Bought a second hand laptop with no OS. Installed Ubuntu and have been running it now for about a year without any problems. Now need to use more windows applications (childrens educational applications that just won't run in Ubuntu).

I already have a spare copy and licence codes for XP and would like to do either of the following:

  1. Completely wipe/erase Ubuntu from the laptop, then install XP , and then run Ubuntu with dual boot. (the only thing we do with this laptop is browse the internet. we have no data saved to the hard drive so we don't even need a backup)
  2. Create a new partition and install XP with Ubuntu (this seems like a very troublesome option).
  • 4
    I suggest installing virtualbox on your linux and install windows on the virtual machine - this way you can use both the same time. Also you can try the childrens educational applications using wine ;-) see also the appdb on appdb.winehq.org/…
    – Michael K
    Jan 9, 2012 at 12:06
  • Can you confirm is the topic is correct?
    – viyyer
    Jan 9, 2012 at 15:16

6 Answers 6

  • Boot from a LiveCD
  • Use gparted to re-partition the drive; delete Ubuntu partition and create a FAT/NTFS partition leaving some space un-partitioned
  • boot from Windows install CD; install windows onto that partition
  • boot from Ubuntu LiveCD; install Ubuntu.

The point is - Ubuntu is aware of Windows and takes care not to break things (i.e. it'll add Windows entry to the boot menu etc.), while Windows installer does not behave nice to other OSes. So it makes sense to install Windows first.

Alternatively, if you only need Windows to run just a few applications, you can run Windows inside a VirtualBox. This is much better as it doesn't require rebooting your machine each time.

  • The 'alternatively' is correct, but it depends on the applications. Applications that are resource-intensive will perform worse inside a VirtualBox.
    – Konerak
    Jan 9, 2012 at 16:20

if you are going to give the laptop away, sell it, etc., don't forget to at least run a shred (see man shred, or google it) after you have removed all the partitions, because data is still easily recoverable, that is in case you didn't run a full disk encryption scheme.


I would recommend doing 1) as it would be less hassle and as you don't mind removing your Ubuntu installation.

For formatting partitions I would use. mkfs /dev/???? ???? is the name of the device. For example o nmy computer / is /dev/sda7

A better way to format partitions would be to use Gparted after booting from a Ubuntu live DVD or live USB.


To answer the question, you can format a hard drive or partition with gparted (graphical) or mkfs (command line).

gparted is on the live / desktop CD and is fairly straight forward.

To use the command line you simply list your partitions

sudo fdisk -l

Then format them with mkfs.partition type, for example

mkfs.ntfs /dev/sda1

See man mkfs for details.

Now be aware that formatting alone does not over write your data. To do that you can use dd or scrub

dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda bs=1M

Or see scrub (or similar utilities) http://linux.die.net/man/1/scrub

DBAN is also popular http://www.dban.org/

You then make partitions and format the hard drive, with gparted or the windows install CD.

If you wish to dual boot, it is easier to install windows first, and Ubuntu second.

If you are interested in perhaps a lighter weight version of Ubuntu, try Lubuntu.


I recomend you to just simply boot with Windows CD, and when asked, delete all partitions and create a new one as windows require.

You'll lose all the information you have on Ubuntu, but I guess you already did a backup.

Everything should be possible from Windows installation program no extra step is required.


I dont think this is the right place to ask for how to format your partition using windows, better check any windows forums for detailed answers. I can only suggest that run your windows xp disc, it will automatically detect any empty disk space in your hard disk and show available partitions, delete the partiton containing linux. and create a new NTFS/FAT32 parition where you can install windows.

  • 2
    It's always best to add things of this nature as a comment to the question rather than an answer. While your comment is informative, it isn't an answer to the question.
    – Switchkick
    Jan 9, 2012 at 13:24
  • 1
    I think this question surely belongs to this forum. Many Ubuntu desktops are installed as dual-boot.
    – viyyer
    Jan 9, 2012 at 15:06
  • Student perspective. Ubuntu was easy to install and use, but for folk like me who were weaned on windows and continue to use windows in work enviroment, Ubuntu takes some time to learn. One of the things I might still want/need to do is to completely uninstall Ubuntu and sell the machine on as I bought it, a half decent dell laptop with no OS. Is there a quick and easy way to completely uninstall ubuntu? Jan 9, 2012 at 16:48
  • @ChrisCarroll If a disk is fully used by Ubuntu (or any OS), and you don't have any data on it, removing the OS is as easy: boot into a Live CD, start GParted, mark all partitions for removal and apply it. The MBR still exists, but that should not be an issue since no boot loader exists on the disk anymore.
    – Lekensteyn
    Jan 9, 2012 at 17:20
  • Thanks all for excellent input. In the end went for Option 1 and it worked a treat. One interesting observation, XP is working as expected, downloaded some updates + AVG Free, and so far there has been no prompts to put in licence codes ! I have licence codes but am in no hurry to use them if I am not asked to. Jan 11, 2012 at 16:31

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