How To Dual-Boot The Windows & Linux OS’s On Your Computer

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dual boot windows linuxIt’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.

dual boot windows linux

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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.

Back Up!

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.

Do you need more information? Check out our free backup guide or our live CD guide to find out more.

Install Linux

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:

dual boot linux and windows

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.

dual boot windows linux

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.

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Comments (33)
  • jhpot

    I prefer installing from scratch too, Cat. With the upcoming version of Ubuntu, you will be able to sync a list of your apps to Ubuntu One; this will make installing from scratch a lot easier.

  • Cat

    It’s always best to do a new install from scratch, rather than the “upgrade” route. The “home” partition can be saved “as is”, and won’t need to be formatted. You will have to reinstall your apps, though.

    Cat

  • jhpot

    Thanks for helping out Suhel, apr64!

  • McStud

    The easiest way to dual-boot Windows and Ubuntu is using wubi.  This is short for Windows Ubuntu Installer.  Initially, there were some bugs using this method.  However, the newest distros of Ubuntu (at least on my computers) never fails.  The obvious advantages of this method is that you don’t lose the Windows boot loader, and you can uninstall Ubuntu at any time seamlessly.  It is like having a 17GB program within Windows.  I have not noticed any speed decrease installing Ubuntu this way as opposed to partitaning.  You will see this option for installation on Ubuntu’s download website.  I have always burned an iso to a cd or dvd, then insert the disk when on Windows desktop.  Autorun will pop-up giving you the option to install alongside Windows.  This is  the fastest way to install Ubuntu without partitioning your hard drive and having Grub take over.

    • jhpot

      You’re right: Wubi is really easy. I didn’t realize the bugs were gone, though: good to know!

  • Tina

    I noticed that you tried to post this comment several times. Just letting you know that it didn’t get published immediately because all comments containing links need to be moderated first.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.