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File System Specifics

Your goal in creating a multi-boot system is to have all the operating systems coexist in such a manner that they will be capable of sharing files with each other. Nothing is more frustrating than realizing that you must reboot to retrieve a file, copy it to a floppy, and reboot again to copy it into your other operating system. A little bit of knowledge about file systems can save you many headaches down the road.

Install Apps Separately

This is a really important point. Do not attempt to install two Windows operating systems on the same partition. Just as Microsoft says, you really do need separate partitions for each OS. You should also install all your apps separately for each OS, typically on the same partition as the OS itself. Here's why this kind of cautious isolation is imperative:

  • As a default, Windows installs apps in the \Program Files folder on the boot partition. (The boot partition is the partition that contains the bulk of the Windows files of the OS in question.) So, if you have more than one OS on the same partition, application installers can overwrite one another's files by dumping them on top of one another. In some cases, this can cause major issues, since some applications come in different versions for each of the Windows operating systems.

  • Most program preferences are stored in each operating system's registry files. If you change the prefs for an app under one OS and then boot another OS, the prefs can collide, which can cause the apps to act erratically, or at the least, unexpectedly.

  • Control Panel's Add/Remove Programs lists and your Start menus' shortcuts can get confused. When you remove an app from one OS, the other OS's Start menu shortcuts are still there, but the apps they point to have been removed, so they become dead shortcuts.

As explained later in this chapter, it's certainly okay to store your data files on the same partition, and you probably should, so that you don't duplicate data and confuse yourself over what is the latest version of documents and such. This works so long as any apps that will be on multiple OSes can share the same data files. If you're running Word version 2 or something ancient like that under one OS, and Word XP on another, well, you will run into trouble trying to open the newer .doc files under the older version. But typically this will not be a problem, and I encourage you to store your data files in a central location. You can make it easy to keep your data in a central location by tweaking each OS's My Documents folder to point to that central location. On later Windows operating systems you can right-click My Documents, choose Properties, and then click Move.



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