I managed to hose my notebook’s partition table today while I was attempting to install [Fedora Core 3](http://fedora.redhat.com) in it. At first I tried using Partition Magic to resize the Windows NTFS partition. The resize process went without any problem whatsoever, and finally I was able to install Fedora Core 3 in the resulting free space. However this is where the problem came in. I was unable to use Partition Magic for the second time (I forgot to make space for the planned [Gentoo](http://www.gentoo.org) installation). It simply unable to decipher the partition table with an error message I forgot to take note. The DOS version of Partition Magic also failed but with different error message.
Then I tried removing the Fedora partition using Fedora’s rescue mode. fdisk spawned error messages “partition doesn’t end on cylinder boundary” or such. I ignored them and promptly deleted Linux partitions and saved the partition table. But this seemed to almost completely crippled my Windows partition. For some reason, Windows kept telling me that it failed to save files several times.
Then I tried reinstalling Windows XP from the machine’s predesktop area. It complains that the partition tables are damaged, and offered to fix them. I rejected the offer but instead rebooted into Fedora’s rescue mode again, hoping to set the partition layout the way I wanted without using Partition Magic. I deleted all the existing partition and recreate them from scratch. But when trying to install Windows XP for the second time, it still complains about the partition layout. This time I promptly accepted the offer, but after it fixed the partition table, I rebooted again into Fedora’s rescue mode to verify if the partition table is OK with Fedora. To my dismay it shows the same error message as before :(. So I thought this is a problem with Fedora. Is this the same notorious [partitioning bug in Fedora Core 2](http://lwn.net/Articles/86835/)?
Then I tried booting into Gentoo’s installation live CD, and confusingly, Gentoo’s fdisk have different interpretation of my hard drive’s geometry. I tried rebuilding the partition layout the way I did with Fedora’s rescue mode. Booting into predesktop area still shows the same boring error message, I accepted its offers to fix the errors. But booting for the second time into Gentoo’s fdisk didn’t yield any warning messages! Apparently it merely fixed the partition table by renaming the extended partition into “W95 Ext’d (LBA)”, whatever that means.
Reinstalling Windows from the predesktop area now has completed without problem, and Gentoo’s fdisk still shows no errors. Even better, fdisk from Fedora’s rescue mode is also showing no problem, and it is showing the same disk geometry shown on Gentoo’s fdisk! So, which one is causing this problem? Fedora Core 3, Partition Magic, or IBM’s predesktop area?