I don't really like sharing the computer with the rest of my family, because they tend to install a ton of random crap which slows down the computer, then start disabling the antivirus because they complain it's all so slow. So anyway, I'm considering if I could install my own copy of Windows 7 onto the other partition of the HDD.
Basically at the moment the harddrive is partitioned into 2 separate parts. I'm thinking of just backing up the data in the second partition to an external HDD, format and install Windows 7 to the second partition, then transfering all the data back to the partition. After that, simply mark whichever partition I want to boot up to as 'Active' in order to switch between the different Windows versions.
Will this work? Will there be any complications in doing so? Thanks.
The first complication is that Win 7 likes to create a 100 MB System Partition and whether it will do that or not on a drive with an existing partition is dubious. You may be able to get some kind of partition / boot manager software that may make it possible but without such software I think you will find it very difficult if not impossible. However I do know one way it may just work.
Download a program called Truecrypt. Truecrypt allows you to install a Hidden OS behind another existing OS. I have never tried with Win 7 but I succeeded with Vista. Truecrypt clones the existing OS to a second partition and then requires a password at boot up. Password 1 takes you to the original install while password 2 takes you to the Hidden OS. The Hidden OS of course is the one you will use. The second partition becomes the main system partition and Windows sees nothing unusual. The Boot Process is launched by Truecrypt so you can easily go to your very own OS on the same HDD as long as it has more than one partition which yours does. Do back up all your data and your families. Truecrypt is an encryption program that just happens to do what you need for different reasons. However once everything is encrypted if you lose the passwords say goodbye to all your data. Backup first.
You know, you CAN monitor and setup accounts so that the other people cannot install things without admin approval. That's how I have it set up. Sure, it hampers the others from installing "crap" as you say, but it has worked out.
Most anti-virus now can be protected with passwords so that only the person who knows it can disable it. Again, setting them to a non-admin account will prevent them from uninstalling applications that require admin permissions, etc. You can even set it up so they are not allowed to install anything. Might tick them off, but explain to them how the anti-virus is VERY important, especially with a shared computer where you cannot monitor it 24x7 all the time. Explain to them how REALLY slow it will get, or even become unusable if they keep disabling the protections you have in place they install a virus. I'm sure they'll REALLY love that. Might be the ONLY way to make them understand and see the light. Otherwise, lock them out. That will stop it or else, turn off the internet.
Also, what you are proposing still doesn't protect the second installation from viruses. The other users could still infect that drive with viruses and you'll still be hosed.
It sounds draconian, but believe me, my family has no problems with using the built-in security that exists within Windows 7, especially when I've informed them of the types of viruses out there. That scared them enough to learn to live with the lock down.