(I only read a few pages of this thread at the beginning and end. I know that's not kosher in some communities, but I have no questions to ask at present so I imagine it's okay.)
I don't know if this has been said before but I'll say it again.
Do NOT go with the default installation options if you're dualbooting Windows and Linux on the same hard drive, with the boot loaders on separate hard drives! It only leads to pain...
You'd think I would have learned the first or second time I tried it, when I had WinXP installed on sdb (the master SATA drive) with its boot sector on sda (the slave PATA storage drive). That's the way Windows liked it, and I don't mess with Windows too much because I know it can be temperamental. Then, when I tried to install Ubuntu on the same hard drive, it ALSO wrote its boot sector to sda, overwriting Windows's. Now neither of them would boot. I don't really know why, but they wouldn't. So I reinstalled Windows (after having already set it up the way I liked
) and installed Ubuntu on the same partition, but with Grub2 on sdb, and now they booted. Fine. Lesson learned? No, of course not. Then I updated from Meerkat to Narwhal, and did the same thing, So I installed fresh over again. >_< Everything was fine until Ocelot came along with Unity, which I hate, being the only GUI, with GNOME 3 which I also don't like being a separate download (or so I heard). So I switched to Katya. And guess what happened when I did?
<-(directed at myself) At least this last time I managed to fix it without losing my settings and applications again. I reinstalled Mint immediately, and then later when I found out Windows wasn't working, I just used the Recovery Console to fix everything.
I don't especially like Windows, but I need it for certain things that don't work on Linux or Wine, such as my HP printer (which is supposed to work perfectly according to the driver's developers' website but doesn't), my Sansa Fuze+ portable media player, and some websites like the Pokemon Dream World site for Pokemon Black and White versions.
So I'm hoping that, by posting about my repetitive journeys through the installation media of my OSes, I'll remember next time I have to update or switch again.
As for separate /home/ partitions, I didn't see this thread when I was installing, but I don't keep my data in my /home/ folder anyway. I keep it on an NTFS partition on my laptop, or on my NTFS storage disk on my desktop, so it can be accessed from either OS. But now I know I can make it bigger. I made my Linux partitions pretty big, not realizing how little space programs take up on ext4 partitions. I just checked mine here on my laptop. 31GB of partition space, less than 5.5GB of files. I can probably shrink it by 16 GB and add the space to my 20GB storage partition. Or, I can add another Linux installation. I won't worry about that now, but I might do that once GNOME 3 becomes standard, so I can tweak GNOME 3 and see if I can make it likable, while still having my GNOME 2 installation intact should I decide I don't like it and want to try other options, like KDE or something. More likely I'll do that on my desktop computer though, since I have more room there.
Now to go make my official introductory post.