How to install 3 operating systems?

Posted on 2008-10-18
Last Modified: 2013-12-01

I have a latop on to which I want to install 3 operating systems:

1. Windows XP Pro
2. Windows 2003 server
3. Linux (need recomendations as to which flavour to install)

I tried using partition magic but that just ending with a latop that wouldd not boot.  Is this tasks as simple creating 3 partitions and then just install the operating systems as normal?  Does order matter?

Any advice or guidance appreciated.

Question by:andyw27
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LVL 88

Expert Comment

ID: 22747636
How much RAM does the PC have? If there is enough of it, I'd use VmWare server (which is free) and install the other 2 OS's into that as a VM. You can then run the OS's alongside each other at the same time and you don't need to worry about dual Boot or Windoze corrupting the boot sector.

The best Linux Distro is the one you are most comfortable with. It is best to just download a few and test them, then take the one you like best. Many of today's distro's include LiveCD's, which are booting CD's or DVD's running a fully functional Distro directly from that CD without any need for installation. That way you can test them easily.

Author Comment

ID: 22747834
My laptop has 2gig RAM and uses a T5600 1.83ghz processor.  I've tried using virtual PC but found it quite slow.
LVL 88

Expert Comment

ID: 22747915
That should be fine for VmWare.
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Expert Comment

ID: 22749804
I would second rindi's recommendation. Installing the operating systems in VMs would give you the most flexibility and the least problems if you later decide to remove one of the OSes or change how much disk that you allocate to each one of them, etc.

If however VMware does not have high enough performance for what you intend to use the different OSes for, here is some advice if you decide to do the 3 partition install:

Install the Windows OSes first and Linux last. With several OS installs on one disk, you will have a fight over who owns the master boot record (i.e., which bootloader you use). Installing Linux last will make grub the bootloader, grub is more versatile than the default Windows bootloader. Not to mention that the Win bootloader is difficult to set up to

You might consider making a small FAT32 partition. All the OSes can read/write FAT32 fine, so you can use this partition as "shared space" for files you want accessible from all OSes.

If you later decide to remove Linux, you might end up with a non-working bootloader. Make sure that you have a boot-cd/usb-key with the required software to change the master boot record back to the default Windows mbr.

Expert Comment

ID: 22749811
Erm, managed to get a line cut.

Not to mention that the Win bootloader is difficult to set up to load Linux, and it won't recognize Linux by default. Which means that you will lose access to the Linux OS if you install Windows after Linux.

Expert Comment

ID: 22751978
Yes the order do matters a lot. Iarsga is rght about the order. However, I would not recommend you to install windows 2003 server on a FAT32 partition if you will use it as a file server.

You won't be able to set any rights/permissions on the FAT32 drive.

On the other hand, if you install it on an NTFS partition, you will need to install additional packages to be able to read/write with Linux.

The distribution you use is really a matter of taste. I use Centos and Ubuntu
LVL 88

Expert Comment

ID: 22751996
Most modern Linux distro's have no problem reading and writing to ntfs, but in my point of view you should really use something like VmWare, it makes everything much simpler.

Expert Comment

ID: 22762215
I agree with all the above...  VMWare is a good solution and will allow your to run all 3 OS simultaneously.  
If you go that route, I would use Windows 2003 as the host and put XP and Linux as images.  windows 2003 has a better memory manangement.  

On the other hand, if you want to experiment with the different file systems, the order to install would be:
1.  XP
2.  Windows 2003
3.  Linux

I have a dual boot Vista and SuseLinux, works great.  To make it easier you should create 3 partitions.  As far as NTFS is concerned,  Rindi is right, it works without a problem.


Expert Comment

by:Feroz Ahmed
ID: 22762716
Hi ,
Yes Order matters in this sequence first try to Install Linux and then win2003 and winxp you should be able to install all 3 OS on one system.

Accepted Solution

SirDragon earned 500 total points
ID: 22763172
I disagree with sm_feroz.  Windows OS don't play well with other OS.  They tend to override the boot loader and MBR to put their own files.  Which makes the other OS unusable.  

XP should be first installed on Partition 0.
then windows 2003, it will see the XP installation and will ask you if you want to upgrade or perform a new installation.  Do NOT take the defaults, instead chose the second partition you will create.  the boot.ini file will be re-written to include both OS.  Finally install Linux, this will put GRUB to take over the boot partition...

So when you are done, when you boot, you will see first the Linux loader which will give the option to go to linux of widows, then the boot.ini will be read and will give you the options of either XP or window2003.

Hope that makes sense!

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