Dual Boot RAID Windows and Linux

Preparation is the key

Wouldn't it be great if we had one OS to rule them all, but what Windows lacks, Linux has in abundance and vice versa. If you feel the need to install and use both operating systems, don't worry, you're not alone. But anyone can dual boot...so today I'm going to show you how to setup a dual-boot RAID Windows and Linux system. Both operating systems, both RAIDed, on a single machine without hours of endless hair pulling (hopefully). I bet you're wondering what the problem is in this day and age with onboard RAID controllers. Well, for a start they're not real RAID controllers. Unlike dedicated hardware RAID cards, all onboard motherboard RAID impllementations are affectionately known as 'fakeraid' because they're not hardware at all. The actual RAID processing is still done via your CPU through drivers. This means between the OS software RAID and the fakeraid controller, there's not a lot of difference, with these exceptions: software RAID is more flexible, portable and easier to install with operating systems than fakeraid. It's flexible because you can RAID just the partitions that you want, portable because you can move the drives to another system and they're readable (compared to fakeraid controllers which require you to use the same controller family) and easier to install because you don't need some fiddly F6 install floppy driver for Windows or the extreme hassle of trying to get fakeraid controllers working through a Linux install. Software RAID, under both operating systems, is the shiz. Plus anyone can do it with just standard controllers. So that's what we're gonna use!!!

Preparation is the key
Naturally, start by planning the partition layout you want to use. For the purposes of this guide, we'll use a layout that looks like the one in the diagram below. This layout assumes two drives to be setup as RAID 0 in each OS. I'm using software RAID, so naturally this requires the OS to be installed first, at least for Windows - oddly, the Microsoft Windows installer is unable to read its own dynamic disks that are used for software RAID, so you can't create them first and then install onto them. As a result the Windows boot drive needs to be installed on its own partition. Linux has no such problem... In the diagram included below, treat the first partition of the first drive just the way Windows likes it - as a C: boot drive. This is also where the NT boot manager will naturally go. You can however point the Windows core and/or the 'program files' directory to another drive. This certainly helps in putting all your apps and games on the RAIDed partition, but not Windows itself (because the installer can't see the RAID). The first partitions counterpart on the second drive is a great place to put your /boot directory, your /home, or anything else for which you don't want to risk to the redundancies (or lack thereof) of RAID 0. These directories don't, after all, really benefit from RAID anyway and it means that you can happily re-install your Linux desktop without wiping your /home.

Linux md RAIDs Drive 1 Drive 1

Linux md RAIDs Drive 2 Drive 2

......................Linux md RAIDs...................

1. Assuming a blank drive, boot your Windows install disk (or your own slipstreamed install version) and at the partitioning stage create a single partition where you'll install Windows.

2. Do the deed and install Windows. After you reboot into your fresh desktop click Start -> Run and type in 'diskmgmt.msc' Now use the Windows disk management interface to setup all the remaining partitions you need, as per the layout of your system, including where you'll be installing Linux. There is a reason for this: namely, Linux fdisks can't see or use Windows Dynamic Disks. What's a Dynamic Disk I hear you ask? Well you're about to make one!!!

3. You'll note that while all the drives are listed as 'Basic' you won't find any software RAID options for setting up your Windows software RAID drive. To access this, right click on the drive icon in the panel and select 'Convert to Dynamic Disk'. Dynamic Disks are Windows way of doing nifty things like JBOD and RAID. Unfortunately, it requires modifying the partition table to do so, and into a format only Windows understands (but not the Windows installer...sweet )

4. You'll see the drives change colour, but the partition structure remains the same. Right click on the partitions you set aside for Windows and delete them.

5. Right click on either one of the empty space partitions you want in the RAID and select to create a 'striped' partition.

6. Select the other partition from the list, click 'Add' and create your software RAID 0 array

7. Format it in NTFS as you would any other partition.

Now let's move on to getting Linux set up...
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Most Recent Comments

22-02-2006, 05:13:44

Phew done Quote

22-02-2006, 05:29:09


The guide king strikes again


22-02-2006, 06:19:28

Thanks kemp Quote

22-02-2006, 06:45:58

Nice, Nice, Nice Quote

22-02-2006, 09:12:11

mate I wish I could toss ya some reps for that one! Quote

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