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How best to install Linux for a windows dual boot?

Link to this post 14 Jul 13

I want to keep Windows because there are some programs I need which have no Linux equivalent.

I want to first install Linux on an eee pc 1015PEM netbook, before later doing my PC then my laptop.

This HDD is already formatted with 4 primary partitions of which 2 are hidden (those without drive letters).
100gb, ntfs c:
15gb
118gb, ntfs d:
20mb

c: is the boot disk. I made an Ubuntu usb 'boot disk', a windows backup (saved on an external drive) and a windows system repair dvd.

I shrunk c: by 25gb, but Windows disk management would not let be reclaim that 25gb as a new drive. First I got a warning:

The operation you selected will convert the selected basic disk(s) to dynamic disk(s). If you convert disk(s) to dynamic you will not be able to start installed operation systems from any volume on the disk(s) (except the current boot volumne). Are you sure you want to continue?

Clicking 'yes' just fails with an error message:

Dynamic disks are not supported by this operating system or server configuration. Dynamic disks are not supported on clusters.

I quite like to use a lot of drives (swap drives, data drives, etc.) and I want both Linux and Windows to share data. What is the best way to proceed?

PS: Please don't advise me to use virtualization (this netbook has only 2gb ram). I will just ignore you.

PS: I have external usb dvd and hdd.

Q1: Is it possible to happily re-partition without having to wipe the current windows o/s.
Q2: Is that big, 15gb, hidden partition just there for recovery? Could I put Linux there?
Q3: With data stored on ntfs data drives, are both o/s able to share the data happily (mainly pdfs, epubs, mp3s, videos).
Q4: Can I shrink the primary patition (c:) and reallocate the space to the next one along - a hidden one?
Q5: What purpose does that last hidden 20mb partition serve?

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