This year, my father also wanted to upgrade his computer, as did my mother. I had a shop build one with the exact same parts. I imaged my mother's computer drive with Acronis, and imaged it back to my father's computer. So far so good. But I had installed Windows 7 with its default setting, which creates two partitions - a "recovery partition", which was about 100 MB, and a regular Windows 7 NTFS partition, which was about 931 GB.
My father has been a Linux user for a very long time, and only desired Windows for very occasional use. In the past, it was fairly easy to dual-boot Windows & Linux. Not so this time.
First, I had to shrink the Windows NTFS partition using the "shrink" tool. But this didn't work. There were a variety of unmovable system files towards the end apparently. Even after defragmenting the drive, the shrink feature of the Windows disk manager could only reduce the drive by a measly 300 MB ! The solution was very complicated : I erased all the partitions, reinstalled Windows 7 with a small partitions, and then re-restored my mother's computers into the small partition from my backup drive using Acronis True Image 2009. Now, I had a working Windows 7 installation, and some free unpartitioned space.
The next 3 days were spent trying to install various versions of Linux, mostly Fedora Core 11 64 bits, as well as Ubuntu 8.x. This was always unsuccessful. Typically, the Fedora installation program just crashed with exceptions. Just hours before I was supposed to leave, I got the idea to delete the 100 MB Windows 7 recovery partition. I then restored its content from the Acronis backup onto the large Windows partition, and booted with the DFSEE tool to make the Windows 7 partition active. But Windows 7 still didn't boot correctly. I then booted the Windows 7 DVD and used the recovery option. Amazingly, that worked. I now had a single 212 GB NTFS Windows 7 partition that was booting. After that, the Fedora Core 11 installation proceeded like a breeze.
Moral of the story : if you want to dual-boot Windows 7 and Linux - do not let the Windows 7 installer create the recovery partition when you get prompted to let Windows create additional partitions. Just say no !