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If I create a partition to backup files in windows before installing Ubuntu, is that partition safe after installing Ubuntu?

Also I plan on replacing Windows 7 with Ubuntu.

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Definitively no!

Creating a new partition for backups, then installing Ubuntu on a separate partition will not affect your files in the backups partition. What you will want to be cautious of is creating the partitions, because if done wrong you can lose all of the data on that drive.

My suggestion would be to make your partitions with GParted off the Ubuntu LiveCD.

here is a similar question with instructions on how to do this.

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If I have understood your question correctly you can do the following

  1. Have two partitions, one is Windows and second is for data. (FAT32 or NTFS)
  2. Install Ubuntu on the Windows Partition i.e replace Windows

You can easily install Ubuntu on any partition at install time.

If you want your Data partition to be accessible from Ubuntu please see Mounting Partitions. Although I believe the partitions should mount automatically.

I wouldn't recommend resizing an NTFS partition from within Ubuntu. Gparted is good, but all NTFS support in the linux kernel is reverse-engineered. There's no reason to trust something like a filesystem resize to that when you still have Windows accessible. So My advice for partitioning is that you should use Windows Partitioning tool before installing Ubuntu

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I have had strange issues after removing windows and re-sizing my partitions.. using GParted from the liveCD everything appeared to work, but then things stopped wanting to mount, and finally I ended up with a borked system (no DE, no Internet, no GUI recovery mode, ect..) - however this all happened in the 5 days following the resize. – rlemon Feb 22 '12 at 21:25
After shrinking the Windows partition, you should reboot once (or twice) into Windows prior to installing Ubuntu. This allows the Windows system to automatically rescan the newly-resized partition and write changes to its own bootloader configuration files. If you start mucking around with other partitions before Windows has a chance to reset itself, the Windows bootloader will not be able to read the partition table properly and will not boot entirely. If this happens, you may later have to repair the Windows partition bootup files manually using the Windows Recovery Console. – Khurram Majeed Feb 22 '12 at 21:29
yea my issue was: 1) Removed Windows alltogether, 2) Booted to LiveCD, 3) Merged my newly free'd space with my Ubuntu partition, 4) Boot into Ubuntu from my SSD (not LiveCD).... 5 days and maybe 6-7 boots later it was borked. --- not an issue just mentioning it so others can see it MAY cause problems when diddling around with partition sizes. – rlemon Feb 22 '12 at 21:31
It is always best to backup your data to an external medium (HDD, DVD or on line) before resizing partitions. You can never be sure. – Khurram Majeed Feb 22 '12 at 21:34
yup. It is also good to know that you can still boot in using the LiveCD and attempt to recover your data. I was able to pull my /.cache and /.config out after the bork (those being the two things I never think to make weekly backups of) – rlemon Feb 22 '12 at 21:50

Ubuntu will not mess with your partitions. However, partitioning in the installation can be a bit confusing.

Since you want to replace Windows with Ubuntu, you can boot the Ubuntu Live CD, open gparted to format and move partitions, as you see fit.

For example: You can wipe the Windows partition and move the data backup partition to include all contiguous empty space. When you install Ubuntu, let it use that empty space.

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the "Yes, Ubuntu doesn't" is confusing.. can you think of a way to re-word this to be a bit more concise? – rlemon Feb 22 '12 at 21:21

Your partition will be safe when installing Ubuntu but even if you did not create a backup partition, your information would still be safe since installing Ubuntu side by side with windows will not affect Windows in any way (except taking a small amount of space for the ubuntu partitions).

The only case I know where you would loose the backup files would be when partitioning the hard drive and a power down would occur. That would be bad luck but not something that would be Ubuntu's fault.

So doing a backup partition or installing it side by side would result in the same thing in terms of safety for the information of Windows.

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