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3. The basics

The primary purpose of this document is to make the co-existance between Windows and Linux as simple and uncomplex as possible which means as far as Windows is concerned Linux doesn't exist. It is now possible to install Linux on a Windows partition as a disk image with what is known as the loopback filesystem – RedHat and Mandrake offer this – but it's an extremely bad idea because of the way Windows handles files. Defragmenting the system will become a nightmare and Linux itself will crawl and it will ruin both your Windows and Linux experience. The same applies to the Umsdos filesystem (though Linux won't crawl) and it's best to install Linux on a partition of its own. This document makes a few presumptions but nothing to worry about – just a few.

With that out of the way we can begin. The first thing to do is to make space for Linux. Like other Linux wannabes you are likely to be stuck with a huge single partition with Windows on it. This would be your C drive. In my case it was hogging 13.5 gigs. You have to make a separate partition for Linux out of this space (which would then be labelled as D). You can either use Windows Fdisk which really is not a good idea as it would entail losing all your data and making new partitions from scratch, one for Windows and one for Linux, or you can take the easier and far more convenient way out and use a free and excellent non-destructive partitioning utility called Fips. What makes Fips special is its ability to create a new partition out of the free space in your C partition without any loss of data. The latest version of Fips (2.0) is available at its homepage and most Linux distributions carry it under the /dostools or /dosutils directory in the primary cd.

We are going to concentrate on using Fips so if you are going to use Windows Fdisk – which actually is totally unnecessary unless you have just bought a new system and even then it's a better idea to make a single partition with Windows Fdisk, install Windows on it and then use Fips to split it for reasons that I'm going to explain later in this document – or a commercial partition utility like Partition Magic you are on your own.