What is the best method for installing Ubuntu alongside Windows 7?

Johnson November 17, 2011
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I’m planning to install a Linux OS alongside my Windows 7 OS and have difficulty deciding what’s the best/efficient method of installing Ubuntu.

I know there are several methods: Live CD, Wubi, HD Install…etc. What I’m trying to ask is:

What’s the pros and cons of each installation methods. For example, Live CD uses RAM to boot the system and is slow. But it allows the user to modify their hard drive without being mounted.

On a side note, is there a Ubuntu iso available for DVDs? I’ve heard that DVD have much more content and is recommended for computer with no internet access.


  1. Enn Eff
    July 6, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    this is nauman, and i hav some problems while downloading ubuntu in a window 7 environment... i shrinked some meory of ma drive for ubuntu....buh i cant see the shrinked memory/drive while installing ubuntu , i wanted to run two OS at a time...
    help me out plxx...thnx

  2. Andrei Tiut
    November 26, 2011 at 9:40 am

    I do one of two things. If i want to use Windows as main system, I insert a live CD while Windows is on. Ubuntul will install as a second system, so at boot time i will see first the windows Bootloader, then, if I choose Ubuntu, the GRUB. 

    I used to have Windows, Mint and Ubuntu installed like this. I deleted  Mint files (too lazy to uninstall) and Windows and Ubuntu work just fine.

    If I want Linux as main system i boot from the live CD and Ubuntul will install as main system. When i boot my PC afterwards i see the GRUB. I do not remember what happens if i choose windows in the GRUB.

    However, take the above with a pinch of salt. I have not done this for months, so maybe I am forgetting something.

  3. Tina
    November 20, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Thanks a lot for your feedback, John!

  4. Jeff
    November 17, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Hi Johnson,

    Yes, a DVD install (also known as an offline install) is primarily helpful if you have a slow internet connection, as the DVD, which comes with all the language packs by default. You can download the DVD from here.

    As for the best method, I always manually partition the drives myself. The Ubuntu Installer (via LiveCD) has a straight forward installation wizard. If you're not sure which distribution you want to use yet, I recommend you test them out in a virtual machine (see point 2) before you start installing them. 

    1.) LiveCD / LiveUSB
    The LiveCD provides you with a demo of the distribution. It also offers an installation wizard as well, in the case you decide you want to install it. The LiveCD may also be used for other purposes, such as recovering Windows passwords and repairing your Ubuntu installation.
    • Ease of use
    • Installation wizard is simple
    • Extremely slow while Live

    2.) Virtual Machine
    A virtual machine install is ideal if you don't want to edit your partitions, yet you want to get an (almost) exact replication of what the distribution will be like after install. Virtual Box is the most common virtualization client and it's also free.
    • Emulates the distributions installation behaviour
    • No risk of dangering your Windows partition (or any other)
    • Setup can be difficult for a beginner to virtualization 
    • Doesn't edit boot loader, so you must use Windows to access this image

    3.) Wubi
    Wubi (Windows Ubuntu Installer) will install Ubuntu on your hard drive without having to deal with partitioning. 
    • Wubi is simple to use
    • Wubi is safe to use (no partitioning/formatting)
    • Wubi is considerably slower as the image resides on a seperate partition
    • Does not support hibernation
    • Wubi won't allow you to allocate more than 30GB's to the distribution

    - Jeff

    • John Jiang
      November 17, 2011 at 11:21 pm

      Thank you so much Jeff, 

      I still have some questions regarding your answer:

      What's so tricky about removing a operating system after it's installed on your hard drive?

      If I install Ubuntu, would the memory be shared with Windows? Let's say, I have Ubuntu installed and I just booted Windows, my computer have total of 3GB RAM. After installing Ubuntu, there's a subtraction of 1GB. So at my current system, would window show 3GB?

      • Jeff
        November 18, 2011 at 12:02 am

        Hi John,

        When you install Ubuntu via a LiveCD, it creates it installs a bootloader of its own, known as Grub. When you remove Ubuntu, it removes the grub but doesn't place your original bootloader (for Windows) back into the Master Boot Record (MBR), therefore it may seem like your Windows partition was removed with Ubuntu. There are plenty of tutorials on how to remove Ubuntu successfully and even more on how to recover your original boot loader.

        Your memory does not get divided when you install another operating system. When you launch an operating system, all of the available ram is accessible within it, despite what other operating systems are installed.

        A virtual machine however, operates a bit differently. Virtual Box will "borrow" memory from your computer for the virtual machine, but when you close the virtual machine it all goes back to the operating system. 

        Does this help? We're here to help (:
        - Jeff

        • John Jiang
          November 18, 2011 at 2:59 am

           Yeah, thanks a lot.

          I'm still worrying on one thing though, there's a quick os system that's installed on my computer and this operating system is made for  quick access to the web. The system will appear as soon as I boot up and if I do decide to install Ubuntu, will this system disappear or be deleted?

          Could you also post some hints about partitioning? Recommended swap space and such.

        • Jeff
          November 18, 2011 at 3:48 am

          The Ubuntu installer will provide you with I believe, three options. First, "install alongside Windows" which should shrink the Windows partition to the size you want it to be, allocating that free space then for Ubuntu. Second, is "Install ontop of Windows" which is probably not what you want, it will overwrite Windows partition with the Ubuntu partition. Lastly, is an option to manually layout your partition table. I personally prefer GParted when it comes to manually partitioning, which comes installed by default on most Linux distributions.

          The key thing is to not overwrite or delete any partition that you need. It's sometimes not clear what partition belongs to what, so in Windows you can use the Disk Management (Start -> Search: "compmgmt.msc") to analyze what partition belongs to what.

          You may then wish to shrink your existing Windows installation (to make a partition for Ubuntu) by right clicking on the sector and clicking "Shrink Volume". Once you've allocated enough space for Ubuntu, you can proceed to install Ubuntu on the unallocated space. You should make note of the size of the partition that you created, in case Ubuntu isn't clear on what partition is what (it will tell you the size).

          Generally, your swap space should be half of the amount of ram you have. So if you have 3 GB's or ram, a 1.5 GB swap space should be fine. Though, it really depends on what work you will be doing. I make use of the cache like nobodies business, so I made mine 8 GB's. If you're short on hard drive space, don't be afraid to be conservative on the swap space.

          As for learning resources, Techotopia Ubuntu Essentials is a great read for beginners. Also checkout the 5 Excellent Downloadable eBooks To Teach Yourself Linux.

        • John Jiang
          November 23, 2011 at 4:36 am

           Hi Jeff,

          There's still one question that still lingers upon me: why does Ubuntu replace MBR (Master Boot Record) with GRUB? Someone told me that it's necessary because MBR won't show Ubuntu OS and does not boot from two different OS.

          Thanks for all the help. I appreciate it.

        • Jeff
          November 23, 2011 at 4:47 am

          Hey John, 

          Your hard disk's first secor (the sector that contains the MBR) is only 512 bytes and may only contain one bootloader, or else your BIOS would be confused as to which one to point initiate. When Ubuntu is installed, it is forced to place (or in other cases, replace) the bootloader to install Grub (Ubuntu's bootloader). However, if you had to Linux distro's installed, it is likely you wouldn't have to mess with the MBR as they most likely both use Grub.

          How is learning Linux coming? Any questions, I'm available! (:
          - Jeff

        • John Jiang
          November 23, 2011 at 7:05 pm

           Hi Jeff,

          I was trying to install Ubuntu onto my hard drive and while using the Live CD, going through the installation process: I discover that the partition selection is different than I imagined. The table shows multiple hard drives which is my manufactures folders and when I select sda2, that consumes the most space. After clicking "Install now", it give me an error about there's no define root file system and I need to edit it through partition menu.

          After some research, I've found that I need to create a new partition space for Ubuntu with ext4 format and before I decide to installing it again, I wanted to ask: Since my majority of my hard drive space is dedicated to Windows, will the Ubuntu partition erase any data within Windows?

          Lastly, What does the format check box mean when viewing the partition table? and also, should I create a new swap parition, following the same practice of creating new partition for Ubuntu?

        • Jeff
          November 23, 2011 at 8:03 pm

          Hi There!

          Yes, if you format an entire drive/partition you will wipe all data off of it. Formatting will create a file system on the drive or partition that you've selected, which for a newer Linux distribution should be Ext3 or Ext4. What you should do, is either use GParted or Windows Disk Management to create a "sub partition" within your SDA2 drive. That way, when you chose that sub partition, it will not overwrite your existing Windows partition. You will also need to create the 1.5 - 3GB swap partition. 

          Once you've created these partitions, when you're installing Ubuntu simply chose the partition you want to install Ubuntu on as the root file system. If you haven't done so already, it will need to be formated to EXT3 or 4 then. Then chose your drive that you wanted for your swap, and in the options for that partition chose "swap". 

          You can reherse the install in a Virtual Machine, which I still advise you do. This way, you don't risk messing anything up and you can get a feel for the install process. 

          Basically, you have your SDA drives. On the SDA drives you have "primary partitions" which house bootable operating systems. Right now, your Windows installation probably consumes that entire drive. You want to shrink that down so that you can place another primary partition for Ubuntu alongside your Windows partition. You will also need a "secondary partition", which will be your swap drive. Secondary partitions are also used for hosting your "/home" (users folder) independently from the operating system, so if there is a crash you don't lose your documents. 

          - Jeff

        • John Jiang
          November 23, 2011 at 10:58 pm

           Hi Jeff.

          I've tried to allocate the hard drive to no success. First, Gparted nor Disk Management is able to format the unallocated space to ext4. During the installation process, I've tried to change my sda2 hard drive and only there could I try to resize the partition to any format but leaves an warning that second guess myself, previous changes to this disk will be erased.

          I'm not sure why Gparted cannot format allocated space and my guess told me that it's due to some indefinite reason. It's also strange that after making the changes, the whole ntfs partition turned into ext4 when I wanted to resize it into seperate partition.

          I'm clueless as to how this process could be so onerous. There's a tool that could format unallocated space to different format.

          What's your suggestion?

        • John Jiang
          November 23, 2011 at 11:47 pm

          I've identified my frustration, the number of hard drive prevent me to allocate the space and it recommend me to create an extended partition. Then a new problem arises, neither Gparted nor DM are able to create an extended partition and Windows 7 isn't able to alter the unallocated space while XP could.

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