I have a computer with windows 7 installed. I'm sharing it with other people that don't accept a boot screen where you choose between windows and Ubuntu, but I want to be able to run Ubuntu from an internal drive.

Is there a way for me to install Ubuntu on a HDD partition without tampering with the existing boot procedure at all, and having a bootable USB thumb-drive that lets me boot up Ubuntu?

Please take into consideration that it's not an option to first install Ubuntu and then restoring the MBR from some sort of backup, since the other users of the computer in question are quite paranoid.


2 Answers 2


You could install Ubuntu without overwriting the MBR, and then boot it using SuperGrub2 USB. That said, taking in consideration the other users, that route might prove an Indiana Jones kind of adventure for you. Dealing with partitions and installing OSs is never bulletproof, things can go wrong in many ways.

I'd recommend a VirtualBox route instead, you don't have to modify partitions, deal with bootloaders or burn CDs/USBs. If something goes wrong, just delete the VM.

  • I'm not sure I can go the VirtualBox route, since the computer currently runs a 32-bit version of windows 7 and I'd like to play around with 64-bit ubuntu. Tampering with partitions isn't a big problem since there are two hard drives installed, one only containing media files, so it's easy to back up in a way that can be easily verified. I have to look into SuperGrub2 though.
    – Buhb
    Mar 15, 2012 at 15:49
  • Now that I've had a quick look at SuperGrub2, it seems like a fine way to move forward. I'll try it out and see if this method works, unless an even more appealing answer pops up before I'm done.
    – Buhb
    Mar 15, 2012 at 16:08
  • Since there is no option to not install Grub when installing Ubuntu, the way to avoid overwriting the MBR is to install Grub to a partition - the Ubuntu root partition being an obvious candidate. That option is only available when doing manual partitioning, so make sure to select 'Something else' at the partitioning stage, and then change the default selection of where to install Grub. As for SuperGrub2, use Unetbootin to write it to USB. Good luck, and keep me posted. Mar 15, 2012 at 16:31
  • It works! Unfortunately, Unetbootin only supports SuperGrub (not SuperGrub2), and it takes the better part of an eternity for it to list partitions to boot from. I guess I must try to get SuperGrub2 onto a thumbdrive one of these days in order to see if I can get shorter startup time.
    – Buhb
    Mar 19, 2012 at 7:33

Great explanation of grub2 options on ubuntu forums here.

The options you're interested in contain the words HIDDEN, WAIT, and DEFAULT.
You want to install grub, but change some settings:

#Change the previous 0 to the ID of the windows install

To make windows the default and make sure they don't notice grub unless they're leaning on the shift key.

  • Interesting option. This way I can leave out the USB drive completely. The downside is that I must tamper with the existing boot procedure. I was hoping I could avoid that.
    – Buhb
    Mar 15, 2012 at 15:42
  • 1
    Installing grub to the USB and having it reference the installed hard drives is possible, but it will bring you a headache later when something changes. Much easier to just hide the grub menu Mar 15, 2012 at 15:45
  • What kind of changes would give me what sort of headache?
    – Buhb
    Mar 15, 2012 at 15:50
  • Adding anything that looks like a mass storage device that throws off you drive lettering/numbering. UUIDs solve most of it, but what if someone has a USB camera plugged in and it gets USB boot selection priority over your thumb-drive? Just something to think about. That being said, if you're planning on updating the kernel, you probably want to move the windows grub script to the top of the list so it's doesn't move. Mar 15, 2012 at 15:52
  • That is an interesting point. I do believe we are all agreed on that the best way to run a dual boot system is to have some sort of menu (hidden or not) that isn't relying on drive lettering or usb drives; however my hands are tied (well some diplomacy from my part might unty them but right now it feels like a longshot).
    – Buhb
    Mar 15, 2012 at 15:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.