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you're a genius; i only wish i would have discovered your post earlier (i lost all of my entire data partition thanks to this problem only just last week). i'm testing this out on a virtual pc install. fingers crossed. quoting my own post, i know (and late to the party as well). just an update really. decided to proceed with the installation for real (can't lose my data twice now, can i). at any rate, the setup proceeded flawlessly; windows 2000 was able to correctly detect and properly format my system drive of my maxtor 300GB IDE drive - my enitre data partition was left intact! i cannot thank you enough.