XP-Vista-Linux: Partitioning/Installing questions


New Member
I'm a relative newbie to complicated multiple OS booting (I did 98/XP years ago and have tinkered with XP/Linux and multiple XP installs, but that's about it) and -- after a lot of searching -- I've been unable to find a way to go about the installation I have planned.

I want to triple boot Vista, XP, and Linux -- which I can easily find a dozen different guides for -- but to complicate matters is that I would like to use BitLocker on my Vista install, as well as the fact that I won't actually be installing Vista for (at least) a couple more months, so until then my install will be XP-XP-Linux, with the primary XP install eventually being replaced with Vista, and the secondary (a highly customized, striped down XP Lite version) remaining behind for some gaming and some other things Vista DRM may get in the way of.

My main question regarding all of this has to do with partitioning my drive for the install (this will all be on a notebook, so it's a single 200gb 7200RPM SATA drive I've just purchased I'll be installing this on.)

I'd originally planned to setup the drive something along the lines of:

2GB primary boot partition (FAT32) (Needed for Vista/Bitlocker as I understand it)
140GB primary Vista/XP partition (NTFS)
20GB primary XPLite partition (NTFS)
20GB unallocated extended partition left for Linux partitions.

I used Gparted to setup my drive like this to proceed with the first XP (later to be Vista) install, and I didn't get any farther than that as I immediately ran into the problem that XP setup won't load past the initial disk setup and file copy portion of the install (to the part that loads from the hard drive after the first reboot) due an invalid media/boot disk or some such error message.

I've since learned that this is due to the ways (and limitations) in which Windows likes to load itself onto a drive, so I started over and instead of Gparted, went ahead and used the XP CD to partition the drive -- and ended up with a drive that looked like:

Primary partition C: ("SYSTEM" drive that holds boot.ini, etc) NTFS, 2gb
Logical drive D: ("BOOT" drive that contains XP os) NTFS, 140gb
Logical drive E: (empty 20gb NTFS partition)
(rest of the drive is unallocated free space)

This obviously isn't what I wanted, and pretty sure this will cause problems for me down the line, so I'm asking for advice on what my partition layout should look like and how exactly to go about setting those partitions up and installing the various OS's.

Thanks in advance for any assistance.
What I would do is set up three partitions like you suggested, but only install linux and xp on two of them, and leave the third one for vista. I would just use the two. Use Gparted or another boot disc to create the partitioning scheme. When you do get vista, use easybcd and set it up like normal.
I'd add to that: if you only have 3 partitions, keep them all primary. Logical/extended partitions can wreak havoc on dual-boot systems.