Dual-booting Vista and Linux

Dual-booting Vista and Linux

Summary: Following my post the other day on setting up an XP/Linux dual-boot system I received a number of enquires about setting up a Vista/Linux dual-boot system where the system already has Windows Vista installed.


Following my post the other day on setting up an XP/Linux dual-boot system I received a number of enquires about setting up a Vista/Linux dual-boot system where the system already has Windows Vista installed.  The basic process isn't all that dissimilar to setting up an XP/Linux dual boot rig, the main difference being that you have to make a tweak to the Windows partition from within Windows Vista.

Here's the deal:

  1. First, start off with a machine with Vista already installed on it and all data securely backed up (use Vista’s Backup and Restore Center or use a similar product).
  2. Next, download a Linux distro.  Again I’ll be using my personal favorite, Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn.
  3. Burn a CD of the ISO you downloaded and put it on one side for a moment.
  4. Fire up Windows Vista.
  5. Click Start, then right-click on Computer and select Manage then click on Disk Management (click Continue on the User Account Control screen).
  6. Find your Windows partition from the list of partitions and right-click on it. Select Shrink Volume ...
  7. The Shrink dialog box will tell you how much space you have to play with.  You'll ideally need at least 4GB for Linux.  Enter the amount of space you want to shrink the partition by and click Shrink. This will take a while depending on the size of your disk and how much space you’re freeing up. 
  8. When the process is done you'll notice that the disk now has a smaller primary partition (containing your Vista install) and the space you freed up in the form of unallocated space.
  9. You're done in Vista.  Shut down the OS.
  10. Now you need to boot up off the Linux CD you created earlier.
  11. Start the install process.  This will take you through the Welcome, Where are you? screen and the Keyboard layout screens.
  12. Now you’ll come to the disk partitioner.  Choose Guided - use the largest continuous free space.  This will now automatically select the unallocated space that you freed up earlier in Vista. Click Forward.
  13. Proceed with the installation as normal.
  14. When the system boots up from now on, you’ll be greeted by the GRUB boot menu.  From there you can choose which OS to boot into.
  15. That’s it!  Yes, it’s that simple.

If you want, you can edit the GRUB bootloader settings to control the startup process.  I've detailed a few tweaks here.

Now that wasn't too bad, was it?

Topics: Windows, Hardware, Linux, Microsoft, Open Source

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  • With Virtualization why dual boot ????

    • Cost

      VM are not free, Linux distros are. Also I would rather run Linux natively and not through windows.
      • Beg to differ..

        You can download a free VMWare player and they also already have a prebuilt Linux VM


        • And there's enough flexibility

          in those prebuilt VM's and the free player that you can wipe out the prebuilt OS and install your own. Heck, with free QEMU tools you can even build your own blank base VM yourself.
          Michael Kelly
      • Virtual PC from Microsoft is free

        And I think Virtual Server is free as well. The only costs are for the Windows licenses.
        Confused by religion
    • Games

      You really don't want to run games in a VM.

      On the other hand, running your VPN session in a VM utterly [i]rocks[/i]! With it in a VM, you don't have to give up local access while your VPN is active.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
      • Interesting

        So outside the VM you have regular unsecured access to the internet, inside the VM you have secured VPN connection. The question I have, is there a way to bridge the non VMed OS into the secured VPN. Maybe an example.

        Host OS = Linux
        Guest OS = Windows, secured by VPN client
        Is there a way for the host OS to access the secured pipe in the Windows Guest OS running?

        • I don't think so...

          then again I am not a class A hacker / cracker. But when I worked for CTB/McGraw-Hill I used to run Win2K inside of SuSE then connect to the intranet at work via VPN. I was still able to access the guest Win2K system from SuSE but I don't think that is what you are asking, is it? ]:)
          Linux User 147560
    • Reliability of Windows host

      1) with virtualization, if your windows installation gets trashed, you can't get to your virtual machine until you restore everything,

      2) with dual booting, you have to reboot to go between the OS's and you do risk problem with corrupting your master boot record if you are not careful... there are some pretty good 3d party bootloaders I think, but I'm not sure they handle every little nuance that Microsoft throws their way...

      I boot into XP every 2 weeks to run iTunes to sync and update my iPhone... that's about all I need it for.

  • Limitations with the "Shrink Volume" feature

    When I decided to put Vista on my laptop I already had 100% of my HD dedicated to Linux partitions, and I wasn't sure if Toshiba's system restore DVD would destroy the entire hard disk or not, so I decided to erase the entire 120 GB hard drive, have Vista install its partitions on the entire disk, then use the "Shrink" command to make room for the Linux partitions.

    Well, what I wanted was 40 GB for Vista and 80 GB for Linux partitions, seeing as Linux is my primary OS (I was really only installing Vista to check it out). Well, when I tried the shrink command, it would only let me shrink Vista down to about 81 GB. It's not that it was full either, and I even disabled both hibernate and the pagefile and defragged it to make sure nothing was spilling over the 40 GB limit (Vista and its apps were taking 18 or 19 GB). The only way I could shrink the partition down to the 40 GB I wanted was with QTParted, and I have to admit that made me a little antsy (only a little though because I had no data in Vista, just time invested in the setup).

    So just be aware that there are limitations and that if you have a lot invested in Vista you may not want to take the same risks I did without a complete backup (which you should have done in step one anyway).
    Michael Kelly
  • Visa not in boot option with XP


    I followed same steps to install XP on Visa PC. Once XP was installed the intial screen did not show me the option to boot in vista, it is booting in XP only.

    I did try to add option in boot.ini but it fails saying hal.dll not found. This dll is there in vista Windows directory.

    My question is do we have write something else for Vista in boot.ini than

    multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Vista" /noexecute=optin /fastdetect ?
    • The XP boot loader won't boot Vista

      You need to restore the Vista bootloader, which would have been taken over by the XP bootloader. [url=http://apcmag.com/5485/dualbooting_vista_and_xp#restoring]This shows you how to do it.[/url]
      Michael Kelly
      • re: The XP boot loader won't boot Vista


        A much easier way to repair the bootloader is with VistaBootPro. Here's where to find it:


        It's a free download, and is a graphical way to use the BCD editor. Best of all, you can avoid using the Windows "repair" module.

        On my system, I was able to use it to edit the way Vista was displaying the boot option for XP from "Previous Windows Installation" to "Windows XP MCE 2005".

        And a friend of mine used it to correct the boot loader so that it would recognize both his new Vista volume as well as the old XP Home volume, which had been physically removed from his system when he installed Vista (separate HDDs.) It was easily done and worked like a champ. Highly recommended.
        M.R. Kennedy
  • Thanks! I needed this reassurance

    ....for a friend of mine, who has Vista on his PC and wants a dual boot with Ubuntu 7.04. I wasn't sure if it was a safe and easy thing to do, as I only have experience with making dual boots with Windows XP and Ubuntu.

    Now I know what to do, I can help him with this. Thanks again!

    Greetz, Pjotr.
  • Power Management

    With GRUB will the Vista power management features still work. Can I still sleep and hibernate my laptop/system?
  • Install Linux on a XP/VISTA Dual-booting Machine

    Can I install Linux as a third OS on a XP/VISTA Machine using the same method of SHRINKING the Vista partition.
  • is the sata drives procedure different?

    I've installed SuSE to dual-boot on more than a few windows boxes, but when I tried on my shiny new gateway running vista I had nothing but trouble. First I tried to get them to co-habitate on the same disk, that resulted in an inability to boot vista. Then I added a seperate disk and tried again, same thing. I haven't played with sata drives before, so maybe thats where I'm missing something.
  • NTFS Access...

    My issue is that I've got all my data on NTFS drives from prior installations of XP/Vista, and I want to access all that data from Ubuntu (Dapper Drake... was having GUI issues with FFawn)... how the heck do I do that?
  • Loading Ubuntu goes fine but Black screen on Startup

    I followed the instructions and all went fine but now when I select Ubuntu and boot to it everything loads including the status then the screen has several lines thru it and eventually fades to black, any ideas?
  • Always Backup Your MBR!!!

    Your article is very good. However, I would add a step to backup your MBR. MBRTOOL.EXE is an excellent, free tool that can be downloaded and it will backup the mbr record on all drives. Linux is a new world for Windows folks. Some Linux distros will write over your mbr and may destroy a previous Linux distro install. I can't stress enough how important it is to have a backup of your mbr!!! I take a mbr backup before installing a Linux distro and after I changed a partition. When I backup my mbr, I use a batch file so I have 5 previous versions. See below. I can always go back and start over at a particular point.

    On one W2K machine machine, I installed Ubuntu, SuSE and Fedora Core 6. Some of these installs will write over your mbr, wiping out information and making your life h*ll. I don't remember which install(s) did it. That was last November. But, by having a backup of my mbr, I was able to recover from install problems. In the end, I choose to use a floppy disk for my boot record (grub boot manager). That leaves the MBR in its original state and it work great. I can boot any OS I want very easily.

    It is an unknown, dangerous world out there, so protect your computer and save your sanity.

    This is a bat file for a two disk system:

    echo off
    if exist mbrBK5.128 del mbrBK5.128
    if exist mbrBK4.128 ren mbrBK4.128 mbrBK5.128
    if exist mbrBK3.128 ren mbrBK3.128 mbrBK4.128
    if exist mbrBK2.128 ren mbrBK2.128 mbrBK3.128
    if exist mbrBK1.128 ren mbrBK1.128 mbrBK2.128
    echo on
    mbrtool.exe /BCK /DSK:0 /FIL:mbrBK1
    echo off
    if exist mbrBK5.129 del mbrBK5.129
    if exist mbrBK4.129 ren mbrBK4.129 mbrBK5.129
    if exist mbrBK3.129 ren mbrBK3.129 mbrBK4.129
    if exist mbrBK2.129 ren mbrBK2.129 mbrBK3.129
    if exist mbrBK1.129 ren mbrBK1.129 mbrBK2.129
    echo on
    mbrtool.exe /BCK /DSK:1 /FIL:mbrBK1

    To make this a 3 disk system backup copy the 128 code and change it to 130. For a four disk system, do the same and change it to 131. MBRTOOL.exe uses 128, 129, 130, and 131 for sysems with 1, 2, 3, 4 disks respectively.

    Good luck always!!!
    M Stephanson