How to format a Maxtor SATA hard drive in Linux

Q I am presently building my own computer and have installed Debian. Whatever I have now done, I can no longer log in. Could you please tell me how to format the Maxtor SATA hard drive? I wish to start again and install two partitions - one for Vista and one for Linux. I have tried using command instructions but these seem very cryptic. I wish to fully reformat and reinstall both operating systems. I have tried different shell commands but with no success.

A Both Vista and Ubuntu have options to completely reformat the hard drive before installation. You should install Vista (or any Windows variant) first, because the Ubuntu installer will see the Windows system and add a suitable boot menu, whereas Vista will simply try to overwrite any other OS it finds. You could install Windows and take the option to use the whole disk. Then run the Ubuntu installer and let its guided partitioner shrink your Windows partition to create those needed for Linux. However, this involves an unnecessary resizing of the Windows filesystem. A better method is to boot from the Ubuntu install disc using the 'Try Ubuntu Without Making Any Change To Your Computer' option, and run System > Administration > Partition Editor and delete all your partitions, then create one partition at the start of the disk for Windows.

Make it whatever size you want to give to Windows and leave the rest of the drive empty - do not try to create the Linux partitions. Click on Apply and wait for the partition editor to do its stuff. Now reboot, swap discs and install Windows into the partition you created, which Windows should see as C:. Once the Windows installation is complete and working, reboot from the Ubuntu disk, choose the 'Try Ubuntu Without Making Any Change To Your Computer' option again and then run Install from its desktop icon. Let the partitioner install into the unused space you left, which it should do by default, although you may want to tell it to create a separate partition for /home.

When the Ubuntu installer finishes, you should be able to reboot and see a menu offering you a choice between Windows and Linux. While all of this is possible using the command line, and faster when you know what you're doing, all the GUI tools you need to do it are on the installation disc, so there should be no need to learn the commands you find so cryptic. They aren't really cryptic, just unfamiliar if you haven't used them before, but that's why we have friendly GUIs to do the same job.

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