I'd like to dual-boot install Ubuntu 10.04 on the same hard drive as Windows 7 which has already been installed.

  1. As to sources on the internet:

    I found a website iinet about dual-boot installation of Ubuntu 10.10 and Windows 7 on the same hard drive, which I think more specific than the one on Ubuntu Community without specific version of the OSes. Since I am installing Ubuntu 10.04 instead of 10.10, my question is whether their installers are same or almost same and if I can follow iinet for my dual-boot installation?

    Or are there better websites for information about dual-boot installtion of Ubuntu 10.04 and Windows 7?

  2. As to shrinking Windows partitions to make free space for Ubuntu partitions:

    iinet uses the partition software in Ubuntu's installer to shrink the Windows partition.

    But I saw in many website that the partition software in Ubuntu's installer cannot guarantee shrinking Windows 7 partitions successfully, so they recommended in general to shrink Windows partitions under Windows itself using its softwares. For example, in Ubuntu Community, it says:

    Some people think that the Windows partition must be resized only from within Windows Vista and Windows 7 using the shrink/resize option. ... If you use GParted Partition Editor in the Ubuntu Live CD be careful.

    So I was wondering which way to go in my situation?

  3. As to partition for bootloader files:

    In iinet, I don't see there is a partition created and dedicated to boot files (i.e. Grub files).

    However, I saw in many websites strongly suggesting using a boot partition for Grub files, especially for the purpose of separation and protection from installed OS files.

    I was wondering which way I should choose and why?

  4. As to installing bootloader Grub,

    in iinet, I see that to install Grub it only needs to specify the hard drive device for bootloader installation.

    However, in ubuntuguide(for more than 2 OSes and Ubuntu 9.04), some commands are needed to run in order to put Grub configuration files in MBR, and OS partition, for the chain-load process (where to find the files for the next stage).

    In Ubuntu Community, there are some related sentences which I don't quite understand how to do in practice:

    the only thing in your computer outside of Ubuntu that needs to be changed is a small code in the MBR (Master Boot Record) of the first hard disk. The MBR code is changed to point to the boot loader in Ubuntu.

    If you have a problem with changing the MBR code, you might prefer to just install the code for pointing to GRUB to the first sector of your Ubuntu partition instead. If you do that during the Ubuntu installation process, then Ubuntu won't boot until you configure some other boot manager to point to Ubuntu's boot sector. Windows Vista no longer utilizes boot.ini, ntdetect.com, and ntldr when booting. Instead, Vista stores all data for its new boot manager in a boot folder. Windows Vista ships with an command line utility called bcdedit.exe, which requires administrator credentials to use. You may want to read http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=112156 about it.

    Using a command line utility always has its learning curve, so a more productive and better job can be done with a free utility called EasyBCD, developed and mastered in during the times of Vista Beta already. EasyBCD is user friendly and many Vista users highly recommend EasyBCD.

    In what is quoted above, I was wondering how exactly I should change the MBR code to point to the bootloader in Ubuntu? if I fail to change MBR code, are the other suggested boot managers being bcdedit.exe and EasyBCD in Windows?

    With the three sources above, which one shall I follow?

Thanks and regards

  1. Sources

    The official DualBoot help guide should be on your reading list. It covers a lot more including links on how to repair things should they go wrong.

    I have nothing against the "iinet" website you've linked to but several steps could be simplified. I'd personally opt to resize the Windows partition before running the installer. This will allow you to just select the "Install alongside other operating systems" option when that choice appears and that'll shave off several steps in the installer (and simplify the process).

    I guess something worth mentioning is you probably shouldn't read too much. Sounds strange but there are indeed many ways to skin a cat and if you get conflicting advice from different sources, you end up confused. Pick one way and follow it.

  2. Shrinking NTFS

    If fairness to gparted (et al) they offer just as much a guarantee as Windows does resizing it itself. That is to say: none.

    If you have data on there that you can't restore with just a reinstall and a small amount of time, back up your data! You don't have to go as far as cloning the whole partition (via CloneZilla et al), you can just punt your profile (documents, photos, other media, etc) off to an external disk or even an online backup service.

    But for what it's worth, parted (and it's graphical counterparts) is quite a robust tool that doesn't take your data integrity lightly. It will test as much as it can before doing anything. I've never had any problems with gparted in 5 years of using it.

    Either approach is equally good. Use whatever you're most comfortable with.

  3. A /boot/ partition

    I don't see any benefit of a dedicated boot partition. It's not needed.

  4. MBR setup

    I'd personally let Ubuntu claim the MBR on the disk (just do the standard setup) it should pick up Windows 7 and add it to the boot list.

    Of course things can go wrong at this stage but they're usually repairable. (Unlike my usual advice) I suggest you just roll with it and worry later. A lot of work goes into making Ubuntu dual-boot in a sensible way so you shouldn't need to do anything.

  • Thanks! Yes, as I read more, things become clearer generally, but at the same time more confusing in some aspects. Probably because different sources are for different versions of OSes and bootloaders, I guess? – Tim Jan 5 '11 at 16:20

You can safely run the Wubi installer from within Windows -- no need to change your harddisk partitions at all! Then, when the computer boots and before Windows starts, you get a screen where you can choose what to start. This is part of the Window boot mechanism, so nothing scary is being done.

If you don't like the installation, you can later remove it just like you remove any other Windows application, and Windows boots normally just as before, only now the choice to start Ubuntu is gone again.

If you decide that Ubuntu is exactly what you want, then you can install it "properly" on it's own partitions later. But by then you're already familiar with Ubuntu, which is an advantage.

This is what I did, and it helped me tremendously (as a new Linux user) to try it out before making any drastic changes to my computer.

  • Thanks! I have been a Ubuntu User for almost two years and gradually picked up things. But I did not have much experience and understanding on dual-boot installation with Windows, which is the way I prefer over running Ubuntu in virtual box under Windows. – Tim Jan 5 '11 at 16:43
  • I see. using Wubi compared to Ubuntu inside a Windows-hosted virtualbox at least gets rid of the tedious Windows boot time, and is just as "real" as running it off it's own partition -- except for the boot manager, so if that's your personal education goal in this process then I understand why you want real partition-based dual-booting. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 5 '11 at 16:49

First of all I think you imagine the installation a bit more difficult than it really is. The installer is pretty smart and will guide you through that.

1) There will be no real differences in the installer I think, you should manage just fine. BTW why 10.04, why not 10.10 right away?

2) I don't know about that, I installed Win 7 once but after installing Ubuntu. But I did install win xp later than ubuntu some time ago and there were no troubles at all.

3) Ive never done anything like that, dont think its necessary.

4) Most likely the installator will do it for you, there is no need for setting anything. If not let us know then, but most likely that wont happen.

  • Thanks! As to 1), I would like to install the latest LTS version because I might live without reinstallation for quite a while. Unless 10.04 has some major flaws that 10.10 has solved? – Tim Jan 5 '11 at 16:18
  • I see, I forgot about that, not really, you can stay with that, I was just curious. – tsusanka Jan 5 '11 at 16:35
  • @Tim the LTS version is always a safe bet. There's no reason to go for newer versions unless they contain new things you can't do without. One such thing in 10.10 could be the new photo manager Shotwell, just to name an example. (See also my answer about Wubi.) – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 5 '11 at 16:38

On the /boot partition...

Some of the docs you have read may be outdated. At one time, some computer systems were running with a BIOS that was not able to provide disk access beyond the 1024th sector. So a small partition for booting was created within the limit. After booting, the 1024 limit could be ignored (because the kernel had no such limitation - just the BIOS).

But, today, let's say you have a software RAID array that the BIOS cannot detect. A small /boot partition provides the method for GRUB to load the kernel, and the kernel can use the software RAID array. Or maybe in a network boot scenario, the kernel is local while the root file system is mounted. Or, for the paranoid, the boot partition could be mounted with the noauto option in /etc/fstab so that the /boot directory always appears empty until mounted.

So... if you do not already know why you need one, you don't need one. :)


  • Thanks! So you have explained why boot partition used to be placed in the first 1024 sector limit and it is not necessary now. Is it correct that when having a boot partition, there are no need to have any boot files in the ubuntu OS partition? – Tim Jan 5 '11 at 21:35
  • Also, what is your opinion about the second comment of askubuntu.com/questions/19796/filesystem-types-for-partitions/…, which recommend using different partitions for OS files and boot: "The simplest reason is that if ANYTHINGGG goes wrong, you have your boot system in a different partition and you can most of the time safe everything quickly back to normal. Same goes if the boot system goes bad. you have your root partition in a different place so you can safe everything again. If you have both of them in the same place and something goes wrong, well it will get difficult." – Tim Jan 5 '11 at 21:44
  • On the location of the boot files: they would exist on a separate partition. But the partition would be mounted within the /boot directory, so that a directory listing (ls) would show the contents of the files and directories on that partition. – user8290 Jan 5 '11 at 23:39
  • On the link, well, I do not have the same experiences with file systems conflicting or writing garbage (Ubuntu 10.10), but a separate FAT32 partition for sharing still sounds like a neat idea. I have a mix of all-happy file systems: ext2, ext3, ext4, ntfs, fat32, including samba and nfs. The other comments are great in regard to the installer: I like it just as much, too. And then there's Wubi, which I didn't know. (Thanks, torbengb!) You can have a separate boot partition just because you want to do all can do with Linux. Or, go along with defaults that are good. It's /home to think about. – user8290 Jan 6 '11 at 0:17

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