I recently bought a Dell Inspiron 3521 (15”, Intel i3 processor, 4GB RAM, 500GB hard drive, A07 BIOS from InsydeH2O) with Windows 8 pre-installed. I expected to be able to install Ubuntu 12.04.2 from CD and dual-boot, as I do with my other main laptop (which has Windows 7). 95% of my work is done under Ubuntu, but I want to preserve access to Windows for a few things that require it.
This turned out to be MUCH harder than I expected. Forums provided conflicting and misleading info. No BIOS manual is available and Dell technical support didn’t officially want to help me as they said Ubuntu was unsupported (though some of the techss were nice to me and gave me some suggestions, unfortunately useless).
Questions: Can you boot from a CD under UEFI? Will the installation work if I boot Ubuntu in legacy mode? Should I have Secure Boot enabled or disabled? Why doesn’t the Ubuntu installer see the Windows system? If I repartition the drive manually, how should I do it? But mostly, what is the overall strategy for getting Ubuntu installed alongside Windows on this machine?
I’m an experienced user, but I don’t normally have to deal with technical boot issues or partitioning.
If I can’t figure it out, will it work to just trash the Windows installation and install Ubuntu on the whole drive?
Here is my Boot-Repair info:
1. Legacy mode or UEFI?
The BIOS offers the option to switch between Legacy mode and UEFI.
Booting from the Ubuntu CD in legacy mode is no problem. But if I do that and install Ubuntu, won’t it be a problem that Ubuntu was installed as legacy and Windows as UEFI?
I thought it was better to install Ubuntu from a CD booted under UEFI, and imagined I would be able to boot from the CD under UEFI by changing the BIOS settings to allow booting from CD. There is a tab in the UEFI section of the BIOS called “Add Boot Option” which on the face of it seems to offer a way to do this. If I select “Add Boot Option,” it asks for a name for the new boot option and then you can choose a file system and file path. But the only two file systems presented as options appear to be two partitions of the hard drive (they have very long names starting with Acpi). And there is no info anywhere on what to put in as the file path.
Interestingly, when I made recovery disks for the Windows system and tried to boot from them under UEFI, it recognized them, and then briefly presents the CD under the following file system name in the UEFI menu: Acpi(PNP0A03,0)/Pci(1FI2)/Sata(2,0,0)/CDROM(Entry 1).
2. If I use UEFI, should I have SecureBoot enabled?
Also, should have the Legacy OPROM on and what does that mean anyway? Should I have SecureBoot in Standard or Custom mode? Note that I already disabled fast startup in the Windows 8 settings.
3. Why doesn’t the Ubuntu installer see Windows 8?
When I boot the Ubuntu CD in legacy mode, and start the process of installing Ubuntu, it doesn’t see the Windows 8 OS. It just gives me two options: “Erase the disk and install Ubuntu” and “Do something else.” It doesn’t give me the “Install Ubuntu alongside other operating systems” option.
4. How can I edit the partition table to give Ubuntu space on the HD?
If I then click on “Do something else,” the partition table comes up with 6 partitions all of which are being used by Windows. Can I edit and rearrange the partitions to get Ubuntu to work? If so, how?
After much trial and error I figured out the reason for my problem. I was using an Ubuntu 12.04.2 image which had no EFI folder or other EFI boot information. (This despite the assurances everywhere that Ubuntu 12.04.2 is UEFI compatible. Admittedly, I downloaded the image from a mirror rather than from the official Ubuntu website).
Without an EFI folder, EFI boot managers (whether the built-in Dell one or rEFInd) do not recognize the Ubuntu image as bootable.
I downloaded another Ubuntu image and presto, it was recognized, and I was able to install it correctly. (Although I did have to shrink the Windows partitions and create partitions for Ubuntu manually.)