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I have managed to access my files with the demo but I'd like the full version. If I install Ubuntu while my vista OS isn't working will I lose my files?

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Please clarify: demo (=live DVD/CD?), full version (=installation on local hard disk?), working (=...?) Also, consider shortening the title. –  krlmlr Jan 16 '13 at 14:48
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3 Answers

I would boot to the live CD and back up the files from Vista onto a separate drive. Then do a full Ubuntu install and try to forget Vista ever existed.

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When dynamically resizing partitions (especially shrinking), as usually happens when you install Ubuntu alongside Windows, there is always a small but significant risk of data loss. So if there are no backups, this is not a good way to access the data.

The same CD/DVD/USB that you boot from to install Ubuntu can first be used to access and back up any documents and other important files. Just select Try Ubuntu instead of Install Ubuntu. You'll get a working Ubuntu desktop which you can use to access files in the broken Windows system.

To back up your data files, don't put them on the live environment's desktop -- files written to the Ubuntu live CD/DVD/USB environment exist in memory only and disappear when the system shuts down or reboots. Instead, put them on an external drive (not the one you booted from), burn them to a CD/DVD, email them to yourself, transfer them over the network to another machine (Ubuntu supports networked file sharing with Windows machines), or use a cloud storage service like DropBox or Ubuntu One ... just make sure your files are somewhere safe.

Now that you've done that, unless you intend to attempt recovery or reinstallation of the broken Windows system, you can simply install Ubuntu and tell the installer to use the entire disk, overwriting the old Windows system.

You Try Ubuntu, you don't have to reboot to start the installation -- when you're done backing up your files, just run the Ubuntu installer by double-clicking the Install Ubuntu icon on the desktop.

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You will keep your files, as long as you don't format your hard disk. Choose the option to install Ubuntu alongside Windows.

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Ok cool. Is there a minimum amount of free space I'll need for u Ubuntu (I'm going to use version 10.04.4)? And if I later find my vista installation disk will I be able to repair it without losing my files now that I have Ubuntu as well? –  Midget Jan 16 '13 at 14:25
    
1.- You will need about 4 GB, but it is a good idea to have 8 or 10 GB, depending on the size of your /home directory ("Documents", "Music", etc. in Windows). During installation, you will be asked whether you like to "import" your personal files. 2.- I would advise not to install 10.04, because it is no longer maintained. If you prefer a long-term edition, download 12.04. Otherwise, install 12.10. 3.- You don't lose your files if you don't format your disk with Ubuntu. A Vista disk should be able to repair your boot without formating. –  Ed Villegas Jan 16 '13 at 14:36
    
Yeah. I'd use a newer version but someone else gave me the disk and I currently don't have the ability to download and burn one myself. I was thinking I could update it later but also I'm not sure if my computer can handle it. I have a bit over 6GB and I've started the installation –  Midget Jan 16 '13 at 14:42
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