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Exploring Linux – Part 7

by Alan German

Having recently purchased a new computer, I have been introduced to the wonderful world of Microsoft Vista. Now, while Vista works reasonably well, I still keep wondering about a complete switch over to Linux. In fact, this question comes to the fore every time I discover that Vista won't let me do exactly what I want, or more particularly, when I find a way to break something in Vista. This was especially the case when I restored a disk image of my Vista operating system and found that the machine would no longer boot! – but, that's another story.

But, while I keep pondering the question of Vista vs. Linux, I need to be able to run both operating systems, Vista because I paid for it, Linux because it's free, and both of these because they are neat systems to play with! Clearly, what I need is a dual-boot system, with both Vista and Linux residing (and booting) happily on the new machine.

Surfing the web for information on dual-booting Vista and Linux initially seemed to suggest that this would be fraught with difficulties. Vista, I was told, uses a new boot loader, and BCD (Boot Configuration Data) doesn't like Linux. Furthermore, the BCD editing tool is a command line program that has zero user-friendliness built in. But, I was going to have to use the new bootloader because Vista doesn't like being installed on a machine that already has an operating system (i.e. Linux installed first); it overwrites the master boot record (MBR) in the blink of an eye; and provides absolutely no consideration to the presence of other operating systems. So far, this didn't sound very promising.

Then I hit upon an item in Ubuntu Forums, entitled How To: Dual Boot Vista and Linux, by “molly_001”. Molly was as good as her word and, in conjunction with the work of some associates, provided links to instructions on how to: dual boot Vista and Ubuntu 6.06; dual boot XP and Ubuntu 6.06; triple boot XP, Vista, and Ubuntu 6.06; dual boot Vista or XP and Ubuntu over a previous Ubuntu install, without the need to reinstall Ubuntu; and dual boot over two physical hard drives.

The simple solution is to install Linux (Ubuntu Version 6.06) on a separate disk partition. Rebooting the machine brings up Linux - without a trace of Vista! But, all that is necessary is to edit grub's menu.lst file (see “Exploring Linux – Part 4”, and include the following command sequence in the menu of available operating systems:

title Windows Vista
root (hd0,1)
chainloader +1

Effectively, this tells grub that Vista is already installed on the first hard-drive partition and, in addition, makes Vista the default operating system. So, just like that, you have a dual-boot, Vista and Ubuntu Linux system. Thanks molly_001 !

Bottom Line:

How To: Dual Boot Vista and Linux (molly_001)

Originally published: November, 2007

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Stop Press!

Now, while the above text may be sufficient for you to create a dual-boot system, there may be an even better mousetrap. Since Molly laid out her instructions on how to create a dual-boot system with a beta version of Vista and Ubuntu 6.06, an article in has provided some newer information. The author, James Bannan, discusses the use of Ubuntu Version 7.04, that reportedly coordinates better with Vista than its earlier sibling. It also provides a graphical, step-by-step tutorial, covering the entire process of installing Linux, including partitioning the hard drive, and modifying grub to set up the dual-boot system. What could be easier?

How to dual-boot Vista with Linux
(James Bannan)