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[Question] - Multiboot partioning and drive letter allocation


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I'm routinely building PCs for friends who live all over the country.... and always build a "normal" installation and a "backup" installation to ensure that as and when the user messes up one installation they can generally switch to a fully working system at the touch of a button.

This is my normal single-disk partition setup:

{c} Boot (6-10Gb to host virtual memory of each system)

{d} System01 (10-25Gb)

{e} System02 (10-25Gb)

I then create an extended partition with a logical drive {f} for "data" or "working directories" (things requiring regular backup), {g} for "store" or "archive" (downloads, photo and music archives and so on) and sometimes {h} for "resources" (installation CDs, downloads and so on).

Now... the XP installer wants to create a primary partition... then an extended partition to filll the rest of the disk: try doing the above in a hurry and both System01 and System02 will be on logical drives (bad news if the partition goes AWOL) - but if you try hard enough (and curse enough) you can finally get everything in it's rightful place.

Onto my headache: I've just done this on a two-disk system (2-3 partitions on the second disk) and have had to do a fresh installation of System01... and no matter what I do the XP installer wants to allocate drive letter {d} to the first partition on the second hard drive and drive letters {e}, {f} and so on to the logical drives on the extended partition.

I'm determined to get my system standardised with all the others as it makes telephone support easier... but at present system01 is showing up as drive {h}... and I can't see any way of doing it any differently.

If there's a better overall approach then I'm prepared to change my "default"... but if someone can help me get this setup right without completely wiping everything and starting again I'd be grateful.

Title Edited - Please follow new posting rules from now on.


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I had this annoying thing also... but at that time i didn't find any solution, so i dropped it. Anyhow, after some time, i saw something interesting that Partition Magic (powerquest was the name, but now >symantec< has taken over) can do: change drive letters under XP successfully. You might want to try that. :unsure:

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The way DOS, Windows and OS/2 allocate letters, is that the active primary partitions are given the first sweep of letters, and that partitions in extended partitions are allocated letters thereafter.

If you are using two hard disks, it is best to use this sort of setup.

Disk 1:

primary: c (probably fat, does not need to be big, eg 256k)

extended: e windows copy 1 (xp needs about 4 GB), f: copy 2 (also 4.1 GB)

(other active data should go somewhere on disk 1

Disk 2:

primary: d (swap and temp stuff: say, eg 8 GB)

extended other spare partitions, and one for resources and iso files.

Setting the swap file somewhere distant from the OS drive, but on the same disk, eg hda1 = swap, hda5 = OS, will make the system much slower than if the page file is in between, or on the same disk, as the OS's. It would be better to have the OS's on 4G partitions, separated by the common swap file.


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I don't have the same situation, but I think this is somewhat related perhaps -

I use a two partition setup, where the C drive holds the boot information and then the D drive is the actual system drive. When setting this up with a clean install, windows tries to make my (soon to be) D drive be E or F. So I've learned that if you simply reboot and let the setup get back to that point where you designate where you want the OS to be installed, it will change the drive letter. What used to be E, becomes D for me.

Magic computer gnomes, I tell ya !

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I’ll mention a quick caveat on having a boot partition separate from the partition containing the operating system – if you use “Ghost” as I do; you must “Ghost” both partitions. Back when I was using 98, I wanted to keep a second drive available at all times in case the primary went splat. Cut to the chase is that I wasted a lot of CD’s when “Ghosting” the little C partition. In my new XP set up, I just use the one partition for both; I “Ghost” the primary partition to DVD and to my backup SATA drive. I can get into BIOS and set the SATA as first boot drive just to insure my Ghost image works; hasn’t failed me yet but I hear of a lot of folks having difficulty with SATA XP install boots.

Back to your question about drive designations; I used to do this in 98 directly. Have not tried in XP as I purchased “Partition Magic” which does this; actually purchased it to resize my boot partition as I had out grown its original format of 4GB. At any rate, Partition Magic is a painless way to go for re-designating.

Hope it helps. LarryAllen

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As mentioned here:


actually having the system on LOGICAL VOLUMES inside an EXTENDED PARTITION is, generally speaking, safer than having it on PRIMARY.

Drive lettering (and the way DOS/Windows does it) is one of the worse headaches:


(and given links)


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