It’s like having two computers in one – start your system up and choose between Windows and Linux. It’s called dual-booting, and it gives you access to two of the best operating systems on the planet.
Why dual-boot? Maybe you want the security of Linux when you’re browsing the web, but want access to the vast library of games Windows can offer? Perhaps you want to explore Ubuntu and other Linux systems but want to leave Windows around in case you need it?
The easiest way to get dual-boot working is to use Wubi, the Ubuntu installer that runs from within Windows. There are downsides to Wubi however, including stability issues and occasional trouble upgrading. That’s why there is no replacement for setting up working partitions and installing Linux. Whatever your reason for dual-booting, rest assured – the process is easy if you know what you’re doing.
Install Windows First – Then Linux
Put simply, if you want to set up a dual-boot setup, you need to install systems in the proper order. Install Windows first, then install Linux.
Why? Basically, Windows does not recognize the existence of other operating systems. It is a bit of a psychopath, assuming that if you’re installing Windows, you only need Windows. As such, Windows does not provide any way for you to access your other operating systems installed alongside it.
Don’t worry, though. Almost all Linux distros recognize that Windows exists, and are willing to share the computer with Windows. This is why you should always set up Windows first, then set up Linux. This will give you a choice of operating systems when you start your computer.
There are ways to install Windows after Linux and still dual-boot, but they aren’t recommended for beginners. The simplest thing is to always install Windows before installing Linux.
If you’re installing Windows now, leave some space free on the hard drive. 10GB is probably enough depending on what you plan to do in Linux, but how much space you give each system will ultimately depend on what you plan on doing with them and which system you see as being your primary system. Give this some thought.
Dp you want to install Linux alongside an already-existing Windows installation? This is also possible, although a little more complicated. I’d highly recommend defragmenting your drive before you do anything else, however.
If you plan on dual-booting, you should really backup your data. It’s unlikely, but there’s always a chance when you’re messing around with your disk partitioning that something might go wrong. You can backup your data manually if you like, or you can use Clonezilla to backup your entire operating system.
Once you’ve backed up your information you’re ready to install Linux. Doing this is easy, just download the ISO file for your Linux distro of choice, burn it to a CD and then boot from the CD.
If you want an easy-to-set-up distribution, I recommend Ubuntu. Its guided installation process will help you make room for itself:
Pay careful attention to your options. You want to install Ubuntu alongside Windows, not replace Windows. Once you select this option you will be taken to the partition editor. If you left empty space, simply use this empty space to install Ubuntu. If you haven’t, you’ll need to shrink your Windows partition first. Do this by right-clicking your Windows partition, then lowering the space it takes up.
Do you want access to your Windows files from Ubuntu? You can. During installation, set up your Windows drive to be mounted every time you boot.
Unfortunately it’s a lot harder to get Windows to see files from your Linux partition. There are some tools for the job, but in my experience they rarely work well consistently.
Your New System
Congratulations! You’ve now got a dual-boot environment set up. It was pretty easy, wasn’t it?
Leave your dual-booting advice below, along with any recommended distros for dual-booting. Also, feel free to ask any dual-booting questions at MakeUseOf Answers.