Tuesday, August 18, 2009

OSX / Windows 7 Multi-Boot Partition Limitation

In my new MBPU 15" that i have been writing a lot about lately, i have OSX and Windows 7 partitions so i can boot into either. After all, OSX has some nice software i still like to use. I came across an interesting issue with this setup last night though. My standard setup on a system is to have 2 partitions - one for the OS and progs and one for the data. This allows all documents, email, movies, pics, music, etc to be kept on a seperate partition. Then i 'ghost' my OS drive and refresh the image every few months once a substantial number of updates come out. This means if anything happens to my OS or i need to refresh it, it only takes me 20 minutes to be up and running again.

Unfortunately this is not possible on my MBP using the current configuration. Reason is that both OSX and Windows 7 prefer to have a seperate partition for their boot files. This link explains the advantages of such an approach. This requires a seperate partition of around 100-200Mb for each OS, meaning that i have the following partitions:

1) OSX boot
2) OSX
3) Windows 7 boot
4) Windows 7

When i tried to use my free space to create another parition for my data, using the excellent free Paritition Wizard utility (which supports Windows 7), i found i was unable. Apparently there can only be 4 primary partitions on a physical disk! As we can see, i already have 4 partitions.

It seems there are are ways to get Windows 7 to avoid creating the seperate boot drive - i need to carefully study the disadvantages of this before i make the switch. The article above points out most of these disadvantages but most of them dont really concern me. Although it may be a better way of handling the boot files, it makes no sense to have all my data on one parititon so i will likely end up canning this partition and reinstalling

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