June 05, 2011

Multiple Booting, Partitions and Backup Windows XP

With the hard disk getting so much capacity nowadays, one would eventually have to organize the disk better. One way to organize the disk better is using different partitions and including some backup operating systems.

There are many ways to create the multi-booting options and the partitioning.

Firstly whether one desire a multiboot system or just need a way to organize the files into sections, partitioning will be advisable.

To achieve this, one can download a livecd that boots as an operating system that features a partitioning application. This livecd is called GParted livecd.

Alternatively, there are many linux distros that have a built-in GParted or Partition Editor application. Also, under windows there are many such shareware partitioning tools available for download.

The video below is a way to create partitions under GParted livecd:

The picture below is one way a guy partitioned his 232Gb hard drive.

To view the above pic more clearly click here. - Opens in new tab

He had 3 Primary Partitions consisting of 2 NTFS file system which are usable by Windows XP and 1 EXT3 usable by linux.

The 4th large extended partition is subdivided into 6 logical partions: 1 linux swap and 5 NTFS usable for Windows XP: all dedicated to various types of media files.

Let us describe a bit about the different file systems:

Natively Windows cannot see the EXT3 and linux swap partitions. However, you may have success downloading applications to allow you read and write access to EXT2 and EXT3 file systems. One such freeware is "Ext2 Installable File System for Windows" which can be downloaded here.

Linux file systems can use various formats, among the most common of which are EXT2 and EXT3. These can be accessed using the aforementioned freeware for Windows XP.

Linux swap partition is a separate partition that helps linux for joggling some temporary files that may be needed for its smooth memory management processing.

In case you are booted into Linux and you are recovering files from Windows XP, it will be a lot easier if your Windows XP partition is using FAT32 instead of NTFS. Windows under NTFS file system may employ some measures making it difficult to backup such OS into another partition.

Also, if you have old CD Arcade Games that may later create a need for you to install Windows 9X or lower, FAT32 file systems are just whats needed. Window 9x and XP will happily see each other's files using FAT32.

(When installing additional Windows 9x, it is advisable to use the GParted tool to hide first other partitions because Win 9x tend to take over all the partitions as allocated for itself. After installing Win 9x, you can then unhide the Win XP / other partitions and include a boot.ini line to load Win 9x.)


For our illustrations we will modify the 232 Gb hardrive into the following:

- 3 Primary Partitions consisting of 2 FAT32 file systems which are usable by Windows XP / Win9x and 1 EXT2 allocated for linux.

- The 4th large extended partitions are subdivided into 6 logical partions: 1 linux swap, 2 EXT2 allocated for linux and 4 FAT32.

Bear in mind that it will be easy to change the allocated linux partitions into FAT32 later on, using the GParted application as shown earlier. The sizes can be readjusted easily. But it will save time for you to plan ahead for the intended use of each partition, the sizes and the type of file system.

Remember also that a partition can be further organized into folders comprising a tree stucture depending on the type of files you foresee to accumulate in your utilization of the PC.

Now, I won't delve into Linux on this blogpost because I have already posted a multiboot system that involves Linux. You can find it here.

So for this purpose, the linux type partitions are just included for flexibility but we will concentrate on Windows XP.

Let's say you have a bare installation of Windows XP in the first partition that only have the needed Firewall and AntiVirus. This is a good time to create a backup copy of this intallation because it is of generic quality.

It is advisable to keep this generic Win XP located on the 1st partition to serve as the main backup XP system. You can clone this into other partitions and then customize the clones for your everyday use.

Boot into a Linux LiveCD such as SLAX and just copy the following essential folders from the 1st partition (Win XP OS) to any other FAT32 partition (whether logical or primary):
- Documents and Settings
- Program Files

Now still using Slax, locate and click to open the "boot.ini" file in the main Win XP partition. It will open in "KWrite" which is a Slax counterpart of Notepad, save it on the same location under "boot1.ini" name or other name to serve as your backup. Open "boot.ini" again and edit it to include a choice to boot to the partition where you copied the above folders.

If you are unfamiliar with "boot.ini" file, you can google how to properly do this edit but here are some informations and help with the boot.ini.

Here is a sample of "boot.ini" contents:

[boot loader]

[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Windows XP Home Edition" /fastdetect

You can just add a line to point to the partition of your backup Windows XP like this:

[boot loader]

[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition" /fastdetect
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Windows XP 2nd" /fastdetect

If you are not certain what the partition number to use, you can try to add other lines like:

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(3)\WINDOWS="Windows XP 3rd" /fastdetect
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(5)\WINDOWS="Windows XP 5th" /fastdetect
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(6)\WINDOWS="Windows XP 6th" /fastdetect

In fact you can have many Windows XP partitions by copying the folders mentioned to other locations. And you may ask: why would you do this?

Windows have a tendency to crawl with many updates. fixes, service packs, etc. And many of such updates/fixes may actually be intended to look like coming from Microsoft but they are not.

Well also, Microsoft itself, may have difficulty keeping tabs of the effects of the files their updates or fixes replace. It can be quite confusing whether the latest Service Pack, Silverlight or DotNet framework was the culprit for the all of a sudden misbehaving system, not to mention the many malware, virus, trojans etc. that might have entered the system.

For that matter, Linux is a lot less of a headache to maintain. But many applications you are familiar with in Windows are not found in Linux. And also, many recent Microsoft multimedia formats may not be viewable under Linux (like for Silverlight supported media contents - the Moonlight counterpart of Linux may only accommodate the basic media).


So, you have edited the "boot.ini" file. Exit Slax (or the linux livecd you are using), remove the cd and reboot to find the added Windows XP.

You can use the back-up Win XP, however most of the registry links existing in it still points to the first partition.

To correct this, you have to replace registry settings for that windows. You have to change "C:" pointers in the registry to "D:" (or wherever your alternate Win XP resides). You can download a utility such as "regtkt.exe" from here or look for other registry search and replace utilities.

If you are successful replacing every instance of "C:" in your registry, then that extra version of Windows XP will be home free and happy in that partition.

Btw, if you right click "Start" and click "Explore", your windows will open the "My Document" folder version from the current running windows partition. - That's one way you make yourself aware of the drive (partition) you are operating from.

You can then rename your "My Computer" to something that makes more sense to you like: "My Gomputer" if you are operating from "G:".

Your home free Win XP is now customizable as far as the applications installed according to your liking. You may configure one XP for graphics intensive works, another XP for educational and another for gaming/arcade. You can also provide partitions common for all bootable XP's for storage of some work files - for example 1 partition for all clips/background pictures.

You may reinstall your firewall and antivirus on each flavor of XP just to be sure they are properly protected. And you may install different protective antivirus and security system for each XP so that when one is compromised, you can scan coming from an alternate antivirus protection.

When the rains come, you have a measure of calm before the storm because you have an alternative way to poke through your messed up XP from another XP.


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