dual-booting Windows-Xandros

How to dual-boot Windows and Xandros

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.
  • partitioning the hard drive: which partitions and how big they should be (on this page)
  • 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.
  • installing Xandros: installing Xandros is a breeze.
  • keeping downloads: it is important to store downloads so that they are backed up with your documents.
  • mapping drive letters: Linux maps drive letters in a different way, which may cause confusion. (on separate page)
  • back to contents page: go back to find more useful advice.

 back to contents page  Seafriends home page   feedback   Rev:070705,

sharp tools

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:

  1. create a logical partition above the primary C: partition, leaving 6-7GB for C:
  2. create a logical partition above the C: partition of 2GB for the swapfile, this is D:, formatted as FAT.
  3. 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:
  4. 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.
  5. create a logical partition of the remaining disk space F:, formated as NTFS and used as work space.
  6. 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.
  7. defragmentate the C: drive. The hole left by the swapfile now disappears.
  8. do another backup of C:
  9. if necessary, change the file system from NTFS to FAT, which is a tricky operation but you have two backups to fall back to.
  10. 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 sequence:

  1. power the computer down and restart it with the backup drive in the DVD drive.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 copies.
  4. 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:
  1. create the partition by allocating its size
  2. make the partition active
  3. 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

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 with care.

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 and yourself.

keeping downloads

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 fall-back point.
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.