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Install Ubuntu-controlled Dual-Boot of Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) on a Windows 7 computer
Windows 7 installed first and Ubuntu's GRUB2 on Windows partition controlling startup

Last reviewed: October 2012

October 2013: This is the new location for this page on this site. Please update your link or bookmark.

Introduction

This guide shows how to correctly and safely create a natural dual-boot of Windows 7 and Linux Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) on a computer with Windows 7 already installed. The Linux GRUB2 boot loader will be installed to the Windows partition and put in control of startup. You can then select either OS from Linux's GRUB2 menu during bootup. Basically you will have a Ubuntu-based computer system that also allows you to boot to Windows 7 whenever you wish. No data loss will occur and a third-party boot utility is not used.

In this procedure you need to shrink the Windows 7 drive to make room for Linux unless you install Ubuntu of a second hard disk. Using a second disk is a little easier but far from essential.

All 32 and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 were used in testing. The computers used were:
(1) 64-bit Studio XPS 8100 (2.93 GHz), Core i7, 8 GB RAM DDR3, NVidia GeForce GTX 460, 2x1 TB SATA hard disks.
(2) 64-bit AMD Athlon (2.4GHz), 2.0 GB RAM, 128 MB Radeon XPress, 1 TB SATA hard disk.
(3) 32-bit Dell Optiplex with Pentium 4 (2.26GHz), 2.0 GB RAM, Radeon 7500, 160 GB ATA hard disk

If you decide to leave Windows (BCD) continue controlling the startup then go to this page
If you just want a simple method to try Ubuntu for a short period, you should go here
If you are not installing version 12.10 of Ubuntu, you must select the correct version at this page

Following these instructions correctly should always succeed. However, any change to your computer should not even be considered unless your have a rescue plan. This guide also contains that rescue plan - just in case!

The procedure used is suitable for experienced computer users.


Important Installation Notes

Shrinking a Windows 7 or Vista drive. You should use Shrink in Windows' Disk Management to resize the Windows partition. If the free space achieved is inadequate, you can read Shrink the Windows 7 Partition for instructions on completing this task successfully. Use the free GParted Live CD to gain disk space only if you absolutely must - read the page Use GParted to Resize the Windows 7 Partition to learn how and, before you use GParted, read Repair Windows Vista Startup (below).


SUMMARY of Procedure (Advanced Users)

  1. Backup.
  2. Create sufficient Unallocated space for Ubuntu 12.10 at end of Windows disk (use Shrink in Disk Management).
  3. Start installing from the Ubuntu CD
    • In "Allocate drive space", select "Something else ".
    • Create Ubuntu partition (use / for Mount Point) - leave enough space for the Swap,
    • Create the Swap (Logical) partition in the rest of Free Space - use Swap Area for Mount Point.
    • Optionally, create another EXT4 partition for your data - use /home for Mount Point.
    • In "Device for boot loader installation", accept the default (/dev/sda).
    Install Ubuntu 12.10

That's it! Linux's GRUB2 boot loader menu will boot either Ubuntu 12.10 or Windows 7 and the original MBR has been overwritten.

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Details: Install Linux Ubuntu 12.10 when Windows 7 was installed first and replace Windows' control of startup

Installing other operating systems on your Windows 7 computer may invalidate your warrantee.

It's important to follow the instructions exactly as stated and you should have a properly working Windows.


Make your preparations

  1. Backup important data before making any changes to a partition. You can burn files to a CD, clone an image of your hard disk, copy files to a USB flash/pen/thumb drive, or use an USB external drive (a good choice)
  2. Download the Ubuntu Desktop 12.10 LTS (Live CD), standard or 64-bit version from www.ubuntu.com.
    Create the Ubuntu installation CD (right-click the downloaded .ISO file & select Burn disc image).
    Optional: Download NeoSmart's free Windows 7 System Recovery Disk if your Win7 DVD is missing!
  3. Disconnect all unnecessary external devices before you start.

Make disk space available for Linux Ubuntu

You must create disk space and leave it as Unallocated. Decide first on how much disk space you need. Linux requires a minimum of two partitions - (1) Swap (Swap) and (2) Root (/) for Ubuntu files + boot files + all your data.

You may wish to create an extra EXT4 100MB minimum (10-30GB may be more reasonable) partition (/home) for your Linux data. This data partition can be left intact should you wish to upgrade or reinstall Linux at a later time.
[Experienced Linux users may also want a /boot partition - a 256MB EXT3 partition is sufficient for most users]

The size of the Swap partition depends on the size of your memory (RAM) and your type of usage. With 2GB of RAM use about 4GB of Swap; with 4-8GB of RAM use about 6GB of Swap; with 16GB of RAM use about 8GB of Swap.

Make a note of the size of the Unallocated space.

If installing Ubuntu 12.10 on a 2nd or 3rd hard disk:

  • You should have no trouble using Win7's Shrink in Disk Management to create Unallocated space for Ubuntu.
  • Restart to Windows when finished.
  • Then skip from here to Install Linux Ubuntu 12.10 on a Windows 7 computer

If installing Ubuntu 12.10 on the first hard disk:

  1. Restart computer correctly (close all programs before you Restart computer).
  2. Open Disk Management in Windows 7 (right-click Computer, select Manage, click Disk Management).
    • Right-click the Windows 7 volume, and click Shrink Volume.
      • In Enter the amount of space to shrink in MB: enter enough for Ubuntu and its Swap file.
      • Click the Shrink button (it may take some time!).
      If Shrink does not give you sufficient Unallocated space, read how to Shrink the Windows 8, 7 or Windows Vista Partition for instructions or use the free GParted Live CD. Then return here.
  3. Restart to Windows 7.
    • Open Disk Management and check that the change made is correct.

Use the free GParted Live CD to gain adequate disk space only if you absolutely must - read the page Use GParted to Resize the Windows 7 or Vista Partition to learn how, and read Repair Windows 7 Startup (below) before you use GParted.


Install Linux Ubuntu 12.10 on a Windows 7 computer

No Raid or LVM was used when testing. Partitions were created manually during installation. Ubuntu was installed on previously created Unallocated space with its boot loader installed to the default /dev/sda partition. Ubuntu automatically added Windows 7 to its own boot menu which appeared on bootup.

  1. Bootup from the Linux Ubuntu 12.10 live CD
    In the Welcome window, select the correct language and click Install Ubuntu.
    Read the Preparing to install Ubuntu window and click Continue when ready.
     
  2. In Allocate drive space, select Something else (that's IMPORTANT), and click Continue.

  3. In the new Allocate drive space, do not click 'Install Now' until instructed.
    This section has been designed by the Ubuntu team with dual-booters in mind. Thanks team!

    Highlight the free space on the correct hard disk (sda=1st disk) (sdb=2nd disk)
    and click the + button (the vertical scroll bar appears only when you mouse-over it).
    • The Create partition window will open.
      • In Size, enter all available minus about 2000 MB for the Swap.
      • In Type for the ..., select Primary (it must NOT be Logical in this scenario)
      • In Location for the ..., select Beginning.
      • In Use as:, select Ext4 journaling system (the default) in the drop-down.
      • In Mount point:, select / (a forward slash) in the drop-down.
      • Click OK.
    Back in Allocate drive space, highlight the now smaller free space (scroll down if necessary)
    and again click +.
    • The Create partition window will open again.
      • In Size, use all available space (unless creating a data partition).
      • In Type for the ..., select Logical.
      • In Location for the ..., select Beginning.
      • In Use as:, select swap area in the drop-down.
      • Click OK.

    If you left space for a Linux data partition, now use remaining free space to create, exactly as above, another EXT4 partition for your own data but select /home for Mount Point.
     
    The next part is VITAL for the correct location for Ubuntu's boot loader (GRUB2).
    You are still in Allocate drive space.
    Look under Device for boot loader installation:
    • The default is for /dev/sda and that should be accepted even if installing Ubuntu on a 2nd disk
      (the Windows-created MBR and boot loader will be overwritten by Ubuntu's).


    Make sure you are happy with what's displayed on-screen.
    When you are ready click 'Install Now', or click Back or Quit.

    Linux Ubuntu 12.10 will now install itself on the EXT4 partition and will place Ubuntu's boot loader (GRUB2) at the start of the Windows partition. The Windows-created boot loader will be overwritten.
     
  4. During the installation, you can attend to location, keyboard, password, imports, etc.
    (Log in automatically, under Password, is useful for many home users).
  5. Click Restart Now when installation is finished, remove the DVD when requested and press the Enter key.
    You will be presented with a Linux Boot Loader menu containing both operating systems.

Congratulations!
You have created a natural dual-boot of Windows 7 and Linux Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) when Windows 7 was installed first, the Linux GRUB2 Boot Loader is now in control. The original boot loader has been overwritten.

Finished!

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Older Computers with low maximum Screen Resolution

Ubuntu 12.10 itself runs fine at 1024x768 screen resolution. However GRUB2 may require a higher resolution (1280 x 1024) and users with old systems may be presented with a blank screen instead of the expected boot loader menu.

The boot menu is actually there but it's not visible! To run Ubuntu when the blank screen appears, just press Enter. To run Windows, press the down arrow key 4 times and press Enter. And then be patient for a few moments.

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Remove/Uninstall Linux Ubuntu and reclaim space

Linux Ubuntu is wonderful, regularly updated, and it's free! Nevertheless you may wish to remove it at some stage. Removing Ubuntu and regaining its disk space is quick and painless.

Return boot control to Windows

  1. Bootup any Windows 7/Vista installation DVD or even from NeoSmart's free Windows 7 System Recovery Disk.
    It must be a 64-bit version if a 64-bit Windows is installed.
    • Press a key when you see Press any key to boot from a CD or DVD.
    • Select your Time... and click Next.
    • Select Repair your computer (bottom left of the Install now screen).
      An automatic check of your system may run.
    • In System Recovery Options click Command Prompt.
      Type in (and press ENTER) - it's not case-sensitive
      bootrec /FixMbr
      EXIT
  2. Now click Restart and remove the DVD or CD.

Windows 7 will boot normally and without any boot menu if none existed initially.

Now reclaim the hard disk space used by Linux

  1. First make sure Windows controls the startup (see previous item).
  2. Boot to Windows 7
    and open Disk Management (right-click Computer, select Manage, click Disk Management).
    • Right-click the Swap partition, select Delete Volume..., click Yes.
    • Right-click the Linux partition, select Delete Volume..., click Yes.
    • Right-click the Swap partition, select Delete Partition, click Yes - required for Logical partitions only.
    • Right-click the Linux partition, select Delete Partition, click Yes - required for Logical partitions only.
    • Right-click the partition to the left of Unallocated, select Extend Volume...,
      and click Next to use the maximum space for Windows, and then Finish.
      Alternatively, create a new partition in the Unallocated space and Format it.

In another a few seconds you will have all the Linux space back in Windows 7.

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Repair Windows 7 Startup

You will not have any problem if you follow the instructions as stated above. However you might encounter some freak occurrence like a power failure during an installation. Windows 7 will boot again if you execute the following procedure.

  1. Bootup any Windows 7/Vista installation DVD or even from NeoSmart's free Windows 7 System Recovery Disk.
    It must be a 64-bit version if a 64-bit Windows is installed.
    • Press a key when you see Press any key to boot from a CD or DVD.
    • Select your Language and then Time....
    • Select Repair your computer (bottom left of the Install now screen).
      An automatic check of your system will run.
    • Click Repair and restart
      Windows 7 should boot normally (very likely). If not, continue here.
  2. Bootup from the Windows 7 installation DVD again
    • Select Repair your computer again.
    • In System Recovery Options, highlight Windows 7, and click Next.
    • Click Startup Repair.
    • Click Finish when it's complete, and then Restart.
    • You must let CheckDisk run if requested.
      Windows 7 should boot normally.

If still stuck for a solution, boot again from the installation DVD, select Repair your computer, highlight Windows 7, get to a Command Prompt, use DIR command (DIR C: or DIR D: etc.) to identify drive letter allocations (sizes and Labels will help), and type in:
bootrec /FixMbr
bootrec /FixBoot
bootrec /RebuildBcd
X:\boot\bootsect /nt60 C:
  (where X: is your DVD drive letter, and C: is the installation drive for Windows 7).
EXIT, and click Restart. Remove the DVD.

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Related Reading

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Please remember that you alone are responsible for the consequences of any changes you make to your computer hardware or software.

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