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Old 03-27-2009, 08:26 PM   #1
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Multidistro Install easy for Newbie's

I'm posting this as a reference for newbie's wanting multiple distro's but afraid of how to configure grub/lilo, etc.

Note-I am unsure about installing Windows first or second to last-you might have to install Windows first so it doesn't autoinstall and take the whole HD.
Ubuntu is a "hold-your-hand" type distro for people switching over to linux from Winblowz. Ubuntu is powerful in it's ability to "auto-recognize" your other various distro's on various partitions and will autoinstall grub so that all your partitions will be bootable at boot time (most likely).
Many other distro's you have to configure grub/lilo manually or they miss the other partitions and have to be configured.
If there are mistakes in this how-to I will try to catch them or if others see something amiss-please correct me...

Step-1= Plan out your Partition layout for your Hard Drive. If you have a large HD you may want 3-10 partitions or more...
As an example in this "How-To" I'm gonna install Ubuntu-8.04.02, Debian-Lenny-5.0, Slackware-12.2, Fedora-10, STUX-2.0, PCLinuxOS, and Windows XP.
My HD is 160GB (149GB) (smallish but it'll do.) and 1GB RAM Desktop PC. Stick with me 'cause this is gonna be easier than fishing with Dynamite!
So-for my HD after partitioning with Gparted running Ubuntu LIVE, it might look like this-substitute (S)DA/(H)DA with what Gparted says your HD is=SDA or HDA.
Note-there's no distro's installed yet-this is what i's going to be...just set the partition sizes, filesystems, etc.
SDA-1 Ubuntu-8.04.02 EXT3 (25GB)
SDA-2 Windows XP NTFS (30GB)
SDA-3 Debian EXT3 (15GB)
SDA-4 Extended Partition (79GB)
SDA-5 Slackware-12.2 EXT3 (25GB)
SDA-6 Fedora-10 EXT3 (20GB)
SDA-7 PClinuxOS EXT3 (20GB)
SDA-8 STUX-2.0 EXT3 (12GB)
SDA-9 SWAP (2.0GB) (according to RAM...512MB-RAM=1.25GB/1GB-RAM=2GB SWAP)

Step-2=Download all the Linux ISO's that you plan to install-Let's say 4-5 Distro's (or more) Plus Windows If you want...
You can have 3 Primary Partitions and Multiple Logical Partitions within an Extended Partition-All will be explained clearly!Don't worry! This is made for a Newbie BY a Newbie!

Step-3= (Note-if you already have Ubuntu installed burn the CD(s) there.) Download Ubuntu-8.04.02 if you don't already have the live cd. Burn the .iso image to a CD-R(only), not CD-RW. Use "k3b" with Ubuntu-it's good (It's in the Ubuntu "Synaptic Package Manager"-just install k3b using Synaptic while running "LIVE" and then remember to choose "BURN CD IMAGE"! Also choose it to run at 8x or less! Most CD burn errors are from trying to burn it too fast. Choose "DAO" too. Probably use Nero in Windows-?

Step-4= (NOTE-in the next few steps whatever you have on your HD is gonna get formatted-so this is for a totally Fresh install on an empty HD!)
Boot from the Ubuntu Live CD-use the "Try Ubuntu Without Any Change to Your Computer"(Live). It will boot to a BROWN desktop.

Step5= Once at the Desktop-go up to the top panel and click "SYSTEM"/ADMINISTRATION/PARTITION EDITOR. Gparted will open up displaying your HD info.

Step-6= Delete all existing partitions using the "delete" button-click "apply".
Now, Click the "New" button-a GUI will pop up-
"Create As"=choose "Primary Partition"
"FileSystem"=choose "EXT3"
"Free Space Proceding"=choose "0"
"New Size"= "25GB"
"Free Space Remaining"=should be set when you choose above
Now click "Add"
Now click "Apply"
This will create HDA/SDA-1

Step-7= Do the same for the next 2 Partitions-SDA 2 and 3, EXT3 for both, 30GB and 15GB respectively. ALWAYS CLICK "APPLY" FOR EACH PARTITION BEFORE DOING THE NEXT PARTITION.

Step-8= Now to create the Extended Partition (SDA-4) do as above Except it's like this-
"Create As"="Extended Partition"
"New Size"= "79GB"
Click "Apply".

Step-9= Now simply create the next partitions-SDA-5/6/7/and 8 as with 1-3 except like this-
"Create As"=Logical Partition"
"New Size"=25gb/20GB/20GB/12GB
remember to click "apply" for each one before doing the next partition.

Step-10= Make the Swap partition with the remaining 2GB-
"create as"= "Logical Partition"
"File System"="Swap"
Click apply.

Step-11=Time to start installing the distro's!
Ubuntu ,and MOST-but not all Ubuntu variants have the great feature of being able to "auto-know" how many distro's you have installed when it installs GRUB-so ALWAYS INSTALL UBUNTU LAST! More about this later.

Step-12= First we're gonna install Debian Lenny to SDA-3. Go through the install, just don't partition anything-just choose to format SDA-3 to EXT3 and set it as your root directory "/"=mountpoint.
Set the bootable flag on SDA-3.
Make sure it installs either GRUB or Lilo to the "MBR", not SDA-3, don't install grub/lilo to any partition-just "MBR"-it should say "SDA" or "HDA"

Step-13= Hopefully everything installed correctly-
Ok-reboot after install and hopefully Lenny boots up and loads the Desktop.
If everything is alright-put in the next linux distro and reboot-don't upgrade anything to any distro till after we've installed all of them.

Step-14= Now install whatever distro's remaining in any order to their partitions-so long as Windows is second to last and Ubuntu is last.
Slackware 12.2 might look hard-it's not-just remember you don't need "fdisk/cfdisk" so just type in "setup" and set the "/" root and swap target partitions. Also-don't try to configure LILO to add any partitions except it's own-so just tell LILO to add the partition your installing to-like if Slack's on SDA-5 just tell LILO to add SDA-5 to /etc/fstab , no others. Ubuntu is gonna do all the hard work of figuring out all the linux distro's so every time you install one distro-always install grub/lilo to the MBR on SDA/HDA. This sounds like the MBR is being overwritten each time-and it is but it won't matter 'cause Ubuntu know's what to do.
Also, you can just the leave the bootable flag on for SDA-3-it doesn't need to change with each new distro.

Step-15=Now install Windows-Watch Out because Windows might want the whole HD-don't let Windows partition anything-just format it's partition-SDA-2.
If Windows doesn't boot after install don't panic-that's what Ubuntu's for...

Step-16= Finally/Hopefully your almost done-for this example we just installed Windows and it boots ok, before Windows I installed Slackware 12.2/or whatever-of course Slack's not booting and it doesn't show up on the boot menu-no problem....

Step-17= Now, put in Ubuntu 8.04.02 and reboot.
Now, don't partition anything-choose "edit partition" set it to format SDA-1, set the mountpoint as "/" root, EXT3.
So, to be clear we're installing Ubuntu to SDA-1 and swap will be SDA-9.
Just go through each screen and accept the defaults.
OK-once Ubuntu starts installing to SDA-1 your almost Home.
Sooner or later the install GUI is gonna say "installing grub", then "updating grub", now a screen will pop up and say "Grub has found these other Operating Systems, do you want Grub to add these to /etc/fstab" or "do you want to boot these partitions at boot time"
This is what we've been waiting for-CHOOSE YES!
Grub should finish installing and then ask to reboot.
Reboot and...Hopefully/Probably all your distro's plus Windows will show up on the Grub boot screen-Hell Yeah!

That's the easy way for a newbie and how I did all my installs until I figured out how to setup grub/lilo-just let Ubuntu do the hard part of figuring out how many partitions you have and the differing OS's.

Last edited by linus72; 03-27-2009 at 09:14 PM.
Old 03-27-2009, 09:31 PM   #2
Simon Bridge
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A strong effort - well done.
There are lots of these, but more of them won't hurt. Relating your own specific experienses can help others too.

Just a few tips:

partition names are usually all lower case and not hyphenated. You can confuse newbies when what they see does not match what you wrote. So your windows partition, for example, is sda2 not SDA-2. (Does gparted really use the notation you showed?)

We use lower case a great deal by convention - (ntfs, ext3, vfat etc) in particular, we do not use upper case for emphasis (it's called "shouting" and comes across that way in many browsers.) If you want to use emphasis, consider italics, you'll see it reads better.

There is a caveat for Windows - windows expects to be in a primary partition marked bootable, preferably the first primary partition. I like to put a but of empty space around windows, a prejudice I got from an instance of Windows98 I had that would slightly overwrite it's partition.

Newbies usually need to be warned that windows is known to play poorly with the other children - sometimes even identifying linux partitions as corrupt or grub as malware - asking if you want to "fix" it.

You did well by putting Ubuntu last - this means all the distros will end up booted off Ubuntu's grub.
The distros in your example use automatic maintenance, so when they upgrade their kernel, they will write a new entry to their grub.conf or menu.lst (depending). These changes may not carry over to Ubuntu's menu.lst so your newbie may wonder why the system keeps booting into the older kernel.

If the user does not plan to upgrade the distros, this is fine.

Otherwise, however, it is useful to install all distros, except the last one, so that their grub ends up in their partition rather than mbr. Then they can use the chainload command to boot each distro from it's own grub configuration.

Hope this helps.
Old 03-27-2009, 09:53 PM   #3
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Thanks-I was hoping someone would correct any errors I made.
I no longer have Windows XP due to playing around with Unetbootin!
Not having a Windows Recovery Disc-(very important Newbies!) I stupidly just installed Ubuntu-8.04 though I pulled my files out via USB before installing.
I could have saved XP had I known about SystemRescueCD, etc or that through Ubuntu I could've restored my MBR, maybe.
Anyway I was playing with Unetbootin in XP and Unetbootin had installed grub incorrectly to the MBR/whatever and when I rebooted into what was supposed to be a Ubuntu/XP dual boot I instead got a black screen with a blinking cursor-Shit!
So, I've never installed Windows and then linux-I have 0 experience with Windows and linux-my machine is all Linux with these distro's.
sda1 Slackware-12.2
sda2 Ubuntu-SE-8.04
sda3 SuperUbuntu-8.10
sda4 Extended
sda5 Debian Lenny
sda6 Zenwalk-5.2
sda9-FAT32 File Storage
Anyway-listen to other members about Windows.
Windows is not linux-friendly-especially Vista!
That's right sda1/hda1, etc not SDA-1.
Also, your probably right about the upgrading too, as is that why when Debian boots it says "no resume image"?
It still boots and runs fine-I just see that come up at boot time.
Otherwise, however, it is useful to install
 all distros, except the last one, 
so that their grub ends up in their
 partition rather than mbr. 
Then they can use the chainload 
command to boot each distro from 
it's own grub configuration.
This is true too-Except most distro's won't allow you to install grub/lilo to a partition in an Extended Partition=or am I mistaken?

Last edited by linus72; 03-27-2009 at 10:01 PM.
Old 04-28-2009, 12:04 PM   #4
Python Rider
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hi a newbie in linux world ..n bit crazy wanna install 3 os in a single hard disk..
i want to install windows 7 since there are some programs which run on windows only and basically im a newbie..
the second os i want to install is backtrack 3 final from live cd..
the third os i want to install is linux mint 6 kde..

i partitioned my hard disk as follows..
dev/sda1 primary partion NTFS C: 27 GB
dev/sda2 primary partion NTFS D: 40 GB
dev/sda3 primary partion SWAP 5 GB (RAM = 2 GB)
dev/sda5 logical partion / ext3 10 GB
dev/sda6 logical partion /boot ext3 10 GB
dev/sda7 logical partion /home ext3 12 GB
dev/sda8 logical partion reiserfs 10 GB

i installed windows 7 first ..thn installed linux mint 6 kde ..everything worked fine..grub was perfect..although i didnt do config.

thn i tried installing backtrack 3 final from live cd ..

thn now i can open nly windows ..linux mint wont open although it shows in grub..and backtrack wont show in grub..

i think both distros got installed in root

wat to do to install..plz help me out..

thanks to linux geeks...

Last edited by Python Rider; 04-28-2009 at 12:06 PM.
Old 04-28-2009, 12:06 PM   #5
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hi a newbie in linux world ..n bit crazy wanna install 3 os in a single hard disk..
Please open a new thread for your problem, so people can help you better.
Old 04-28-2009, 12:13 PM   #6
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yep-open a new thread-
Note that grub configuring and such is not my strength-others here surely will help with that...


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