Install Windows-controlled Dual-Boot of Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin) on a Windows 7 computer
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This guide shows how to leave Windows 7 unaltered when you create a natural dual-boot of Windows 7 and Linux Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin) if Windows 7 is installed first. The Windows 7 boot loader will stay in control (not Linux’s GRUB). You can then select either OS from a Windows 7 menu during bootup. Basically you will still have a Windows 7 computer system that also allows you to boot to Ubuntu whenever you wish. No data loss will occur and a third-party boot utility is not used.
In this procedure you need to shrink the Windows 7 drive to make room for Linux unless you install Ubuntu of a second hard disk. Using a second disk is a little easier but far from essential.
All 32 and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 were used in testing. The computers used were:
(1) 64-bit Studio XPS 8100 (2.93 GHz), Core i7, 8 GB RAM DDR3, NVidia GeForce GTX 460, 2×1 TB SATA hard disks.
(2) 64-bit AMD Athlon (2.4GHz), 2.0 GB RAM, 128 MB Radeon XPress, 1 TB SATA hard disk.
(3) 32-bit Dell Optiplex with Pentium 4 (2.26GHz), 2.0 GB RAM, Radeon 7500, 160 GB ATA hard disk
Following these instructions correctly should always succeed. However, any change to your computer should not even be considered unless a rescue plan is available. This guide also contains that rescue plan – just in case!
The procedure used is suitable for experienced computer users.
Important Installation Notes
Shrinking a Windows 8, 7 or Vista drive. You should use Shrink in Windows’ Disk Management to resize the Windows partition. You can read Shrink the Windows 8. 7 or Vista Partition for instructions on completing this task successfully. Use the freeGParted Live CD to gain disk space only if you must – read the page Use GParted to Resize the Windows 8, 7 or Vista Partition to learn how.
EasyBCD. The highly-acclaimed EasyBCD is a free editing utility that allows any user to easily edit the Windows 7/Vista boot menu (the BCD or Boot Configuration Data). Some settings, not used here, are quite advanced. EasyBCD works in Windows 7 and Vista, but also runs in Windows XP if you first install Microsoft’s .NET 2.0 Framework.
SUMMARY (Advanced users): How to Dual-Boot Ubuntu 12.04 on a Windows 7 Computer
- Create sufficient Unallocated space for Ubuntu 12.04 at end of first hard disk or on a second disk.
- Start installing from Ubuntu Live CD
- In “Allocate drive space”, select Something else.
- Create an EXT4 partition for Ubuntu (it can be a Logical partition) – use / for Mount Point.
- Create the Swap partition – use swap area for Mount Point.
- Optionally, create another EXT4 partition for your data – use /home for Mount Point.
- In “Device for boot loader installation”, select the Ubuntu EXT4 / partition, like /dev/sda3 or /dev/sdb1.
- Only Windows boots for now.
- Use the free EasyBCD 2.1 utility to add “Linux/BSD” (select GRUB2) to the Windows boot loader menu.
That’s it! The Windows boot loader menu will boot either Linux Ubuntu 12.04 or Windows 7.
Details: Install Linux Ubuntu 12.04 on first or other hard disk when Windows 7 was installed first
Installing other operating systems on your Windows 7 computer may invalidate your warrantee.
It’s important to follow the instructions exactly as stated and you should have a properly working Windows.
Make your preparations
Make disk space available for Linux Ubuntu
You must create disk space and leave it as Unallocated or Free (not formatted). Decide first on how much disk space you wish to allocate to Linux and if you will create an extra partition (/home) for your Linux data. This data partition can be left intact should you wish to reinstall Linux at a later time. The Swap area size should be about twice your RAM size but you should allow less than twice if you have a lot of RAM.
Make a note of the size of the Unallocated space when it’s created.
If installing Ubuntu 12.04 on a 2nd or 3rd hard disk:
If installing Ubuntu 12.04 on the first hard disk:
Install Linux Ubuntu 12.04
Raid/LVM was not an issue when testing and partitions were created manually during installation. Ubuntu was installed on previously created Unallocated space with its boot loader installed to the Linux EXT4 / partition. Windows still booted automatically after Ubuntu installation. Finally EasyBCD was run in Windows to create the Ubuntu 12.04 entry in Windows 7’s boot manager thereby creating the Windows-controlled dual-boot.
Place a Linux Ubuntu 12.04 boot option in Windows boot loader
Congratulations! You have created a natural dual-boot of Windows 7 and Linux Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin) when Windows 7 was installed first, the original MBR is unchanged, and the Windows Boot Loader menu is shown on bootup.
Footnote: EasyBCD 2.1 creates an NST folder on the root of the Windows 7 partition when it adds an operating system to the Windows 7 boot loader. This NST folder contains boot sector file(s) vital to booting added OSs. It must not be deleted.
Older Computers with low maximum Screen Resolution
Ubuntu 12.04 itself runs fine at 1024×768 screen resolution. However GRUB2 may require a higher resolution (1280 x 1024) and users with old systems may be presented with a blank screen instead of the expected boot loader menu.
The boot menu is actually there but it’s not visible! To run Ubuntu when the blank screen appears, just press Enter. To run Windows, press the down arrow key 4 times and press Enter. And then be patient for a few moments.
Remove/Uninstall Linux and reclaim space
Linux Ubuntu is wonderful, regularly updated, and it’s free! Nevertheless you may wish to remove it or try its boot loader at some stage.
To try the Ubuntu GRUB2 boot loader
To remove Ubuntu and keep only Windows 7
Repair Windows 7 Startup
You will not have any problem if you follow the instructions as stated above. However you might encounter some freak occurrence like a power failure during an installation. Windows 7 will boot again if you execute the following procedure.
If still stuck for a solution, boot again from the installation DVD, select Repair your computer, highlight Windows 7, get to a Command Prompt, use DIR command (DIR C: or DIR D: etc.) to identify drive letter allocations (sizes and Labels will help), and type in:
Help! I get only the GRUB boot menu!
If you only get a GRUB boot menu on bootup, then GRUB was mistakenly installed to the Active partition, (hd0) – probably the Windows partition. The Windows boot loader has been overwritten by the Linux version but it’s easily recovered.
How to reinstall/recover the Windows 7/Vista boot loader (BCD)