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 How to Set Up a Dual Boot Windows & Linux System with Wubi How to Set Up a Dual Boot Windows & Linux System with Wubi Read More . 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

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 Clonezilla - Free Advanced Hard Drive Cloning Software Clonezilla - Free Advanced Hard Drive Cloning Software Read More .

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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  1. jhpot
    October 3, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    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.

  2. Cat
    October 3, 2011 at 1:24 am

    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.


  3. jhpot
    September 29, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Thanks for helping out Suhel, apr64!

  4. McStud
    September 26, 2011 at 4:00 am

    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
      September 29, 2011 at 4:54 pm

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

  5. Tina
    September 25, 2011 at 10:25 am

    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.

    • jhpot
      September 29, 2011 at 4:53 pm

      Did you post that twice on purpose, Tina? Either way, hilarious.

      • Tina
        October 3, 2011 at 6:12 am

        Did I post my comment twice? Not that I know of...

  6. Suhel
    September 23, 2011 at 9:07 am

    are there any issues detecting network and graphics card after Ubuntu installation?

    • justin
      September 23, 2011 at 1:14 pm

      Very rarely, in my experience, at least with recent Ubuntu versions. And Ubuntu's hardware management tool will pop up if there is. 

      • Suhel
        September 24, 2011 at 3:28 am

        I'd a weird issue, I installed Ubuntu 11.04 (the one with Unity I guess) and it booted too and I got this nice glossy dashboard on the left screen. I played around more and stumbled upon additional drivers, it said I've to download some Nvidia graphics drivers (I've graphics card of Nvidia itself) and I did so and when the computer booted it got me the classic menu sayin my computer dont support the hardware for unity. I removeed the Nvidia drivers and I got Unity back again. can you tell me the problem which occured? cuz its bit strange

        • Albert Prabhu Raj
          September 24, 2011 at 8:53 am

          The official video drivers for Ubuntu 11.04 have problems with newer AMD/ATI or Nvidia cards. Ubuntu 11.10 supports newer cards. October 13, 2011 is the launching date of this new Ubuntu.

        • Suhel
          September 24, 2011 at 9:26 am

          thats great news, I hope I dont have to reinstall everything when the update comes. Am just 1day old to LInux :)

        • Albert Prabhu Raj
          September 24, 2011 at 8:57 am

          By the way I'm using AMD Radeon HD 6970 with Ubuntu 11.04, which is not at all supported.

  7. Suhel
    September 23, 2011 at 8:19 am

    more detailed article ws needed :(

  8. Iananananan
    September 21, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    As I've toyed with windows eight, I've discovered it finally supports playing nice with other operating systems. However, with the new UEFI hardware-based boot protection is going to conflict with it.

  9. Darryl_Gittins
    September 21, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Yes - the Startup manager utility seems to be the way to go.
    Warning though - the utility apparently is easily confused. When I picked the Windows
    XP operating system and then rebooted, the system started from the wrong
    partition. It seems to be one disk number off. That is, I had to select the 3rd
    option to actually apply the fourth option. You may have to guess a few times
    before it actually enables the right operating system as the boot operating


    Here's the "for dummies" steps that worked for me
    to install the utility:



    Click the little Ubuntu
    icon in the top right corner (I'm using the latest Ubuntu install so that
    Icon may be elsewhere on older installs)
    In the Search box that
    appears, type "Terminal".
    Click Terminal
    Type the following command,
    and then press enter:
    apt-get install startupmanager  
    In the Search utility
    again, type "startup" and then click the Start-up Manager

    In the utility, "simply" select the operating
    system you want as the boot operating system.

  10. slopoke
    September 21, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    You can change the default system using "StartUp-Manager" if your linux distro has installed.  If not you can install from software center.  

  11. Saqib
    September 21, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Darryl that needs to be done from Ubuntu by editing Grub. Perhaps makeuseof can write one article on this topic also.

    • jhpot
      September 29, 2011 at 4:52 pm

      Thanks for helping Darryl out, Saqib. And you're right: we should write an article about editing GRUB.

  12. Darryl
    September 21, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Any tips on picking the default OS?

    When you follow this procedure, the default is the Linux base OS, but there's no easy way to change that to be the Windows OS  (without having to type multiple mystical esoteric commands that only Venusians understan into the grub or whatever you call the command line tool).

    • Aibek
      September 26, 2011 at 6:28 am

      you should be able to choose which operating system to start upon boot. does it really matter which one is default in this case?

      • Darryl
        September 26, 2011 at 7:03 pm

        Because systems tend to reboot automaticaly, and then perhaps start in the wrong OS. I run this dual boot system with Windows services I need to have running on the Windows OS. If it reboots (due to an automatic update), and I'm not there watching the screen to notice (updates are usually at 3am), then the system will start in Ubuntu, and my required services are not going to be runing. It might be a day or two before I even realize this has happened, and by then the damage is done. I can think of many more reasons why someone would need to change the default boot order.