I have a dell laptop with a pre-installed version of Windows 7 home premium. I want to dual boot my system to run both Ubuntu and Windows 7. The engineer told me I cannot do this without removing Windows 7, and downloading Ubuntu first. Then downloading Windows.

I have already paid for windows 7 once, doing what the engineer told me means either downloading a pirated version or buying windows again.

Is there no other way?

  • 45
    what kind of engineer is that?
    – njzk2
    Jun 17, 2015 at 16:53
  • 2
    The only thing tricky about dual-boot is whether the system is set up as BIOS or UEFI. Jun 17, 2015 at 22:32
  • 8
    Uninstalling and reinstalling windows does not require a new licence, as long as you keep the serial number. But that doesn't mean you have to reinstall windows in this case.
    – T. Verron
    Jun 18, 2015 at 12:17
  • No matter what method you decide to go with backup all your personal stuff. Mistakes can be made and glitches can happen Jun 23, 2015 at 11:51
  • 4
    @njzk2 Full job title was "hamburger engineer" Jun 24, 2015 at 3:21

9 Answers 9


I think you have been misled by the engineer.

If you really want do dual boot ubuntu with win7, that is a fairly straightforward process.

Ubuntu will happily co-exist in a dual-boot configuration with windows, with windows first to be in place. The opposite scenario is actually the more troublesome to setup. Windows can clobber the MBR+grub setup and render Ubuntu unable to boot but in the scenario you have got, it should not be a problem.

The main question - is do you have sufficient disk space to accomodate the Ubuntu install. You'll have to probably resize your existing Win7 partition to make some space available for ubuntu.

If you run the ubuntu installer, you can do the resize using GParted.

You can also resize the windows partition using windows Disk Management.

After resizing partitions, you should be able to able to smoothly run Ubuntu install.

There shouldn't be any issues with the Win7 license.

As a fallback, you can run a clone image backup of your current disk state which you can restore just in case you need to.

  • 5
    It's easier and quicker to resize the Windows partition with Windows' tools. I would't use Gparted.
    – xunilk
    Jun 17, 2015 at 10:24
  • 2
    You are totally wrong in relation to Windows. You can see the procedure here: howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/….
    – xunilk
    Jun 17, 2015 at 10:48
  • 27
    "I think you have been mislead by the engineer" must be the nice way of saying "The engineer either outright lied to you, or was making shit up because he didn't know the answer".
    – Ben
    Jun 17, 2015 at 15:12
  • 5
    @xunilk: I would highly recommend against using a disk management tool that resizes the currently running system partition if you can avoid it. If you are using GParted from the install CD, the partition you're resizing is not mounted, so it will be a lot safer than if you're resizing the active partition from inside the running Windows. In my experience, GParted is very reliable to do even complex operations.
    – Lie Ryan
    Jun 17, 2015 at 16:28
  • 1
    @IsmaelMiguel That's been unsupported for years. Jun 17, 2015 at 18:23
  1. It's possible to resize the Windows partition with Windows still on it. It can go wrong, but it generally doesn't.

  2. Download a legal version if you already have a Windows license. If you install the same version (Home Premium) on the same machine then your Windows key (the xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx code on a sticker on your machine) will be accepted for the reinstall. It's a good idea to have a copy to hand if you are going to resize the Windows partition in-place as, as I said, it can sometimes go wrong.

More generally, what would you do if your Windows install got messed up and you had to install it anyway?

If your sticker with the key has become unreadable due to wear and tear, it's possible to get Windows installations to reveal their keys.

  • 1
    This also has the added benefit that you get a clean windows install without any of the pre-installed bloatware no-one uses
    – SztupY
    Jun 18, 2015 at 8:54
  • 1
    @SztupY yes, if I've a machine I'm actually going to use the Windows install on, I generally reinstall it from scratch anyway as the first thing after turning it on. Especially since some of them come with McAfee which is very hard to disinfect a machine of (once I really couldn't do a reinstall on a machine that got infected with McAfee and I ended up having to boot into a linux live USB and deleting enough files to break it before I could get rid of it).
    – Jon Hanna
    Jun 18, 2015 at 9:13

Who told you that? In my experience it was always easier to install Windows first (or keep the pre-installed one) and install linux afterwards. The windows license is not affected anyway.

But it might be that there is some recovery partition from your manufacturer you must get rid of. It should be documented on Dell's site how to do that.


If partitioning and bootloaders and so on sounds too difficult, just start with VirtualBox. https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads

In your virtualbox make a Virtual Machine, and install Ubuntu in it. Then just use the windows as host, make the VM fullscreen and enjoy Ubuntu.

  • VirtualBox is a great tool but this doesn't answer the OP's question, which was related to dual booting. Also if OP is not yet sophisticated enough to know what VirtualBox is, OP might also not realize that the suggested method will have a TREMENDOUS amount of overhead resulting in much poorer performance than dual booting. Jun 24, 2015 at 22:38
  • Following the titel "Install Ubuntu without making Windows license void" and the question "Is there another way?", ... then I think a VM is a suitable/valid option-alternative in some cases (making exercises for sysadmin courses, learning to setup databases on linux, writing scripts, ...) ... 'another way' than 'dual-boot' Jun 25, 2015 at 2:08

In relation to the stuff of resizing a Windows partition (Control Panel -> Search by 'partition' word -> Create and format hard disk partitions) inside Windows (except in XP) to free space for Ubuntu, I used my own system. In the next image:

enter image description here

I shrunk (the menu appears with right buttom of mouse) the second NTFS partition (C, with Windows 7) in 30 GB. The process it took only a few seconds. The result can be observed at the next image (free space with the black label):

enter image description here

Afterward, I reverted this process in about a second by using the tool for extending the C partition. Nothing bad happened. I am posting from Windows 7.

Back to Ubuntu again!


I wouldn't even bother dual booting... It is easier to get another hard drive and replace the win 7 one (put it away safely) and install ubuntu on the new drive. You can pick up a small solid state drive cheaply - my main ubuntu PC runs off a 30Gb OCZ solid state drive. Over the years I have found dual booting a complete pain, especially with multiple partitions, hidden partitions and boot loaders. If you do it this way, there is no reinstall of windows required if it goes pear shaped, your windows is completely safe..


I think the engineer was confused. He got it wrong. But there is one small thing that you must note. It won't void your license, but it will void your warranty agreement with Microsoft, idk to what extent, but Windows customer care will decline you telephone support. It will not void the warranty on the hardware but it would severely limit the OS support you can receive if needed. This will happen if windows came pre-installed with the laptop. I had the experience myself. In my case, I accidently told the Microsoft support guy over telephone that I am dual booting with linux.

If you read through the Windows 8 Hardware Certification Requirements for Client and Server Systems, found here: Windows Hardware Certification Requirements for Client and Server Systems , you will read about functionality you are supposed to have, that OEM's agree to - that you may not find in your system. Because Microsoft subsidizes these systems they do not have to allow support for dual booting with a Non Microsoft system.

But that's no big deal. Only that you won't get support over phone from Microsoft. The best solution to all of this is to make Recovery Disks, so that you can reset back to 'before dual booting' if ever you want.


I don't know how everyone missed the most simple option. Run Ubuntu inside Windows, with the exception of it being able to boot.

It's the WUBI option. Detailed guide is available here -

The original partitions or the Windows installation is not disturbed at all. Ubuntu installs in a folder and updates boot options to allow booting either Windows or Ubuntu.

I have done it on a desktop as well as a laptop, both of which had Windows pre-installed.

A very old desktop with Windows XP, and Ubuntu in a folder on the D partition
A very old desktop with Windows XP, and Ubuntu in a folder on the D partition


If you don't switch every day, consider a new hard drive: Use a brand new hard drive without Windows. You could then use dual/triple boot for the option of deciding on your favorite flavor of Linux and easily changing based on the latest release and updates. I would choose Fedora, Ubuntu, and Linux Mint. I would install Linux Mint last because it is easy to update the default, and you have to reinstall for the next release version anyway. It is worth it, because Mint is doubly tweaked: Ubuntu is an improved version of Debian, and Mint is an improved version of Ubuntu. If you are new to Linux, Mint is by far the best (MATE for old machines/Cinnamon for newer hardware; you can add KDE, XFCE, or LXDE later if you want to try non-Gnome desktops). If you are experienced and like RPMs (Red Hat Package Manager for additions and updates), Fedora is your best bet (Or Scientific Linux for old machines). Don't be intimidated by the many choices: they all work, and you should make your best guess which one suits you and your hardware.

  • Soon, the final & free upgrade to Windows 10 will be available. As a precaution, you should do one or both of the following before upgrading to Windows 10: 1. Install Ubuntu, your favorite Linux, or multi-boot to several Linux options on a new hard drive. 2. Back up your entire Windows 7 or Windows 8 hard drive. Jun 27, 2015 at 5:55

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