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Dual-boot Windows & Linux?

Posted 05-01-2015 at 10:53 AM by beachboy2
Updated 08-07-2017 at 02:54 AM by beachboy2


Before attempting to dual-boot Linux on an existing Windows computer it is essential to backup all personal data to an external drive.

There are two main reasons why people may wish to dual-boot Windows and Linux:

1.) They are familiar with Windows and are perhaps interested in replacing it with Linux. They may be reluctant to ditch Windows completely, in case they do not get along with Linux 100% and so decide to keep a foot in both camps.

I suspect that many people fall into this category. I was like that initially when Linux was totally alien to me. I therefore decided to dual-boot Windows 98 and openSUSE. The dual-boot lasted less than a week and Windows soon became a distant memory on my main computer. I should point out that I have Windows 7 installed on a separate computer for teaching purposes.

2.) There is a certain program or piece of hardware that will only run on Windows or only on a particular version of Windows (e.g. XP).

The big question: Should I dual-boot Windows and Linux?

Answer: In my opinion, NO, not unless it is absolutely essential. My advice would be to install Linux on its own.

Why not?

Dual-booting can get very messy particularly with UEFI, efi partition, Secure Boot, shrinking a Windows partition, GPT, MBR, msdos, boot order, GRUB2 repair, to name just a few of the hurdles lying in wait for the unsuspecting.

A brief look at the number of dual-boot questions on user forums such as Linux Questions, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Debian etc shows that many people get into considerable difficulties whilst attempting a Windows/Linux dual-boot.

With regard to point 1.) above, I recommend test driving Linux using a live DVD without actually installing it. Alternatively, install it on a spare or donated computer and see whether you like using it.
If your Windows computer supports virtualization (see below), you can always install a virtual Linux distribution inside Windows.

With regard to point 2.), it is necessary to find out whether the computer's processor supports virtualization by looking here:

If it does, then backup all personal data to an external drive, wipe the hard drive using Gparted, create 3 Primary partitions for root, swap and home and then install a Linux distribution.


Then install VirtualBox followed by the virtual Windows installation:

W7 Virtual Installation:

Ubuntu 12.04 Virtual Installation:

NB In order to install Windows on a Linux computer using VirtualBox it is necessary to have a copy of the Windows installation media and a Microsoft Product Key.

Additionally with Windows 8.1 it is necessary to first create installation media because in most cases none is supplied:

Please note that the virtual Windows system will still need the usual security software (firewall, antivirus, antimalware etc) to protect it, just like a standalone Windows system. The fact that it is a virtual Windows installation does not change its status or its vulnerability to attack from malware.

If the computer does not support virtualization, then I would recommend leaving Windows on that machine and purchasing a cheap used laptop/PC, then install Linux separately on that.

If all else fails and dual-boot is the only (or preferred) route, then do read Dedoimedo's various guides and make copious notes before proceeding further.
Better still, have access to another computer for immediate reference to the guide:




GRUB2 bootloader:
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