After using virtual machines and wubi for the last few years I finally took the time to install ubuntu in a dual boot.

I read a ton of tutorials, but they all recommended different things. So I figured that the option "Install ubuntu along windows" would be a pretty safe and solid choice else it shouldn't be offered. I already had a second partition for my data, so there was no need for that.

Now after a succesfull installation (not really sure about, hence my question), I get the grub bootloader on startup and I have an option to also boot windows.

Is this the preferred setup? I read a lot that grub should be installed on a different partition and that windows should take care of booting. Is this true? Will windows updates break my installation?

After some searching I found that I could use easybcd as seen on http://neosmart.net/wiki/display/EBCD/Ubuntu to use the windows boot loader. Won't it overwrite the GRUB in MBR?

Thank you in advance


GRUB should be in the Master Boot Record (MBR) of the first hard drive. This is usually /sda (not to a partition within the drive, such as /sda1 etc.).

The above works for pre-UEFI / Windows 8 systems. For details of installing on UEFI/Windows 8 system see: Installing Ubuntu Alongside a Pre-Installed Windows with UEFI.

I have used this default GRUB setup for many years and never had any problem with it. In particular, Windows Updates did not mess up GRUB. However, if you need to reinstall Windows, then you will have to reinstall GRUB after installing Windows. This is easy to do. The Ubuntu installation stays unharmed by Windows installation process, unless you format the whole drive by mistake.

If you upgrade Windows, say from Vista to 7 or 7 to 8 that will erase GRUB as well. You can just install GRUB form a Live USB/DVD.

I have never used Windows installer instead of GRUB. Leaving GRUB out of the picture is not a good idea as it allows booting different kernels from the same Ubuntu installation. This is very useful if a kernel update in Ubuntu breaks something. Then you can boot to the previous kernel using GRUB and uninstall the kernel update.

Hope this helps.

  • The 'system reserved' partition as seen in windows' disk management (which is 100MB) is the windows boot partition? If I remember correctly, everytime I reinstall Windwos I only format C and install to the freed up unallocated space. I don't remember doing stuff to that 100MB partition. (I will always leave other partitions like D or now the ubuntu partition, alone)
    – Anonymous
    Mar 3 '13 at 0:51
  • Until Windows 8 came along, I have always installed GRUB to the MBR of the drive, not in a partition. With UEFI, which needs its own partition, things are a bit different. I will add a link to Windows 8 installation.
    – user68186
    Mar 3 '13 at 12:36

Hi gl3nn this is how I've installed my Ubuntu. But I'm very sure that windows updates will never break your installation. And its OK to let grub handle the boot process. You want /home on different partition than windows because windows uses some encryption method while shutting down, which won't let you to boot from Ubuntu. But be careful while you "UPGRADE"( not updating windows) or "REINSTALL" windows. Reinstalling or upgrading will remove grub(only grub) completely and windows starts with windows boot manager which you can fix in 15 min. I think you can access recover options by pressing f8 button while booting to windows. Feel free to ask if I've missed anything. Totally what you've done will not let you to any problem until you upgrade or reinstall windows.

  • For how long have you used your setup? (Did some windows updates occur already?)
    – Anonymous
    Mar 2 '13 at 15:50
  • I've already user for 3 months. And I'll update both windows every two days and Ubuntu when it ask me to.
    – learner
    Mar 2 '13 at 16:00
  • That's assuring, thanks. I will wait a bit longer for more technical details about the loaders (for instance, is it a good idea to use the windows loader instead), if no new answers rise up I'll eventually accept your answer.
    – Anonymous
    Mar 2 '13 at 16:05

To go completely safe you can install GRUB on a USB stick (you have that option in the installation menu, drop-down list at the bottom). I have such set-up and have been using it for a long time now. It serves me quite well as it leaves Windows to it's own devices.

I, for example, clone Windows system partitions with Clonezilla to have a snap-shot of the system and "reinstall Windows" as needed in 5 minutes. GRUB stays untouched on my USB then, no need to reinstall it. Works like a charm!

I'm using Windows Vista though.

Edit: HOW-TO install GRUB to USB stick

You can install GRUB to USB stick by going with "Something else" option in the installation process, that means a bit more advanced work. You should try it out though.

Please proceed with care and do not do any changes to your disk if you are unsure what you are doing. Ask more questions if needed, but do take a look at this approach.

First, you need to allocate space for your Ubuntu. That means creating free space on your hard drive. Either achieve that through your system's disk management or boot Ubuntu from LiveCD and start GParted. Then do:

Insert your USB stick.

  • shrink one of your partitions

    • things to consider: how many partitions have you got (you can have maximum 4 Primary partitions) that is why you'll be creating Extended Partition
    • what are their sizes and how much space do you consider enough for Ubuntu (in most cases for system alone and some space 10GB is more than enough)
  • create Extended Partition from that (select and create a new partition in the unallocated space and allocate 100%)

  • In that extended partition you will make Logical Disks:

    • system partition - bare minimum (a root main system folder, the /, best go with ext4 format) and
    • a swap partition (format to linux-swap)
    • you might consider making a separate /home partition - this way your personal files and settings will be safe in case you need to re-install Ubuntu. I recommend it.

If you are only making system partition and swap, allocate as much space for swap as you have memory and as much space for system partition as you can spare.

If you go with separate /home partition, 10GB should be enough for system partition, as much as memory for swap and the rest for your files like music, videos, pictures and settings and more.

Done? Good, close GParted.

Once your partitions are ready, click on Install Ubuntu (it will probably ask you to unmount device /dev/sdb1 or some such) answer yes.

When at the method prompt - choose Something else option. You will notice at the bottom of the window Device for boot loader installation. We will come back to that.

For each partition you have created in previous step - select it and click Change. The options I spoke earlier about: /, /home they are called Mount Points and this is what you must choose for each. For swap, click it and use as swap area.

Installing GRUB - from the drop-down menu choose your device (if only one usb device is present, it will be /dev/sdb).

Make sure you have chosen /dev/sdb and not /dev/sdb(n), where n is a number. It must be /dev/sdb or whatever letter your USB stick was assigned.

Review your choices, make sure everything is OK. Double-make sure. Click install now. Voila!

Hope it helps.

  • I had no option at all to install GRUB somewhere, is that normal?
    – Anonymous
    Mar 3 '13 at 0:52
  • @gl3nn I am sorry, I think you must go with "Something Else" option, please see my answer, I shall edit it now.
    – catalesia
    Mar 3 '13 at 5:36

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