After getting bounced around between Microsoft Tech Support and MSDN Tech
Support (seem to be separate entities) and collecting almost 5 different
toll-free numbers for them, I finally resolved the error with help from a very
talented and patient MSDN Tech Support professional.
Basically, the machine had two partitions - one using Windows XP and other
Linux. And somehow the Linux partition was coming out as the primary active
partition. So every time I was trying to install Vista, whether from within XP
or boot from DVD, it was trying to look for an empty space on this partition.
And of course it was not able to find any space because this file system is not
NTFS. Now when I look at the
error message again, it makes sense. But can't the installation process find
out that there are multiple partitions, one of them using NTFS, and then provide
that information ?
With tech support help, I resolved the issue by deleting and formatting both
the partitions. Another way to resolve this was to set Windows XP as the active
I almost lost faith in Microsoft Tech Support but this one talented
individual helped me restore it.