My laptop has a legacy Windows 7 boot image on it that I want to preserve, but I want to also install Windows 8 and set that up as a development box so I can work on the move if necessary.
I used the built in Disk Management to shrink my Windows 7 partition and create ~200 GB free space, which I left unallocated.
I boot the Windows 8 install disk, create a 128 GB partition and install Windows and some dev tools. Ok so far – I can boot back to Windows 7 whenever I want to.
Next I decide to create another partition for data, so in future I can reinstall Windows without worrying about rebuilding source code repositories’ working folders, etc. I use Disk Management in Windows 8 (WinKey+X to access a handy cheat popup of tools). It warns me that to do this it will need to convert the drive to Dynamic Disks or something. Hmm.
Cancel and reboot to Windows 7. Same thing. Oh well. I can’t be the first person in the world to want more than 3 partitions. I accept the warning and watch as the partitions change from Basic to Dynamic.
I reboot. Windows 8 goes into repair mode and starts fixing things. After a few minutes it lets me login, but I’m worried I didn’t get asked whether I wanted Windows 7 or Windows 8. I reboot. Straight back to Windows 8 – no way to boot to Windows 7.
Disk Management in Windows 8 shows my Windows 8 partition and my new Data partition as both being Basic again. The other partitions are gone – just showing as Unallocated space. Oopsy. Not the end of the world and I intended to rebuild my Windows 7 at some point, just not right now.
Wikipedia has some good info on basic disk partitioning. It seems that there really is a cliff after 3/4 partitions. My laptop already had a small FAT32 partition and a recovery partition that were factory installed, so adding my 5th partition triggered some pretty drastic changes (and a warning I, um, ignored, *ahem*).
TestDisk is a free utility that I ran from within Windows 8 which showed my my old partitions and let me undelete them.
Then I booted from a Windows 7 Repair disk I made ages ago and lobbed into a desk drawer. This auto-detected boot problems and fixed them. Now the pretty Windows 8 boot loader shows me two options: “Windows 8 Enterprise” & “Windows 7 Professional (recovered)” both of which boot.