Best Choice for installing Linux w/ existing XP for dual boot
I'm weary to post because I know that a lot of the same questions are posted but I'm looking for some direction in my quest to boot Ubuntu Linux on my Dell Inspiron 5100 notebook.
I've been scanning forums for about a week trying to see what options are available to me for what I want to do.
Here's what I want to do:
install Ubuntu, as the first linux distro, to an external 40GB HD.
I want to be able to plug the external in, and when I turn my computer on, it gives me the option to boot my Linux partition from GRUB/other bootloader.
When the external is not plugged in, then my computer gives me GRUB again, or goes straight to windows.
What's the best option for me?
Do I install GRUB to the MBR? (risks/rewards, alternatives to installing on the MBR)
Can I make a boot disk (CD, Flash or Floppy) that will boot Ubuntu on the external HD w/o editing the MBR?
Can I make a disk that will boot GRUB (and when the boot disk is absent Windows boots by default)?
Do I install GRUB somewhere else? On the external HD (how would I partition the drive to do this), or somewhere else on the internal HD.
Any other options: reinstalling windows, etc.
I would like to be able to get a bootloader (GRUB) to come up everytime, instead of defaulting to XP. That way, I can create a multiple OS atmosphere on the external HD that is easily accessible.
Basically, I want to learn about Linux without making any changes to my existing internal HD structure (no partitioning, no reformatting), except installing a bootloader.
Am I being specific enough? What other information have I left out?
First, DO NOT install grub to the MBR! It will defeat your desire.
To install Ubuntu to an external drive, make certain the drive is connected, then insert the install cd/dvd in the drive, then boot. When you are given the option of where to install, choose the external drive, and format that drive as you desire (one monolithic partition for the entire system, or several partitions for / (root), /home, /boot, etc).
If you install grub to the MBR, and the external drive (the location of the rest of the grub files) isn't connected, then grub will hang (can't find instructions on what to do next).
If grub is NOT installed to the MBR, then windows will boot normally.
In order for grub to be active when you boot, the external drive must be plugged in, and the BIOS set to poll the external drive BEFORE the hard drive. That way, with grub on the external drive, you would get the grub menu of choices of which OS to boot.
If you prefer to go with a boot disk, make sure the BIOS is set to poll disk drives BEFORE the hard drive, so that, if you have a boot floppy/cd/dvd in the drive at boot time, Linux can be booted from other media, before the hard drive is polled for a bootable system.
To make a boot disk, when you install Ubuntu (or any other OS of the Linux persuasion), you will probably be given the option, during install, to make a boot disk. Take that option: a reserve boot disk never hurts until you need one, and don't have it! You don't need to write grub to the MBR, but the external drive MUST be connected, and the boot disk in the drive, at boot time.
The only way I can think of to have grub come up everytime, to boot all OSs, is to have a small Linux partition on the internal drive to hold the /boot directory (grub's home), and write grub to the MBR, or have a boot disk with grub on it in the appropriate drive at all times when booting..
ok, thank you for the reply. my question now is:
To update: I tried to install Ubuntu from the install CD and installed GRUB to the MBR. I received some errors but was able to undo this with the Windows XP recovery console. I reformatted the external HD both times I tried this. I'm afraid to do it again and lose windows, although the fiskmbr command worked brilliantly both times.
What do I do next? How do I prepare my system BIOS or the External HD to boot linux independently of my internal windows HD?
Restoring MBR - GRUB accidentally installed there.
Like this thread's writer, I installed UBUNTU 8 to an external drive... a Memorex FLASH drive, not a HD. I do not recall being asked by the install whether or not I wanted to install GRUB to the HD MBR... it just did it automatically! Now I MUST have the flash drive inserted at bootup or grub just hangs.
I'm well acquainted with deleting/resizing/moving partititions (Partition Magic) and have NOT done that yet to my flash drive pending advice about MBR restoration.
I gather from other posts that I should boot to XP (with the flash drive inserted...see above), then use the "run" (or old DOS like window) and enter fdisk /mbr to restore the MBR. I think that's right, right?
My question: If I do that, does XP keep all my other settings, partitions, registry, etc. intact? I don't want to have to restore the whole installation from the original discs and start all over!
Please advise then: 1. is the command correct? "fdisk /mbr" w/o the quotes, and... 2. will that leave the XP installation "as is" without destroying any files or settings?
If this works, I'd still like to re-install to a flash drive without altering XP's MBR. I'd like to ONLY run GRUB's menu of boot choices when the flash drive is present at bootup, and have the whole GRUB/UBUNTU OS disappear when the flash drive is NOT present at bootup, so I guess that's question #3.
Thank you all for your help... buncha' very helpful generous folks on this site, and it's much appreciated!
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