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XP + Linux Dual-Booting Problem... Error in MBR AND Overlapping Drives

Posted on 2005-04-01
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Last Modified: 2012-08-14
I was helping a friend try out Linux for the first time... (I have only being using Linux on-off for 2 months).

He has a Compaq PC (with a recovery partition), running Windows XP Home SP2.
I installed Mandrake Linux 10.0 on it:-
1) Installed Norton PartitionMagic 8, used it to resize his ~250GB HD to ~240GB. (Leaving 10GB free for Linux).
2) Installed Mandrake Linux. (8.5GB as /, 1.5GB Swap, as he has 1GB RAM)
3) Problem with Linux, bottom and top line (taskbars?) are missing, top can be made visible by the cursor being ran over it (and stays visible after this). Glitches on desktop. (Wrong colour, corrects on being 'ran over' by cursor, and messes up again). Unusable. (After log off, log back on, after resolution change, any known problems here?)...
4) Being a long-term Windows user, i decided to format it (literally), using Acronis PartionExpert (PartitionMagic brought up loads of error messages, finally deciding it couldn't find the drive letters, and refused to open), but the Lilo bootloader with all the options remained (to a now non-existant Linux partition...)

He would like me to reinstall Linux, however, Mandrake Setup cannot find any free space (despite the 10GB formatted in step 4, at end of drive), the setup is also finding problems with the MBR and threatening to delete all data on all partitions. (It also claims the recovery partition, and the Windows partition to be overlapping)
I have read about using FIXMBR, but my friend does not want to lose his recovery partition (It automatically installs Windows and all drivers related to his hardware). I am not certain on how the Compaq recovery partitions work...
I CAN boot into Windows still...

Thank you for your time.
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Question by:bloodrazor
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Expert Comment

by:rid
ID: 13686721
The problem may be the use of third party drive tools.

Normally, a Linux installation (Fedora Core, SuSE) will offer to resize the existing windows partition at install time and those tools run very well, AFAIK. The Linux install will include a boot loader (usually GRUB) that handles the dual-boot situation.

You'll have to defrag the hard drive in windows before doing this, I think, to leave some useable empty space for the Linux partition(s).

I think you should be able to restore windows by using tools like "fixmbr" and/or "fixboot" if you can't boot windows.

If you can boot to windows, do a defrag and then try to load Linux, using whatever tools for disk management comes with the distro. I can recommend the SuSE personal 9.1 distro for just getting a taste of Linux, if that is what this is about.

Doing some kind of backup of important data is a matter of course in these cases. I wouldn't ever try anything like this without having a fresh backup lying around.
/RID
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GinEric earned 525 total points
ID: 13690807
First, get to XP and Disk Manager via Administrative Tools | Computer Management | Disk management.

If the 10g partition is really there and formatted properly, it will show up as an unknown partition.  If XP can see this partition as any other type, Windows has complete control of it.

Third Party tools don't really know enough about both Operating Systems to do their jobs seamlessly.

What you should have done was to format it with Disk Manager in Windows, after creating it somehow, as FAT and then simply deleted it.

Thereafter, you let Linux install take care of the Linux Partition.  By the way, didn't you also need a small swap partition?

Compaq has a special key to find out the recovery partition, I forget which one, but it's in Compaq docs and at Compaq site.  The Compaq backup partition is sacred, unless you really know what you're doing and have all of the required Compaq install and fix disks, now in CD form.

Mandrake can't find the space because it is a Windows space.  Windows should never ever be able to seen any Linux partition, with the one exception perhaps of ZipSlack.  Windows will try to write to a partition that it has no knowledge of and thus corrupt it.  Which is basically why while you can maybe repartition with magic and others, you can't then define the partition type as Linux.  You need to take the extra steps of of deleting the partition, reformatting FAT, then deleting it from Windows Disk Manager.

You should also be able to boot with the boot disk for Mandrake, if you have one, and if the partition is dead meat, it will tell you so.  If it can boot to it, it will probably have to fsck, but the next boot to Windows will just corrupt it again.

Lilo is apparently now in your MBR instead of NT [yes, XP is just NT with a new name and version].

However, Windows keeps copies of its original MBR and partitioning tables at mid volume and end of drive.   It can also check on these for restores, etc.. That may be why it thinks the partitions are overlapping, and, fixmbr will change everything.

You need to really get down to backing up the files he needs first, however you can do that.  I don't suggest using standard backup, but try instead to copy the files as files to another computer hopefully on a home network.  Then get them to a CDR or DVDR.

You will need the Compaq Install disks, etc., if you run into problems, and will most likely need the XP install CD's.

Compaq initializes the pcmcia type modem and ethernet card slots.  You may lose them if you don't have the Compaq install and/or repair disks.

Tell us what Disk Manager says about your disk:  how many partitions, types, any unknown partition spaces, where they are on the disk, beginning, middle, end, and what does Windows say the complete disk size is?
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by:bloodrazor
ID: 13692308
Thank you for your replies.

The situation has since been resolved, by the following method:
Compaq recovery was used to put the system back to it's factory condition. (No important files were present, so it was an easy decision to make, this time...)
Acronis PartionExpert was used (It doesn't throw wobblies, unlike Norton's product), to resize Windows from 250GB (not actual space, but the supposéd capacity of the drive), to 200GB.
Mandrake was setup, to use all the space availible, and a (overly large) swap partition was created. (AKA: Successful install).

And my friend did all this, by himself, without any more of my 'help'! (Which although usually technically sound, has terrible luck).

And yes GinEric, we were using swap space, i quote myself, '8.5GB as /, 1.5GB Swap'.

One more thing, if anyone cares to answer, through the countless reinstalls of Mandrake, he would sometimes find that he could get onto the internet, and sometimes, not, despite setting it up the same each time. Can anyone shed any light on this? (LAN connected via SpeedTouch 510)
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LVL 12

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by:GinEric
ID: 13692447
Well, thanks bloodrazor

The thing I almost said was "I hope he makes humane, sane, and reasonable partition sizes."  Often, people just leave one giant glob partition somewhere, usually the OS partition.  I cannot figure out why any computer expert would think this is a sane approach.  Linux usually tells you to make a partition for Linux, whatever - 10 even 20 gig on a full install which is about 5 gig for all the Linux goodies, and perhaps a 1 gig swap, depending on RAM size.  Thereafter, what is the point of a 200 gig partition?  This is what makes no real sense, even two 100 gig partitions make more "common sense."  If you think about it, you have a place where you can copy system critical stuff.  I have four Linux partitions and four Windows partitions on the same machine.  Because I have exact copies of certain Operating Systems, which, in the event of complete collapse, allows me to simply copy the structure and boot right back to the Operating System that wouldn't boot.  There actually is no faster recovery method.

About Mandrake not finding the Internet: there could be hundreds of reasons, most likely it is because he has a dynamic IP that is not getting re-leased [as in 're' and 'leased' a new IP].

By the way, if he has a complete Linux install, 5 gig, he's going to run out of space, yes, even in Linux.  It might take a few months, but Linux is so good at some things, like serving, that most people start downloading and mirroring web site download directories and before you know it, boing!

As an example, one Microsoft Symbol debugging program takes up 1 gig.  Linux itself is about a 5 gig ftp site.  While Linux can be made quite small, services change all of that.  You can, of course, put all of those on your own mirror drive off the main Linux Operating System partition, but that would mean you need another Linux partition from the start.

See why planning is pertinent?  Most gurus even use on big fat partition, this is just not common sense, one severe crash and all 250 gig is gone.

Multiple partitions from the start.  More than a few big corporations thought that was very good advice.
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