victor_c26 wrote:
Anybody try installing Vista on a hard drive that already has files on it?

I've got two NTFS formatted hard drives here that have files on them, and since my old 40 gig drive couldn't maintain a stable Vista install, I'd like use these other two hard drives.

Will my data go bye-bye if I try installing Vista on one of 'em?

a) VISTA *WILL* overwrite the "boot sector" of a drive it's
installed on, so if you have other *bootable operating systems*
(XP, LINUX, whatever) on the drive you're installing VISTA on,
you'll no longer be presented with the boot time option to boot
one of those other operating systems.

b) Unless the install explicitly offers to create and / or install
to a NEW (created only from existing FREE space)
or UNUSED pre-existing partition on your drive that already
contains filesystems, it will likely destroy all data
on the partition you're installing it on to, and possibly all data
on the entire drive you're installing it to.

c) If you've got an existing operating system on
a given NTFS partition and drive and you're offered
the option to and you elect to do an "upgrade" install to
upgrade the existing OS on that drive/partition to VISTA,
it'll certainly wipe out the old OS and a lot of its "configuration" parameters, but many of your "files" themselves should be preserved.  Though after the upgrade
some of your programs that were previously installed with
the old operating system may not work so if you had data
stored "in" those programs, it may not be possible to or
obvious how to get at your old data files and configurations
(e.g. saved passwords, custom dictionaries, address books,
whatever) relating to the programs that didn't "upgrade" well.

The safest thing to do would be to not let vista even write
to or "see" the drives with your old data on it; e.g. unplug
them entirely until after Vista is up and running and install
on to a spare / new hard disc.

The next best thing to do would be to backup whatever
data is critical for you to not lose on to physically distinct
places (different drives, cd/dvd discs, different PC, etc.),
then try to create as much free space on a given
disc that you'd like to install VISTA on as is desirable,
then install VISTA on to a new partition created from the
free space.  This is somewhat advanced, and likely requires
3rd party tools or fairly advanced system administration
to do right.

Some techniques that can sometimes help are:
a) use left-over contiguous unpartitioned space on the
drive that doesn't already belong to a partition to create
a new partition to install VISTA onto.

b) Delete useless files and otherwise free space in an existing
partition, shutdown the OS that may be installed on that
partition WITHOUT hibernating / suspending it, do a full
shutdown,  and use repartitioning software to shrink that
partition's size by reducing the free space on it and using
that free space to create a new NTFS partition for VISTA
to install in.