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Dual boot Windows 7 and Ubuntu 11.10

I just got a new laptop with Windows 7 Home Premium pre-installed and the 750GB HDD already partitioned three ways (OS, Data, Recovery). I'd like to completely re-partition with Ubuntu, Swap and one Windows partition, but I'm confused at to what is the best way to do this.

I've been told that Windows' bootloader always wants to reside in the MBR. Does this mean I have to install Windows before installing Ubuntu (meaning that Windows is the first partition on the HDD) or can it be done so that it's laid out in the order:

Ubuntu [500GB] > Swap [6GB] > Windows [whatever's left]

I know that if I install Windows after Ubuntu, GRUB will be removed from the MBR, but is it possible then to just re-install GRUB, or will Windows always resist?


marked as duplicate by Nitin Venkatesh, Lekensteyn, Jorge Castro, RolandiXor, htorque Feb 10 '12 at 23:49

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.


The, in my opinion, best way to reformat your drive is:
1)defrag the windows partition(not something i do unless i'm resizing a drive)
2)shrink it with windows tools to whatever size gives you enough space
3)leave the recovery partition alone in case you need to re-install for whatever reason
4)in the ubuntu installer create whatever free space - swap partition you need

It lets you do a windows re-install if you don't have the disk and it just works.

Windows doesn't HAVE to be on the first partition on the disk. The install windows first thing you're hearing is that if you install windows second it will wipe out the MBR and you'll have to re-install grub.

  • The thing is, I'll likely re-install Windows anyway, as the version that came with it is a typical OEM crapware-laden Home Premium image. I have a copy of Windows 7 Professional that I can use instead. In that situation, would it be a good bet to go with Lakritsbollar's suggestions above? – Aaron Hastings Feb 10 '12 at 16:16
  • Separating home is hit or miss if you have large version changes, but it is valid. I don't think windows lets you specify your partitioning much, so you'll probably want to do all the partition setup from live media. Then just choose the target partition to install to from windows media. – RobotHumans Feb 10 '12 at 16:44
  • Windows can partition a hard drive just fine. See this youtube video for instance (you can skip ahead to 1:30 or so). – Lakritsbollar Feb 10 '12 at 17:59
  • @Lakritsbollar I see it. I just remembered the custom options not letting me do something I was trying to do with partitioning. It may have been a feature stripped version of 7 I was using. – RobotHumans Feb 10 '12 at 18:31

You can partition the drive that way if you want, and then install Windows, followed by Ubuntu. Start the Windows install, delete all partitions, and then add the partitions you mentioned -- but just install Windows to the final one. Windows should have no problems with this.

I would recommend getting a separate partition for /home so you can format and reinstall the Ubuntu system at any time (or choose some other Linux distro if you feel like it down the road) with the least amount of hassle.

  • Thanks for the detailed response. I had actually forgotten about having a separate /home partition - it was something I had originally planned to do. Cheers for the reminder! In general, what kind of split are we looking at between / and /home? i.e. how much space should I ideally give to each? I know that's like asking the "how long is a piece of string" question, but thought I'd just throw it out there :) – Aaron Hastings Feb 10 '12 at 16:12
  • Is this just your desktop system, or do you plan to run some kind of server on it? If it's just your own desktop, I think that you will be more than fine with something like 20GB for / and the rest for /home. A server that places a lot of stuff in /var/ will of course need more space there. Given that you're dual-booting I'm guessing you're not going to use it as a server, though. :) – Lakritsbollar Feb 10 '12 at 17:55
  • Nah, this is just for a laptop, so no need for /var partition. Cheers for the suggestions. It's always unnerving doing anything to a new computer for the first time. Better prepare a USB key with GParted and get started :) – Aaron Hastings Feb 10 '12 at 17:59
  • Best of luck to you! – Lakritsbollar Feb 10 '12 at 18:01

Dowload Gparted, burn it on CD. You will all find it here: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/HowtoPartition

  • Julien, you misunderstand the question. I know to go about partitioning, but I have never freshly partitioned with the intention of dual-booting, so I asked here to find out the best way. – Aaron Hastings Feb 10 '12 at 17:51
  • Sorry for my late answer. In that case you can always "repair" the MBR with boot-repair. help.ubuntu.com/community/Boot-Repair – Julien Chau Mar 5 '12 at 16:46

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