Over the past few weeks several people have asked me if it's possible to set up a Windows XP/Linux dual-boot system on a PC that already has Windows XP installed on it, and if it's possible, how easy is the process.
Well, I'm here to tell you that it's pretty easy to do. In fact, the process is only marginally more work that installing Linux in the first place (which, if you've installed Linux before, you'll know if pretty easy).
Here's how it's done.
- First, start off with a machine with XP already installed on it.
- Next, download a Linux distro. I'll be using my personal favorite, Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn.
- Burn a CD of the ISO you downloaded and pop it into the drive and boot up off of it.
- Start the install process. This will take you through the Welcome screen, the Where are you? screen and the Keyboard layout screen.
- Now you'll come to the disk partitioner. Choose the Resize [main partition] and use freed space option. This is where you find out if you have enough free space to do the job. The default recommendation for the new partition size will be ideal, but you can move the slider along to change the values to suit. When you're done, click Forward.
- Now you can go away and leave the install to churn away until it's done. It shouldn't take all that long.
- When the install is complete the system will reboot.
- When the system boot up, now you'll be greeted by the GRUB boot menu. From here you can choose which OS to boot into. In my case Ubuntu will be the default and will start automatically in 10 seconds.
- The first time that you reboot into Windows the OS will more than likely want to check the disk since the partition has changed size since Windows was last running. XP will also likely want to re-detect hardware and such and probably reboot.
- That's it! Yes, it's that simple.
In Ubuntu I can also tweak the GRUB bootloader settings. To do this you need to fire up a Terminal window (Applications > Accessories > Terminal) and type the following into the window:
sudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst
Hit ENTER and then type in your password hit ENTER again and you get access to the boot menu file in gedit.
The default boot entry is defined by the default value. Change this value to reflect which OS you want to boot up automatically. The default value is 0, which means that the first entry in the list (in this case Ubuntu) will be loaded automatically. If you want to change it so that Windows XP loads by default, change the value to 4 (because here XP is the fifth item in the list and the numbering system starts at 0). You can also increase the boot menu timeout by changing the value of timeout from the default 10 to something else. Save the file to committ the changes.