Razah wrote:As I mentioned, I am brand new to Linux and also to disk partitioning and playing with the MBR...
So, here's what I've done. Following the dual boot guide, I got to the point of partitioning the disk. Note that my HD is not partitioned, so Mint gives me 2 options: Guided, which would use the entire disk, or Manual, which would use any amount I specify. However, manual only allows me to put the partition at the very beginning or the very end. Putting it at the end makes the disk unbootable. At the beginning, Linux boots but Windows does not.
So, I learned a little about disk partitioning and reformatted the drive. I split it into 3 partitions, with the intention of putting Windows in 1 partition, Linux in another, and using the 3rd as the swap partition. However, this does not work either. Whichever OS is in the first partition is the one that the computer boots into. Seems like there's something obvious that I'm missing here...
Okay, partitioning is inherently destructive and dangerous, and things can get funky as each OS and tool likes to do things a little differently. A tip is to let each operating system do its own partitioning (during its installation).
To clear out any inconsistencies, start over pretty much from scratch, saying goodbye to all the partitions on that drive. Install Windows first, letting it format the whole drive. It will automatically create one partition that takes up the whole drive, install itself to that partition, and write its bootloader to the MBR and put its essential boot files on that partition. It doesn't really TELL you it's doing all this, but it's all part of the standard installation. Also, installing Windows to a slave drive may have complicated matters; it would have installed Windows to whatever drive and partition you indicated, but the essential boot files get installed to whatever is the first partition on the first (master) drive, leaving you with an unbootable installation on that slave drive, something the Mint installer wouldn't have recognized as an operating system installation at all. Also, if your intention is to move that slave drive to a master drive (on another computer), then both the Windows and Linux bootloaders are messed up because they're still expecting all the drives that were present during installation...it's doable, but takes extra care and time.
Once Windows is installed and bootable (make sure it's bootable!), you can attend to the Linux Mint installation, which allows repartitioning hard drives, shrinking/copying/moving Windows partitions, creating its own root/swap/whatever partitions, installing the GRUB bootloader to the MBR or the Linux root partition or not at all, and adding the Windows installation to GRUB so that you can boot into either operating system.
You have Mint 6 "Felicia"? Boot the live CD, start the installer. It asks for your language and timezone and keyboard, then automatically starts the partitioner, analyzing the hard drive. Once it finishes analyzing your current partitions, it offers suggestions for repartitioning, and asks you for Guided-take over whole drive (you may also see Guided-choose largest free space, and Guided-resize) or Manual partitioning. Assuming you have that Windows already installed and taking up the whole disk right now, choose Manual (or Guided-resize, which would make the following suggestions moot).
Say, you chose Manual partitioning. It should do some more analyzing, then present a list of the current partitioning table, which is one partition taking up the whole drive. Select that partition, and Choose "Edit" (or resize, if it's available). Change the size to whatever smaller amount you prefer and make sure that the starting point of the Windows partition remains the same, at the beginning of the hard drive, otherwise the addition of a new partition before it could ruin Windows's bootloader. Anyway, resizing the Windows partition should provide unused space on the rest of the drive. Select that in the list, choosing to "Edit" (or "create new partition" if it's an available option). Create all the partitions, making sure to select a filesystem type, and a mount point for anything other than swap (and the Windows partition). I think that that finishes the partitioner, so Okay that. The installer should provide a summary before committing any changes now. At the summary, there should be an "Advanced" button. Choose that, and it should bring up GRUB configurations. Make sure the bootloader gets installed to the MBR. Check all that, continue the installer, and it should perform the actual partitioning and installing now.
Once Mint finishes installing, shutdown and reboot the system, making sure to remove the live CD during shutdown. It should reboot, show "GRUB loading...." lines, then a boot menu that lists Linux Mint and Windows XP. If not, then your computer may be too old to recognize bootable partitions beyond the 8GB mark (IIRC), or the MBR may be locked against edits as a security feature. Post your computer model and age, and BIOS version for someone to help you with that.
Also, look through the Mint 6 User Guide: http://ftp.heanet.ie/pub/linuxmint.com/stable/6/user-guide/english.pdf
It provides some more in-depth installation information.
Anyway, that's the process if you don't mind starting over from scratch. If you don't want to do that, and you have Windows and or Linux installed to the drive already, there are ways to access those installations, see if they're salvagable, reinstall or reconfigure just the bootloader.