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OK, I'll cut to the chase
My parents are going to buy me my first ever laptop for Christmas, currently I've settled for the Thinkpad E55o for £399 off off of amazon
I've also decided that I am going to install manjaro as my distro. The problem is that my dad has never uses Linux before and he is very reluctant about letting me install it on what he calls a brand new £400 machine. He is fine with partitioning hard drives and such but knows nothing about linux, bootloaders or how the Linux filesystem/partitions work.
What he is concerned about is me bricking up the system while I'm "messing about" with it.
So I guess these are my questions
- how should I go about linstalling manjaro to dual boot with windows 8.1
- how small can you shrink the windows partition
- what general advice can I give my dad to ease his anxiety
- what programming / software can I use to back up my hard drive to an external in case I do brick it
My Linux experience is somewhat limited, I've tried lots of distros and installed manjaro 2-3 times in a virtual box
To alleviate his concerns about bricking the system, find a way to get a downloadable re-install media such as DVD or USB ISO file. In other words, when you buy the system, pay the small amount extra to get the restore software on an off-system media.
I'm not sure if you can make your own recovery DVD using their BIOS or if you can image their disk sufficiently to also do that, but those are options to consider as well.
To further alleviate his concerns, when you go through the install, have him sit shotgun, allow him to ask questions, and be tolerant that he will slow you down immensely at this progress.
I would not look to shrink the Windows partition as small as possible, but instead look to make the smallest Linux partition you need, ... plus a little. For instance 8 Gig is very reasonable and usual. Something like 32 or 128 Gig would be very huge. I know that you'll be concerned about space for storing things. Well, do not. Use an external USB hard drive to store your large data such as: documents, images, movies, and so forth.
Looks like a Win 7 box so you likely won't have to deal with UEFI and secure boot headaches. I dual boot all of my laptops and I've had zero issues so it's a pretty safe process. Shrink the drive in Windows by 80 GB or so and that gives you plenty of room. Linux can access the Win 7 partition just fine so you can store data there while Windows ignores and doesn't see Linux partitions.
One caution: Grub WILL overwrite the Windows bootloader so you can't just delete the Linux partition if you want to go back to a Win only system. You'd have to use a Windows recovery disk to "repair" the MBR if you go this route...
I usually use 80 GB for a Windows partition, 80 GB for the Linux partition and the remainder as an NTFS data partition that both Windows and Linux can see and use...
how should I go about linstalling manjaro to dual boot with windows 8.1
First check the HCL (Hardware Compatibility List) to make sure your hardware is supported. Or if you are going to buy that particular machine regardless, and if manjaro has a live distribution you can try that out first to make sure it works. Preferrably long and hard enough to see that cooling works too (which I didn't..).
If your machine uses UEFI, read up on the issues people have with that. I have personally not encoutered it, so I can't give advice on that. But from what I've read, it seems like it can be quite tricky. Unless it has become better by now?
If you still want to continue:
Make new partition(s) for your new system. At least /home should be on a separate partition if you don't follow the suggestion from other and read from windows. You can have maximum 4 primary partitions, and a friend's computer from maybe a couple of years ago already had that from the start. Don't remeber exactly what they were, but probably boot, rescue, system, and something more. Note that you can get around the maximum 4 partitions limit by using logical partitions.
I'm not familiar with manjaro, but the one I have dual booted with Windows (openSUSE) have found Windows and added it to the boot menu. If it doesn't, you can add it yourself later. You might be asked if you want to install the bootloader in the MBR (Master Boot Record) or on a partition. In principle it should not matter too much. If you install it in the MBR, it replaces Windows bootloader (which is OK). If you install it on a partition, you might not be able to boot if you move the partition around. I have used both, and I'd say it's a matter of preference. If you install it in the MBR it will make a backup copy of the previous one, so you can save it somewhere convenient and restore it later if necessary.
Make sure you have all external stuff you plan to use, such as internet cable etc. connected during install, or you may have to add support for it later.
how small can you shrink the windows partition
On a Windows 7 computer that I have pretty much only installed and let update a few times on a 50G partition, there is <4G free space. But as I remember, it was much smaller to begin with. The swap and hibernation files are on the C:, so whether you use them and how large you let them be will influence quite a bit. And if you are going to keep personal files on the same partition you have to add however much you expect to have there as well + hidden temp files and trash can etc.
what general advice can I give my dad to ease his anxiety
Well.. My personal experience is that it works fine. Sometimes with some tweaking. And there is plenty of helpful people and tools out there. But as I said, I don't have any experience with the latest boot related security stuff. And you can never be sure. There is definitely a risk that you can muck it up. But so far nothing the GParted live cd or Parted Magic hasn't sorted out for me.
what programming / software can I use to back up my hard drive to an external in case I do brick it
Before I used GParted live CD as my system repair distro. Lately it has been Parted Magic instead. It has programs for backing up both files, partitions, and entire disks. And lots of other things, including a program for restoring the Windows bootloader.
Some notes and disclaimers:
I never did a full disc copy.
I never fiddled with UEFI.
I never installed anything next to Win8.
I did however install Linux multiple times. Sometimes next to Windows Vista or 7.
And I did upgrade Vista to Win8 next to an existing Linux installation.
Since you are buying a Thinkpad, thinkwiki.org may help in case you run into trouble and you don't find the answers in the other forums.
I've also decided that I am going to install manjaro as my distro. The problem is that my dad has never uses Linux before and he is very reluctant about letting me install it on what he calls a brand new 400 machine. He is fine with partitioning hard drives and such but knows nothing about linux, bootloaders or how the Linux filesystem/partitions work.
Welcome to the forum
I'm guessing that you are under the age of 18 or the age of majority where you live. While I can understand your desire to install Linux, the one question that comes to mind is: Did your father give you permission to install Manjero on this system? Did he say "No" or "I'm not sure about that?" If so, obey his wishes on that, whether or not you feel his concerns are valid. Please see here.
Last edited by ardvark71; 09-29-2015 at 08:11 PM.
Reason: Added information.
A good second hand machine would have no warranty to break so you could replace the HDD and put Linux on that and slot the old one back in if needed. Trick is finding a good 'un. There are many pc's to choose from though.
Or consider running Linux in a Virtual Machine (VirtualBox is free for Windows too) and from time to time showing your father some neat tricks, taking care not to turn into a nag. If the machine's brawny enough for Win7 or above, it should be brawny enough for a VM.
Having been a father, I can attest that the "not turn into a nag" is a very important part of any strategy to bring us old geezers around to your point of view. Of course, I'm the guy who can't get his kids to use Linux . . . .