While this is no longer possible with Windows Activation Technologies in Win 7, Windows XP allows using Hardware Profiles for a shared installation that can be run either physically or virtually (e.g. using the KVM virtualization stack built into recent Linux kernels, which is a lot more convenient than VMWare Player with its kernel module dependencies, at the price of 3D graphics acceleration).
The recommended sequence for such a setup:
After shrinking a large ext3 partition using gparted to make space for an additional partition, I did not take sufficient care to notice the leading partition I newly created with cfdisk subsequently was denoted as sdc2 instead of sdc1, as one might expect.
The knack is to install the VMWare SCSI driver (included with VMWare Tools) before booting the SATA or PATA harddisk.