20 May 2013

426 Multibooting Windows XP, Vista and Debian

This post will most likely not be particularly interesting to anyone. It's basically just a collection of notes of me putting XP, Vista and Debian on the same box. Turns out that it's actually pretty straightforward -- the lack of drama in this post is what makes it a bit dull. Maybe the chief value of this post is to reassure anyone wanting to do the same of its feasibility.


I've decided to revive an old Dell C521 from 2007 (I accidentally blew the PSU when moving to Oz from the US, I've upgraded the graphics card, and put a 1 Tb hdd in it) and since I don't have any windows machines and it isn't useful for anything high-powered (dual core Athlon), I figure I might as well use it for a bit of experimentation.

This isn't going to be a detailed step-by-step how-to guide -- it's more of an overview of how to set up triplebooting with vista in case I need to help someone at a later point (parents/parents-in-law, I'm looking at you).

I have no real desire to use windows, but I could see the usefulness of having a windows box around. Partly because I'd like to do my bit to help Windows users move towards using FOSS instead of the usual commercial fare (familiarity with the software ecosystem on linux will presumably help adoption). Partly because I haven't played Halo 2 for years...

I'm bracing myself for experiencing the pain of vista again...XP I can just about tolerate -- it's a decade old, so I can accept that it has some limitations.

Anyway, triple-booting Vista, XP and Debian seems ambitious enough for a blog post, given what a pain Vista (and 7) are in terms of playing nicely with other OS:s.

Looking at this post:
When dual-booting, you always install the old OS first, then the new.

Sounds about right...Debian last then ;)

Note that the hard disk was unpartitioned at the beginning. The screen was connected via a KVM switch to the NS210 graphics card (via the VGA port). The on-board ethernet port was connected to a router set up with dhcp.

The remaining original hardware is as follows:
AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ 2.0 GHz
2048 Mb DDR2 RAM
Broadcom 440x 10/100

The added bits are:
Realtek RTL8169/8110 Family PCI Gigabit ethernet
MSI NF210 (Geforce 210)
Western Digital Green 1 Tb 3.5"

Installing XP (32 bit):
First I had to burn a CD from an iso from my university. I don't have any cd writer on my desktop, but happen to have one on one of my nodes (an old work computer). So I copied the iso via nfs, and then burned it with
sudo burn -I -n WinXP\ Pro\ US\ with\ SP1\ \&\ MS03-39.iso

There isn't much to say about installing XP, other than me making a partition at the beginning of the disk with 50,000 Mb space. I made the paritition using the windows installation program (as part of the install), chose quick format (ntfs).

The reboot step during XP installs gets me every time and I always hit a key to boot from CD automatically. Don't do that.

I only installed XP. I didn't bother chasing down drivers etc. Those who complain about hardware support in linux don't realise what it's like setting up windows on a computer using a vanilla installation disk....

XP didn't have working internet (didn't recognize either network card) and the video resolution was 640x480. Once the network had been sorted out (R149798; downloaded in Vista and moved to the XP partition)I downloaded SP3, after which I could install the nvidia drivers. Luckily, most of the remaining drivers could be downloaded from Dell (nVidia_SMBus_A02_R132919, R132395, R133065)).

Setting up multiple ethernet cards was...fun. The challenge was the routing, which required a registry change and reboot. And I never knew XP had 'shutdown -r'. It's like a whole new OS to me now.

Installing Vista (32 bit):
Once XP was installed I popped in the Dell DVD (yes, once upon a time you actually got the installation CDs with your computer...) and rebooted.

Select install, and choose custom. Click on the unallocated space, select Drive Options (advanced), then click on New. I set the size to 100,000 Mb (visa is a space hog, but I don't really plan on actually using it so...). Click Apply. A new partition (Disk 0 Partition 2; Primary) should appear. Note that because windows set everything to primary and because GPT only can handle four primary partitions, you become somewhat limited in the number of OSs you can install (there are reasonably simple ways around it though). Click Next and let Vista have a go at your HDD.

The vista installation wasn't too bad, and there was decent hardware support on boot. Note that this was installed using the Vista DVD that came with the Dell I just installed it on i.e. the drivers were presumably included on the DVD.

Both network cards were detected (ipconfig) and I had a working internet connection (ping google.com). The default resolution was 800x600 pixels (display settings), but it was easily changed to 1024x768.

The device manager had an exclamation point next to Standard VGA Graphics Adapter under Display Adapters. The 'Windows Experience Index' was 1.0  due to poor Graphics and Gaming Graphics.

My post install steps consisted of installing Google Chrome, then allowing windows to install updates (451 Mb). Among those updates was GF210 support. Simply downloading 451 Mb took an hour (!) even though I'm on a university connection (i.e. fast -- typically +3M/s). Installing the updates took another hour after that. And that wasn't the end of it.

The nvidia was recognised after the reboot, and I now had a 4.1 "experience rating", and I could set the resolution to 1280x960.

I had another revelation (I've been gone from Windows for a while): I plugged in an Airlink101 USB wlan dongle (rtl8187b), and downloaded the driver from CNET. The installer tried to install two pieces of software without clearly advertising that it was doing so (top arcade something, and 7 wonders something else), then wanted to throw in zonealarm and change my home page. I seem to remember cnet being one of the reasonably trustworthy sites? I don't remember it bundling junk/spy-ware. Huh. Anyway, turns out the drivers got installed via windows update anyway.

Anyway, sorting out the updates was a PITA since a number of them kept failing. Download was slow (microsoft's servers pretty awful -- maybe they should switch to linux or bsd?) and installation takes forever. In the end I had to download SP1 and SP2 manually from the 'service pack center' and install them.

And LINUX is the one they call difficult? Good riddance.

Installing Debian:
While jigdo has worked well for me in the past, I was lazy and simply downloaded an iso. Because of university restrictions I could not use bit torrent.

wget http://cdimage.debian.org/debian-cd/7.0.0/amd64/iso-cd/debian-7.0.0-amd64-CD-1.iso
sudo burn -I -n debian-7.0.0-amd64-CD-1.iso

I popped the CD in the drive, and booted. Manual partition: 100 Gb for / (primary), 200 Gb for /home (logical) and 2 Gb for swap (logical). I used a local network mirror to install.

I installed the GRUB boot-loader to the MBR

Note that only Vista shows up in grub -- if you select Vista in GRUB, you get the Vista boot manager ('loader'), and can select 'Earlier versions of Windows' i.e. XP.

On booting into Debian the full GNOME 3 experience was available i.e. the nouveau driver for GeForce 210 is apparently good enough that we don't need to install the nvidia drivers. glxgears looks really pretty too, with over 700 FPS. Sweet!

Anyway, that's it.

I expected it to be a bit trickier, but even Vista behaved itself and didn't throw a fit on debian being installed.

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