Linux and 7. How to have both?

By mountaincat · 38 replies
Nov 16, 2011
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  1. I have a backup laptop that is currently not usable by me since I let my 18 year old son use it and he installed an Ubuntu version of Linux, wiping everything I had spent hours installing. I have no clue how to use Linux, and do own many Windows programs I like to work with. My question is how do I keep the Linux on that Toshiba laptop, yet be able to use Windows 7 too and all the programs I like to work with?

    When I insert my 7 disk (new install) the computer states it is not formatted to accept 7. Is there a work around this, or do I need to start from scratch and install both Linux and 7 in a different manner? If so, which gets installed first? I do not have a linux install disc at this time so I'd need a source to download that, too.

    I'd like this backup laptop to work with both OS.

    Can someone direct me to a tutorial that can walk me through the whole process from deleting to formatting to installing?

  2. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,165   +986

    You are looking a a dual-boot environment; ie choose at boot time which system to run.

    HOWEVER, The usual install sequence is to first install Windows and then install Linux into a separate partition. This allows the Linux boot loader to take control, retain
    the Windows Boot and add itself (Linux) as an option.

    Your first issue to solve is to partition the HD into three pieces (a swap partition for linux, an install partition for Windows and another for linux.

    Are you prepared for all this?
  3. mountaincat

    mountaincat TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Yes. But. Although I've fiddled here and there with computers, I have not partitioned one before.

    Before installing each into it's own partition, another question I have is what is the benefit to running what I think is called a virtual copy of linux within windows, vs. having a separate partition with each OS residing separately?

    I don't know that I personally plan to use Linux, but my son may borrow this laptop to play around in Linux (he's taking various programming classes ). I'd like to keep the option open for both of us to use it.
  4. Your best bet is to start from scratch. Partition the drive in half, install windows on the first partition first and leave the second partition as just raw data (unformatted). When you've done that, download and burn the .iso of whichever distro you want to go with. In your case as a total beginner I would probably have to recommend Linux Mint, but it's really up to you. When you install you use that second partition for Linux and install the boot loader to the mbr.
  5. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,165   +986

    Using the VM approach is nice as it avoids the partitioning and dual booting - - install the VM software and then install Linux into it.

    The down side is it will be slower but not significantly so :)
  6. mountaincat

    mountaincat TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Excellent answers that have me thinking. So, Jobeard says to make 3 partitions, and Caravel says 2 partitions. What exactly is that third partition doing? And, since I’m new to this, how does one set up the computer so it boots into whichever OS is desired with the dual partition/OS?

    Not sure I want the VM version since my son is addicted to speed and the whole point of Linux is for him to do stuff and I think speed is a crucial thing. Then again, if it is minimal speed loss, maybe not. With the VM approach, is one able to use Linux to its full capacity?
  7. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +117

    Both will work.

    JoBeard's route means your setting the partitions in place before installing Linux. e.g. you have 1x for Windows, and 2x for Linux (root and swap). In some cases its as simple as changing the partition type to EXT4, or whatever filesystem type you prefer, and SWAP. Call me pedantic but I just not like the idea of "modifying" something in Linux that Windows has created, especially something as important as your filesystem. But it will work, none the less.

    Caravel's route involves wiping the whole disk, and creating one single partition for Windows, leaving the remainder of the space unformated for Linux. You then install Linux, creating the two partitions from the unused RAW space on the hard disk. This is my preferred route. Windows handles its twin partitions (by adding System reserved at start and C afterwards) and then proceeds to install Windows ignoring the free space thats unformatted. In Linux it instantly recognises the Windows partitions, and you just create your Linux partitions in the "free space". Make sure SWAP is the last partition you add. For reasons of performance its always wise to place SWAP at the very start or the end of the disk.

    Either or is fine. Achieves the same end goal. I find VM performance varies according to the resources you allocate to it. If you give it a percentage of more than one physical CPU core it performs faster. As does increasing the RAM and enabling 3D performance with a decent amount of GPU RAM. Mileage will vary, highly dependant on the available CPU cycles/resources and the available RAM.

    Be very careful not to starve your host of either, the whole system will slow down otherwise. Rather frustratingly I find my Intel quad-core Q6600 starts having issues if I dedicate more than 2 CPU cores to a VM, though with 8GB of RAM I can afford to lose a gig or so of RAM for each VM.

    The single biggest limitation for any VM in my experience is disk I/O limitation. Running a VM from the same physical disk (whether its on a different partition or not) increases disk I/O due to the overhead of two OSes running on one disk at the same time. If you want the best performance you need the VM to run on a separate physical disk to the host operating system. There are options to actually use an entire physical disk for a VM, or a "folder" image within a folder on the disk - basically a virtual disk.

    I run virtual disks, but on a completely separate hard disk to my host OS. If your son is not used to Linux I would strongly suggest a VM at least until he decides he wants it long term. Unless your happy wiping disks and messing around with boot loaders etc.

    EDIT: My Linux guide in the link below this post covers installing Ubuntu Linux in a VM. I use Virtualbox, which is highly regarded. It might prove useful for you in getting it installed. Virtualbox can be downloaded from here.

    By the way, VM = Virtual Machine.
  8. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 9,727   +3,700

    If it were me, I would flag each partition active before installing an OS to that partition. This keeps the second OS from altering the boot files from of the first OS installed.

    After installation of both OS's, a boot manager can be setup for dual booting.
  9. Multiple active partitions is a good way to achieve an unbootable system...

    GNU/Linux does not need an active partition in the MSDOS partition table anyway.

    If you want an untouched windows partition the best policy is to install lilo or grub to another device, i.e. USB Flash or install the whole thing to a separate HDD.

    You can chainload from the windows bootloader, but it's not at all straightforward for a beginner... it is in fact the most difficult path.

    Personally I think the best approach is to just install the bootloader to the MBR and ensure that you have a recovery disk and plan of action for windows bootloader recovery. (There is a Vista/7 recovery disc you can download - it works because I had to use it a few months ago on a friends laptop... can't remember what it's called, but find it download and burn it before you start messing around).
  10. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 9,727   +3,700

    You can not have multiple active partitions. Only one partition can be marked active. You can however have all four of your primary partitions bootable, so that when one is marked active it will boot. There are MBR Boot Managers that will toggle the active partition based on user input before booting.

    Please explain Linux not needing an active partition. The MBR doesn't know which partition to boot unless one is marked active.
  11. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,165   +986

    In addition, it's the MBR/Boot loader that needs to be protected via the install sequence noted. Of course you can install Linux first and Windows later - - it just takes more work to get the dual boot to work (AND until you do, you can't get to Windows at all).

    Installing Windows, then Linux causes the smart install of Linux to see Windows and keep its boot loader - - Windows is not that gifted :(

    To be clear
    1) partition is for Windows and formatted as NTFS
    2) partition is for Linux and partitioned as ext3 or ext4
    3) partition is for Linux Swap and left unformatted (also is smallish 2 or 3x real memory; no bigger that 8gb for sure).

    THAT is dual boot; the user gets a prompt
    for A or B and you can define which is the default.

    In addition, A Live CD like Knoppix will boot linux from the cd and leave the hard disk unaltered - - but also can not be uniquely configured.
  12. Night Fire

    Night Fire TS Member Posts: 28

    Im running dual OS win7 and fedora 15 "Linux" here is how u should do it safe and easy:
    first u'll have to install a program that partitions ur hdd like acronis disk director or similar software or just put in a windows cd and at the part where it asks where to be installed " or which partition" delete all partitions making them on unallocated chunk of space make sure to back up all ur data before doin that cuz this operation will wipe out all the data on ur hard drive. then depending on what kind of windows u want xp or win7 make ur first partition for windows 20-30GB for xp 50GB+ for win7 then leave like 35-40GB unallocated and make the rest into one partition which u will share data on it between windows and linux now install ur cpoy of windows then install the linux distro u want ubuntu is a good choice for new comers to linux as its considered the easiest and the most user friendly linux out there when u install the linux u want during setup u will be asked where to install the linux all linux these days have option to be installed on the free disk space thats available on ur hard drive "aka unallocated" when u choose that it will seek out the unallocated space on ur hard drive and occupy it and also automatically partitioning it as it sees fit without involving u or touching any data on the other two partitions ubuntu has another option that would make it easier for u if u have windows OS and cant format ur hdd or make unallocated space it shrinks the partition with the most free space and installs itself on that space without damaging data or loosing it or ruining windows after the linux install is over u will get and during the configuration of ur newly installed linux a boot loader window which will asks u what u wanna see when u boot ut pc up will include main linux and a safe mode of it and other kernel versions and it will auto read windows and place it on the list if not like in my case the fedora boot loader shows windows as "other" when u choose it it boots windows all current linux distros comes with NTFS installed so it will read both ur windows partitions u'll use the partition u created earlier to share data between windows and linux however windows wont be able to read the linux partitions.

    ps: if u manually create ext3 partitions and a swap it wont work on most recent versions of linux distros cuz they use a different setting not sure how it works tho
    if this isnt clear enough for u tell me which linux distro u wanna install and i'll show it to u in screen shots using virtual machine..
  13. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,165   +986

    Just not true. Redhat (the commercial Linux) and Fedora (The opensource Linux) neither "just comes with NTFS installed" - - The user creates the partitions (ext2, ext3, etx4 ) and defines a /swap partition as well.
    clearly :)
  14. The Linux boot process gets handed over to the linux loader (LILO) or grub (boot loaders). Linux does not require an active partition to boot from. If you want a more in depth technical explanation, I suggest you try a search engine.

    @Night Fire: Congratulations that was the biggest load of bollocks I've read on Techspot since I last came on here drunk... Well done. :rolleyes:

    @jobeard: I believe Night Fire was referring to ntfs-3g support...
  15. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 9,727   +3,700

    @caravel: Thanks, I didn't realize a Linux loader was different in that aspect :)

    I need to do more homework!!
  16. Night Fire

    Night Fire TS Member Posts: 28

    @jobeard u dont make them the system takes care of the whole process for u and it uses something called LVM yes it still uses ext4 and swap but not the same in creating them at least. u still can do it the old way but why bother with the complication when the installer can do it all.
    @caravel would u like to let me know what exactly is "bollocks" in my post? if u think its that bad then correct me.
    i used those settings to install win 7 with fedora 14 then a fresh install for fedora 15 when released and the same couple of days ago for fedora 16
    right now im trying to install zorinOS along with both fedora and win7 same way and im sure it will work and i'll post some screenshots of how to do it.
  17. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +117

    Some installers offer the option to do it automagically, but its always best to, and generally more flexible if you create them yourself.

    In my opinion use automated installer procedures like the one you described are a bad idea. It reduces the knowledge you learn about filesystems, and when you encounter problems the user will lack the experience to troubleshoot it.

    If your prepared to use Linux its only right you learn to use it properly. Besides which, I'd rather state my exact partition sizes than have them created for me.

    By the way, LVM = Logical Volume Manager. It essentially enables a user to manage multiple large capacity disks, allowing for hot-swap adding/resizing/removing of physical disks, and the movement of partitions including there resizing etc. Think of it as adding multiple hard disks and combining them as one single disk, which you then partition as you normally would, with the added capacity to resize them on the fly.

    For example: You have two physical disks in your volume, /, swap, /usr, /home, but your home partition is out of space. You add another physical disk to your LVM, then extend the size of /home across the additional free space you gained on the volume by adding the disk. Without a LVM this step would be more complicated if you'd used the entire capacity of a physical disk up.

    The overall impression you give is you have much more to learn about Linux. That's fine, we can't all know everything, but you need to learn functions your stating before proceeding you advise people different. You'll find most Linux users that know its inner functions would never automatically create partitions using an installer - that is a Linux newbie step, designed to help those unfamiliar with the OS' operation.
  18. Night Fire

    Night Fire TS Member Posts: 28

    Thanks very much for the information on the LVM as u said "create partitions using an installer - that is a Linux newbie step, designed to help those unfamiliar with the OS' operation" which is what is needed here:

    I also would like to add that from what i understand from mountaincat's post that he\she is a windows user and only wishes to have linux beside windows for his\her son not for him\herself and if he\she attempts to partition manually it might not be as easy for him\her as doing it automatically.
  19. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +117

    Yes, but creating an LVM is not something a newbie should neccessarily do, as adding a "software" layer between the physical disks and Linux filesystem can lead to further complications and increases complexity. The explanation was for your benefit, not the OPs.

    With respect, its best to learn from day one how to use Linux. While the OP may not know Linux, who do you think will be fixing it when the son kills the Linux install? To admin, oversee, fix, repair, or whatever, you need to know how it functions first.

    The easiest route is to automatically create the partitions - but it certainly isn't to create a LVM, whether its in the auto options of the filesystem installer or not.

    That is precisely why I choose to detail to the manual option for creating filesystems in both of my Ubuntu install guides. In a home environment I see very little point in using LVM. In a home environment most dual boot with Windows. Granted, there are a percentage of skilled Linux users that rely solely on Linux as a primary OS, but I doubt many of them are using a volume manager.

    Personally I've moved between having one and not on many occasions. Added to which, an LVM is a bit pointless unless your running multiple physical disks. There is no way on this planet I'd need to allocate more space than even my smallest mechanical disk (320GB) has.
  20. Night Fire

    Night Fire TS Member Posts: 28

    very true but the only reason i mentioned LVM is that fedora which im using atm uses LVM as default and as i didnt know what was it for i used it anyway as it was fedora's default but regarding issues i've never seen one so far with LVM things are going A OK. u certainly know linux better than i do as i only started using it like a year ago so i'd suggest to mountaincat to follow ur advice regarding partitioning his\her hdd.
    ive made a little guide in screenshots on how to install both win7 with any linux its uploading now and i'll post it once its done.
  21. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +117

    The majority of those posting advice in this thread (me included) have been using Linux for many years. We all learnt the hard way back when the terminal was the method of installing it. The graphical installers used today are very intuitive, but they really do nothing to help people understand the underpinning function of Linux.

    Fedora is more unusual than most. Its fairly advanced from a typical user standpoint, perhaps a little too complex and finicky from an average users' perspective. I have a fair bit of experience with Fedora. As I do with OpenSUSE, Debian, Ubuntu (and 'buntu based distros like Mint) and Slackware.

    The biggest tip I can offer someone learning Linux is to learn why you are doing things. Using an LVM is a perfect example -- you've no idea why you used it. You need to understand its function, benefits and drawbacks before you can make an informed decision. This is often the issue with people moving from Windows to Linux. Linux is not, and never will be Windows. Your best viewing Linux with an empty mind and "ignoring" everything Microsoft taught you to use their OS -- None of it is of use really and your better off reading up on the steps you need to make before completing them in order to understand why you are. When your system breaks, the time you took to learn functions will become invaluable.

    I personally I not tend recommend against dual boot for those learning how to use it. A VM is a much better idea, and works more reliably on a per-install basis than physical hardware does. It also gives new users the security of a working Windows install should problems arise, and they will as confidence grows.
  22. Night Fire

    Night Fire TS Member Posts: 28

    Here is screenshot guide i made it might not be as good but its my first i hope it helps i will include how to manually create partitions in few minutes. I hope it helps

    the process starts with ss1 and ends with ss30 photobucket did scatter them around and not in order so be careful
  23. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +117

    Could you explain why you feel the need to create a small 3rd partition (Disk 0, partition 3 @ 9.8GB) formatted to NTFS please?

    If that guide is to be useful it will need considerably more organisation mate. Being mixed up like it is, is going to add to the confusion. The OP also wishes to use Ubuntu.
  24. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,165   +986

    @leaky: I'm going to cry UNCLE and abort here. A wise man once said, "My cup runneth over" - - mine just did and it's a mess. Good luck :)
  25. mountaincat

    mountaincat TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I had no idea how complicated (to me) this all would be. I may have fiddled a bit here and there with hardware and with html and css, but I don't have the time or inclination to learn what is needed for Linux, so maybe I will nix the idea of dual OS on that laptop. Thank you all for your suggestions.

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