Partition your Hard Drive for multiple Operating Systems

For many people, migrating from Windows to Linux entirely is not an option. They can do one of two things, they can either run Linux in a limited capacity through wubi on the Windows HD or, they can get their hands dirty and give dual booting a try.

Dual booting from hard drive

For those of you thinking of dual-booting, good on you! I’m sure that if it weren’t for Civilization IV you would migrate completely. There is a safe way to do this and in a few paragraphs I will detail how to proceed.

Before you begin

First you will need to download a program called G-Parted. Once downloaded, it doesn’t stop there. You will need to burn this to a blank CD by creating an ISO image. I haven’t placed any links on where to get any of this in order to make your journey more of an adventure.

Once you have created a live CD for G-parted you will need to restart your system with the cd in the tray. During the boot-up try to get into the menu by pressing F12 or similar style keys. By booting from the CD you will enter into the G-parted program.

Here you will be destroying partitions, resizing partitions and creating new ones. Don’t be afraid, even if you do mess things up, at least you still have your computer.

The partitioning plan

There is much written on the Internet about how to best manage a dual boot and exactly how to partition. After reading pages and pages about how it should be done, I will present you with two practical options (both of which I have tried and tested).

1. You will leave the Windows partition alone and be creating 3 new partitions.
2. You will leave Windows and the other weird FAT32 partition alone and create only 2 new partitions.

On some systems, there are sometimes three partitions used up. On my Acer there were two NTFS partitions (one for Vista and one for spare storage) and a peculiar Fat32 partition called PQservice. For people on the same boat as me, try option 2. Once in the G-parted menu, if you notice there is only one NTFS partition for Windows, then you will use option 1.

Option 1

What you will need to do here is resize the current NTFS partition. This can be a very hard decision for some, the room you make for Linux will take storage away from your current C: drive. My advice is to go halves or leave at least 15GB for Linux. It sounds like a big commitment but you’ll know it’s worth it when you realise that Linux will consume most of your computer using time.

Resize the NTFS partition and with all the space left over you will make 3 new partitions under the file systems: NTFS; EXT3; and LINUX-SWAP. The linux-swap is a very small partition, about twice the size of your RAM memory. If your RAM is 1GB then allow 2GB for the Linux-swap partition (remember that the linux swap is at the very end of the hard disk.

So what we have here are three main partitions and one real tiny partition. Let’s pretend you have an 80GB hard dirve. What you could do is allow 30GB for NTFS-windows, 30GB for NTFS-spare, 18GB for EXT3-Linux, and 2GB for LINUX-swap. Once this is done, commit the changes and leave the program. The computer will restart and you can verify the changes on Windows. This leaves you ready to install Linux into the ext3 partition that you have just created.

The extra NTFS partition created is to be used as a backup drive or a gateway into both operating systems. Here you can put all your photos, music and documents. Making it an NTFS file makes it accessible from both Windows and Linux.

Option 2

When you run g-parted from the CD and see that there are two different partitions there already, then it’s best to leave those alone and create only two new partitions. You will need to resize the NTFS file and shrink it to make way for the linux partition. Once you have shrunk the original partition by half (or less), then create a new partition with the empty space. Remember that you will need to leave about 2GB free (or two times the RAM capacity) for the linux-swap partition.

So you have a FAT32 partition taking up a small amount of storage, you have a NTFS partition that contains the Windows operating system – this probably takes up about half of the storage or more, then you have an EXT3 partition allocated for the Linux installation – this will take up half or less of the total drive, and finally you have a small amount of space left for linux-swap – this will be between 1 to 3GB.

Commit the changes, leave the program and then reboot. When using Windows you wont be able to see the ext3 partition but it is there. You are now ready to install Linux into the ext3 partition.


It’s not too difficult creating partitions but its best to be certain about how you will do this. Once you have shrunk the original partition, you cannot undo this so don’t give away more than you can afford. If something should go wrong with the linux instalation, you can always delete this partition and start again – it’s the first partition that is most complicated.

If you would like some guidance on how to proceed with the linux install, visit this article from my blog: Dualbooting Windows Vista and Kubuntu Linux