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I have this problem:

I want to install Lubuntu as a single operative system (no dual boot with Windows), and the grub installation fails at the end of the Lubuntu installation process. I have checked many workarounds regarding this problem, but I think that there is something different in my scenario.

For the first time, I specified the device /dev/sda/ (which contained '/', '/home' and swap area partitions) as the place to install grub and it failed.

Then, I changed my MBR partition table to GPT (I'm not sure if it was actually needed, or if this action created other problems) and created a bios_grub partition (on the first section of the HDD) since I have old hardware (Dell Inspiron 1501) working with bios. I specified this bios_grub partition to install grub and failed another time.

I ended with this GPT partition table:

  • 1mb ext4 with the bios_grub flag
  • 12.11gb ext4 for /
  • 3.73gb ext4 for /home
  • 1.63gb as linux-swap
  • 38.64gb ntfs

The last ntfs partition has files which I want to preserve; it doesn't have any Windows installation on it.

Since all the installation process seems to work fine, can I skip the grub installation? I want a single Lubuntu installation and this is the only part that is failing. I don't see any option to avoid installing grub in the Lubuntu install process.

If the only option is to install grub, could you help me to find what I'm doing wrong?

Thanks a lot for your help!!

EDIT:

Sorry for the huge delay. As you suggested me, I formatted all the hdd and tried installing Lubuntu letting the installer do the partitioning, but the same problem appeared. However, I installed successfully Tiny Core Linux and then I formatted everything again to install Zorin, which is now running really good on this old notebook.

I think that in this case, the problem is related only to Lubuntu. Zorin is based on Ubuntu as well, and had no errors during install.

By the way, you should try Zorin if you didn't already, it's awesome.

I marked jones0610 post as the answer but I'm not too sure what actually happened.

Thanks a lot for your help!

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    How did you change your MBR to GPT without losing your NTFS partition? On such a small HDD, it makes no sense to partition / and /home and swap and NTFS separately, it wastes space you can't afford. If it was me, I'd backup your NTFS files, wipe the disk by laying down a fresh MBR/msdos partition table, reinstall Ubuntu letting it erase the disk, no separate partitions, and then restore your NTFS files to the Document/Music/Pictures folders on the EXT4 partition. NTFS shouldn't be used in single-boot Ubuntu installations.
    – heynnema
    Jul 4, 2017 at 13:06

3 Answers 3

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Unless my math is faulty, you are working with a 60 Gb HDD and you want to reserve 38+ Gb as file storage.

Best case, this old notebook is going to offer disappointing performance and you'll be starved for file and swap space. Consider the following:

Copy the ntfs files onto a thumbdrive or external drive and free up the whole 60 Gb for your solo Lubuntu installation.

Then, do a clean Lubuntu installation which includes letting the installation process partition and format the HDD based on it's own recommendations.

I think you got yourself in trouble by installing Lubuntu while trying to work around a way too tiny HDD that already had data on it. Let's remove that from the process. If you do a clean install everything should work just fine. Fine, that is, bearing in mind that your Dell is 11 years old so it's performance may be rather sluggish.

You might be able to kludge your way towards fixing your current installation roadblock. However, finding a way to eliminate grub from the picture is not an option for you. But my advice would be to bite the bullet and just install the OS cleanly and correctly.

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Other answers have made some good points. Some issues I'd like to highlight are:

  • GRUB installation failure -- GRUB is a boot loader -- a program that loads the OS kernel (Linux, in the case of Ubuntu) into memory and starts it running. As noted by ravery, it's impossible to boot without a boot loader. The failure to install GRUB is therefore a show-stopper and must be fixed. You haven't provided enough details to properly diagnose this problem, though. The exact error message and partition layout (as shown by sudo parted -l or various other commands) might be helpful. You could also try running Boot Repair on the computer and, if it fails, post the URL for diagnosis.
  • NTFS -- Using NTFS on a Linux-only computer is a Bad Idea. The trouble is that there is no good NTFS maintenance tool for Linux. The best such tool, ntfsfix, is very basic -- it does a few basic checks, makes a couple of trivial adjustments, and flags the filesystem as needing attention in Windows. Without Windows on the computer, the filesystem can never be fully repaired. Thus, when (not if) the filesystem needs repair, you'll need to move the disk to a Windows computer or use a Windows emergency disk. As others have suggested, you should back up the files from the NTFS partition, use Linux-native filesystems exclusively on the computer, and restore the files once everything is up and running.
  • GPT vs. MBR -- GPT does offer some advantages over MBR, as noted in my answer to the question to which oldfred linked. For a 60 GB disk that single-boots Ubuntu on a BIOS-only computer, though, those advantages will be extremely modest. If the disk is already in GPT form and everything works, I wouldn't recommend switching back -- but it's also probably not worth doing the MBR-to-GPT switch if it were in MBR form. If you start from scratch with a fresh installation, you can use whichever partition table you prefer. To be sure, there are advantages and disadvantages to both, but they're very obscure or are important in very rare circumstances, given your disk size, BIOS-based (not EFI-based) computer, and Linux-only installation.
  • Partitions generally -- I agree with heynnema that splitting 16 GB between root (/) and /home is pointless. Given the need to remove the 39 GB NTFS partition, though, you might want to divide your space as roughly 16 GB for root (/) and 39 GB for /home. Ubuntu's default is to not have a separate /home, but splitting it off does have some advantages, since it can simplify complete re-installation and can help with some types of backup strategies. OTOH, if you'll be filling these partitions to anywhere near capacity dividing that space makes it more likely that you'll run out of space on one partition. In this case, though, a disk upgrade is in order.
  • An 11-year-old computer -- I Googled and found reviews of your computer from 2006. If your computer really is this old, then jones0610's warning about poor performance is worth heeding. That said, Lubuntu is likely a better choice for such an old computer than many other OSes, so if upgrading is out of the question, that's probably about as good as you'll get. If you can afford it, increasing the amount of RAM (a spec sheet I found noted just 512 MiB of RAM) and/or replacing the 60 GB HDD with a >100 GB SSD are likely to be the improvements that get you the most "bang for the buck."
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grub is the bootloader yo can't skip it though there are alternatives like lilo. you need to install grub to /dev/sda, then update grub. you said the grub install fails? is this during install?

and for bios boot it is preferable to have an MBR formated disk, fewer hassles.

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  • I still suggest gpt for BIOS boot if not dual booting with Windows. MBR is 35 years old, well known but lots of kluges. The newer gpt has advantages, but requires the bios_grub partition for BIOS boot install of grub or an ESP - efi system partition for UEFI boot. See Rod Smith's answer: askubuntu.com/questions/629470/gpt-vs-mbr-why-not-mbr & ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1457901 & wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/…
    – oldfred
    Jul 4, 2017 at 3:32
  • @oldfred -- I'd agree if he has a large drive. this n is only 60GB.
    – ravery
    Jul 4, 2017 at 4:42
  • I use gpt for my full install on 16, 32 & 64GB flash drives, so I know it works for smaller drives also. But it is not required on smaller drives. I just like having a backup partition table as one of the main issues with drives is damaged MBR partition tables.
    – oldfred
    Jul 4, 2017 at 14:36
  • @oldfred -- yes it works both ways, MBR has a backup also. just MBR is native to BIOS. grub can read gpt but BIOS can't, that is why a grub-bios is required.
    – ravery
    Jul 4, 2017 at 14:43

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