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I'd like to install both Ubuntu 12.04 and Windows XP on a Dell laptop, and I was thinking about using a dual boot structure, and using the bulk of my hard drive as empty hard drive space to share files between the two operating systems (so choice of file system type is very important in this set-up).

The kind of partitioning structure I would like to use is

Partition 1 - Ubuntu 12.04 (root) (20GB)

Partition 2 - Ubuntu /home (20GB)

Partition 3 : Free Space (560GB)

Partition 4 : Windows XP (35GB)

Partition 5 : SWAP (3GB)

(Total Hardrive Capacity is ~640GB)

My question is; what is the best way to go about setting up this kind this system?

Should I install Windows XP first and setup the partitions, and then install Ubuntu which I believe will install the GRUB bootloader for OS booting choice


Do I install Ubuntu first, setting up the available partitions and then perform a WIndows install?

Please let me know if there is anything in this setup that I have left out and should know about, including things related to setting particular partitions as logical or primary, and whether the boot partition and the filesystem partition should actually be two separate partitions.

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Have you already read the community wiki page about this? – Samik Jun 19 '12 at 10:33
set up windows first, because windows will overwrite your boot menu if installed afterwards, and you'll have to manually write ubuntu's entry – Piyush Jun 19 '12 at 10:36
Install XP first. Make the shared data partition NTFS. I'd not bother with a seperate /home either. Read the wiki page above. – 23 93 26 35 19 57 3 89 Jun 19 '12 at 11:12
It depends on you. If you install Ubuntu first then after installing XP install EasyBCD. Use "BCD deployment" to reconfigure the boot loader. – Curious Apprentice Jun 19 '12 at 19:20
@elfy I usually make a separate home partition because if anything happens to /, home is good to go, easily backed up and restored into a new system. That's something important to consider. – SaultDon Jun 19 '12 at 20:46
up vote 3 down vote accepted

The Windows bootloader is very fussy and does NOT work well with other operating systems - it ignores them when installing and will overwrite their bootloader if it is installed in the MBR (master boot record) already. Installing Windows second makes it harder to get back into a workable grub menu.

So the recommended solution is to install Windows first, then install Ubuntu which shouldn't create conflicts in the MBR.

If you install Ubuntu first, then Windows, the MBR will have problems when installing service packs for example. Upon reboot, the system may fail or not boot at all, sometimes the SP updates will fail altogether and lead to instability. Then you will have to reboot into repair/command line to repair the MBR (the command FIXMBR). Then re-install GRUB everytime there is a significant Windows Update (not all updates are affected by this)!

A simple partition set-up could look like:

Partition 1: Windows XP
Partition 2: Free Space
Partition 3: Extended Partition (rest of disk)
Partition 4: Swap
Partition 5: Root
Partition 6: Home

Partitions 4-6 are inside the extended partition. By having your Ubuntu installation inside an extended partition means it will boot from the extended partition and not / "root". Though it's up to you whether or not you want an extended partition.

It doesn't really matter where you do the partitioning as long as it gets done. To start with, you could install Windows and just partition what it needs, leaving the rest of the disk un-partitioned. Then when you install Ubuntu, partition the rest of the disk as needed.

Or do it all in one fell swoop with a partition boot disk like gparted for example.

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You should install Windows XP first. Create an NTFS partition for Windows XP, and set it to the desired size. Create a FAT32 partition to share data between the two operating systems in the amount that you want. Then install Ubuntu, and create the partitions needed. During the installation you can create the partitions needed manually, or choose the automatic option. This way you won't have to use boot-repair to fix your boot situation.

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In addition to the others' answers, you can also install Ubuntu first and then XP. Then, use EasyBCD to chainload the Ubuntu partition from the Windows boot menu. (Though this is a viable choice, the established method is usually a better idea.)

I would recommend first using a GParted liveCD to make all your partitions before you install either OS. That way, you don't have to worry about XP doing things like making a "System Reserved" partition.

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