: drive for its swapfile,
In Win98: right-click My_Computer> properties> tab performance>
virtual memory> let me specify > D:
in WinXP: right-click My_Computer> properties> tab advanced>
Performance Settings> tab advanced> virtual memory> change> D: custom size>
1500 (1.5 times the size of RAM)
keeping a system log
A system log is a very simple text file in which you keep track of the
changes made to your Windows drive, like:
installing or removing packages.
changing settings on various programs like Word, Excel and so on.
whenever a backup was done.
You may also wish to keep a log of the kind of work you have been doing,
particularly when you are able to lump the work into batches. Remember
the business adage: "The work is never done before a backup is made".
That brings us to what is the most suitable text (typewriter) tool for
this? Windows provides Notepad, which is very limited and in fact
useless. Then came Notepad+ from a Dutch programmer, with unlimited
file sizes and multiple documents selectable by tabs. This was a formidable
tool, now no longer maintained (but it still works). But then came Editpad
Lite from www.editpadpro.com
which also has tabs, is entirely free, and works in Linux as well. What
a sweet little tool, and compatible with Linux! You'll love it.
Installing Xandros is a breeze and there is little to say about it. Make
sure you have ordered the packaged box, which includes a manual, installation
disc and software disc.
Power the computer off, place the installation disc in the DVD/CD drive
and follow the instructions. You will notice that Xandros spends little
time detecting all your hardware, reformatting the allocated drive and
installing the selected modules. Then it reboots into the boot menu (LILO=
Linux Loader) which kindly allows you to continue either into Xandros or
Windows. Your dual-boot system is ready.
Every time you need to make a backup of the Linux partition, you need
to use the Paragon Drive Backup program from Windows. As you see, the power
of dual-booting gives you the best of both worlds.
Now your learning curve begins, depending on how deeply you need to
become involved. Obviously, things work a little different, but soon you
will become impressed with the whole thing.
At this point you need to understand that Linux systems are integrated
with the web regarding package updates and downloading an endless number
of free packages. Having a broadband connection is advisable. The Xandros
Networks package manager is a tool you need to become confident with, as
this is a most powerful new update tool.
You also need to understand that Linux is serious about passwords.
Quite simply, it cannot be operated without. You need a user login and
password, as well as an administrator's login and password. Choose them
Within Xandros and all Linux systems, devices like printers are treated
as files, and likewise all disk drives. You'll find the Windows disk drives
in the directory /disks, labelled according to their drive letters, like
/disks/C. Clicking on this 'file' opens the Windows C: drive. Soon you
will discover that the E: drive is not in /disks/E, and you'll need to
learn how to reassign their drive letters, to which an entire chapter is
devoted (mapping drives in Xandros).
Finally my advice: become a Xandros member to help the Xandros community
It is important to keep and store your downloads in a folder with your
own work, so that they can be redone in case you need to go back to a previous
You will notice that the Xandros Networks package manager mysteriously
downloads not only the selected package but also related libraries and
other modules. So you won't be able to store these somewhere else, which
should not be a problem. In the examples from this page you will most certainly
have saved the EditPad and Defrag downloads to a downloads folder, as well
as the Paragon Drive Backup.