If you really are tempted to install different operating systems you can purchase multiple harddrives, each one with their own different operating system. Or You can also do what is called partitioning. Partitioning is basically divide your harddrive like a Pie. You can slize it into different pieces each piece will be written by each operating system.
Regardless of the operating system, the partitioning process is quite the same. Basically it consist of the Harddrive, what is called the filesystem, the start and end point which is usually called a cilinder.
Most graphical partition applications hide the cylinder value and shows the ammount of megabytes. Each megabyte will have around 10800 cylinders which by the large number is hard to think that a normal user won't relate. For that reason it converts the ammount into MB. The key is when to start the partitioning and when to finish. This is important so you dont overlap partitions.
As we mention before filesystems also play a big role in paritioning. Depending of the operating system that you run, it will behave differently. For example on Windows 95 operating system, it wont be able to read a filesystem called NTFS. Windows XP won't read JFS, and Linux won't be able to write on a NTFS filesystem. That is the reason to know which filesystem will depend your operating system.
By default the convention says the following:
- Windows 95 / 98 / ME will use Fat16 and Fat32
- Older versions of Mac will use a filesystem called HFS
- Linux will have compatibility with different filesystems some of them are, XFS, JFS, ReiserFS, ext2 and ext3
- Windows 2000 and XP will use by default NTFS which will let you save larger files (more than 2 GB)
So we covered basically the filesystem and the cylinders the final step is to know the program. Here is a screenshot of different partitiong software.
Windows will have software such as Partition Magic. Newer versions of Windows will include partition utilities
Linux will include GParted, which is a very good utility. The advantage over the other tools is that you can get it on a USB drive or CD.
OSX also have internal tools to partition the drives, which are under Disk Utilities.
Partitioning a HardDrive with Gparted
Gparted is a program for Linux, but also fits in a USB Drive or a CD-ROM. The download is just a tiny 30MB image file, which you will either burn on your CD or use a special utilit described on the USB documentation.
The interface also has a graphical representation of the Harddrive and will be devided by colors and show the ammount in megabytes.
If you already have a different OS in your harddrive you might want to resize instead of just divide it. With GParted latest version you wont have any issues during the resize. The libraries are very stable and if something goes wrong your data won't get destroyed and instead will do a rollback.
Please view the documentaiton to provide assistance on how to install and run the program.