Linux Windows

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

Tim Watson 26-07-2009

wubiUbuntuBootAt my school, my class and I are comparing different operating systems. Each of the big three (Windows, Mac, Linux) have their pros and cons, but I’m certainly not here to incite a flame war. About half of my class was just introduced to Linux last week when using some Knoppix disks. Linux is very popular as a server operating system, and most fans of it would tell you that it’s very close to being ready for Joe User’s desktop PC.


Today I’ll show you how to set up a “dual boot” system that includes Linux (specifically Ubuntu Linux) alongside Windows XP or Vista. There will be no hard-drive partitioning (that’s scary!), instead Ubuntu will be installed in this case as if it were any other Windows program. This also makes it easy to uninstall later, in case you don’t like it.

Why would someone want to do this? Maybe you’re just beginning to really learn it, like I am. Maybe you’re a gamer who is just not a fan of the Windows interface and would like an alternative. Maybe you’re the power-user type and just wants to see what the fuss is about. Any reason you may have is valid. I’m just a big fan of free software who wants to help spread the word.

To get started, there’s no need to go to the Ubuntu site and download or order a CD-ROM. In this example, all you will need is to download and run the Wubi installer. Wubi started as an independent project, but is now officially supported by the Ubuntu community as a method of installation.


On the first screen, you’ll provide your desired username and password as well as designate the size of your “virtual disk” file, which your PC will see as a Linux file system.



Depending on the speed of your Internet connection, this next part may take a while. Wubi will download an image of the Ubuntu installation CD. As long as you’re on a broadband connection, this shouldn’t take more than an hour or two; Feel free to ignore the approximate download time at the onset.


After a few more installation screens, you’ll be prompted to reboot your system. Doing so should bring you to a new screen, giving you a choice whether you want to boot into Windows or Ubuntu. Select Ubuntu anytime to finish the installation.



Don’t panic when you see the formatting-partitions screen; Only the virtual disk file on which Ubuntu sits is being formatted.


After another reboot, enter your username and password and gaze upon a fresh pristine Linux desktop. It takes a little bit of getting-used-to, but the learning curve isn’t that steep.


Feel free to glance over the documentation to get your feet wet, check out our many articles on Linux use, and join the forums if you have any questions. Don’t be afraid of asking something “stupid”.  We were all n00bs once. Well, except me. I’m still a Linux n00b. But hey that’s what I’m taking out student loans for.

My choice of Ubuntu may have upset some Linux fans. Feel free to let me have it, and tell us why your favorite distribution is better, in the comments.

Related topics: Boot Screen, Dual Boot.

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  1. mark j
    July 27, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    Major fail. Wubi is NOT dual-boot.

    It is, in fact, an ALTERNATIVE to dual-booting.

  2. Noah
    July 27, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    I don't think anyone needs help installing wubi, but if thye did, maybe Linux just isnät for them.

  3. David
    July 27, 2009 at 1:09 am

    Linux Mint is undoubtedly a much improved version of Ubuntu.

  4. mark s
    July 26, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    You could at least put a note that there will be some kind of a performance hit if Ubuntu is installed this way. NTFS, err... The various Linux file systems are also why people use Linux.
    I never get why people even want to do this. If you're just trying out a distro, UNetbootin would be enough, I doubt that it's anymore complicated, and damn it's quick, no CDs needed, easily to get rid of later. If you're satisfied and want to use the distro in its full glory, just install it the traditional way (no harder than installing windows itself). Out of disk space? Should you be installing another OS then? Linux is very involved, it's kinda disheartening to spend time learning it just to be reminded that you're not actually using the 'real' thing. But hey, it's your own damn computer.
    I don't think any sane hardcore gamers would walk away from Windows. But I've said too much.

  5. Mackenzie
    July 26, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Not as though Wubi was ever explained on MakeUseOf before, right?

    Aibek, since when do you recycle stories?

    Also, I'm not so sure I'd call it safe. It's a bit tricky. When I did a Wubi install for someone else, I learned you need to do a defrag first. And I've heard of hal updates in Ubuntu making Wubi installs cease to boot into Ubuntu (Windows is unaffected). That was a while ago, before they started including it on the CD, but I'm still antsy about it.

  6. JS
    July 26, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Does this method allow Ubuntu to install video card and other hardware? The Sun Virtual Box method wouldn't allow that.

    • Tim Watson
      July 26, 2009 at 12:14 pm

      I can vouch for this personally. Ubuntu accepted my video card's driver without issue. This method is not virtualization; The OS interacts directly with the system.