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Install Dual-Boot of Linux Fedora 11 ('Leonidas') on Windows 7 computer
(Win7 installed first and Win7 still controlling startup after Linux installation)

Last reviewed: July 2011

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 safely create a natural dual-boot of Windows 7 and Linux Fedora 11 on a computer with Windows 7 already installed. The Windows boot loader will stay in control (not Linux's GRUB). You can then run either by selecting one from a Win7 menu during bootup. 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. The example shown here uses one hard disk.

32 and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 Home Basic, Enterprise and Ultimate were used in testing so this will also work with Windows 7 Premium and Professional. The computers used were (1) a 32-bit Dell Optiplex with Pentium 4 (2.26GHz), 2.0 GB RAM, 160 GB ATA hard disk, and (2) AMD Athlon 64-bit (2.4GHz), 2.0 GB RAM, 1 TB SATA hard disk.

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.

If you wish Linux Fedora's GRUB to be in control of the dual-boot, go to this page

If you are not installing version 11 of Fedora, you must select the correct version at this page


Important Installation Notes

EasyBCD. The highly-acclaimed EasyBCD is a free editing utility that allows any user to easily edit the Windows 7/Vista boot menu (the BCD or Boot Configuration Data). Some settings, not used here, are very advanced. EasyBCD works in Windows 7 and Vista, but also in Windows XP if you first install Microsoft's .NET 2.0 Framework.

Hidden Active Partition. Many Windows 7 users will have a small Primary disk partition(s) that's marked active and is hidden (but is visible under Disk Management in Windows 7). This must be counted if you want to create a new Primary.

Shrinking a Windows 8, 7 or Vista drive. You should use Shrink in Windows' Disk Management to resize the Windows partition. You can read Shrink the Windows 8. 7 or Vista Partition for instructions on completing this task successfully. Use the free GParted Live CD to gain disk space only if you must - read the page Use GParted to Resize the Windows 8, 7 or Vista Partition to learn how.

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Make a Partition Active

After the Fedora installation, the originally active NTFS partition may need to be made Active again.

It's very important that you know how to do this BEFORE you install. If you need help, read here
now and select the method that best suits your situation. You must be prepared for this in advance.

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SUMMARY of Procedure (Advanced Users)

  1. Backup.
  2. Create Unallocated space for Linux at end of Windows disk (use Shrink in Disk Management).
    Note which partition is marked Active.
  3. Install Linux Fedora on this free space at end of disk
    (install GRUB on the Linux partition).
  4. If Win7 fails to boot, make the originally active partition Active again.
  5. Use the free EasyBCD 2.1 utility to add Linux Fedora 13 to Windows boot loader - select "GRUB (legacy)".

That's it! The Windows boot loader menu will boot Linux Fedora 11 and Windows 7.

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Details: Install Linux Fedora 11 when Windows 7 was installed first

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.


A. 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 Fedora 11, standard or 64-bit version from http://fedoraproject.org/. You can use the excellent free GetRight download manager to help with the large download. Create the Fedora Live DVD from the downloaded .ISO file.
  3. Download Neosmart's EasyBCD 2.1 or later (free - simplifies editing the Win7/Vista boot loader).
    Optional: Download NeoSmart's free Windows 7 System Recovery Disk if your Win7 DVD is missing!
  4. Disconnect all unnecessary external devices before you start.

B. Make free space (Unallocated) for Linux

The single 160 GB disk usually used in testing initially had: System Reserved (100 MB, Primary, Hidden, NTFS), Windows 7 (150 GB, Primary, NTFS). The Windows 7 drive was shrunk leaving about 50 GB Unallocated space at the end of the disk (to the right). After repartitioning it had: System Reserved (100 MB, Primary, Hidden, NTFS), Win7 (100 GB, Primary, NTFS), Linux (50 GB, Unallocated).

  1. Restart computer correctly (close all programs/software before Restart).
  2. Open Disk Management in Windows 7 (right-click Computer, select Manage, click Disk Management).
    • Right-click the Win7 volume, and click Shrink Volume.
      • In Enter the amount of space to shrink in MB: enter enough for Linux and its Swap file.
      • Click the Shrink button (it may take some time!).
        Note that we are leaving the newly acquired free space as Unallocated.
      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.

C. Install Fedora 11

Raid/LVM was not an issue when testing so partitions were created manually during installation. Grub was installed to a Linux EXT3 partition. The originally active partition had to be made Active again when the Fedora installation was complete. Finally EasyBCD created a Linux Fedora entry in Win7's boot menu thereby creating the dual-boot.

  1. Bootup from the Linux Fedora 11 installation CD/DVD.
    Select Install or upgrade an existing system.
    • Continue with the initial screens until you're presented with the option of partitioning your hard disk
      (you can skip the testing of media - it checks your CD/DVD for errors).
      • Select Create custom layout in the top drop-down list and click Next.
    • Highlight the Free space you created for Fedora, and click the New button.
      Add Partition will open. First create the Fedora partition.
      • In Mount Point:, select / (a forward slash).
      • In File System Type:, select ext3
      • In Size (MB):, enter all available space (for Fedora) except 1 GB (for the Swap File)
      • Click the OK button.
    • Highlight the remaining Free space, and click the New button.
      Add Partition will open. Now create the Swap partition.
      • In Mount Point:, leave it blank.
      • In File System Type:, select swap.
      • Tick to enable Fill to maximum allowable size
      • Click the OK button
        (it's fine if the Swap is made a Logical partition in an Extended partition).

      Click Next when ready, or click Back to recreate partitions.
      Then click Write changes to disk or Go back if unhappy with the changes.
      The new partitions will now be created on the disk and formatted.
       
    • The next screen is vital to ensure the correct location for GRUB.
      • Tick Install boot loader on ..., and click the Change device button.
        Select First sector of boot partition and click OK.
      • Using a boot loader password is optional.
      • Under Boot loader operating system list, Fedora should be ticked (set as the Default). The "Other" boot option is for Win7 - use Delete to remove it (recommended) or Edit to Rename it.
      • Click Next.
    • Deal with the software applications screen as you think fit ("Customize later" is fine).
    • Click Next and the install process will start.
       
  2. Fedora will reboot your computer once before installation is completed (you can remove the DVD).
    • If Fedora boots automatically or you get a disk error, you must execute the next step when installation is complete.
    • If Win7 boots automatically, skip the next step (Fedora will finalize installation when you boot to it later).
       
  3. Make the originally active NTFS partition Active again - read Make NTFS Partition Active above.
    Windows 7 will boot automatically when the Active flag has been returned to its original location.
    We can then use EasyBCD in Win7 to add Linux to the Win7 boot loader.

D. Place Linux Fedora 11 boot option in Windows boot loader

  1. Restart to Windows 7
  2. Install and run EasyBCD 2.1.
    Click Add New Entry.
    • Click the Linux/BSD tab under Operating Systems.
      • In Type, select Grub (Legacy) in the drop-down (do not use GRUB 2).
      • In Name, use a name like Linux Fedora 11.
      • In Device, select the Fedora Partition ... from the drive drop-down list
        - it's Partition * (Linux - * GiB) on the selected drive - check the size (1 GiB = 1 GB approx.).
      • You can leave the Use EasyBCD's copy of GRUB check box unchecked (disabled).
      • Click Add Entry in the same pane and wait a few moments while EasyBCD locates Fedora.
    • Optionally, you can now modify the timeout of the boot loader menu
      - click the Edit Boot Menu (left pane) and set the Boot default OS after to about 5 seconds.
    • Exit EasyBCD.
  3. Restart computer. Select Fedora 11 from the Windows 7 boot menu and complete its installation.

Congratulations! You have created a natural dual-boot of Windows 7 and Linux Fedora 11 with Windows in control when Windows 7 was installed first.

Footnote: EasyBCD creates an NST folder on the root of the Active partition when it adds an operating system to the Windows 7 boot loader. This NST folder contains one or two files vital to booting the added OS. Be sure you do not accidentally delete this folder.

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Uninstall/Remove Linux and reclaim space

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

  1. Run EasyBCD in Windows 7.
    • Click Add/Remove Entries.
      • Highlight the Linux entry.
      • Click the Delete button.
      • Click the Save button.
    • Exit EasyBCD.
  2. Open Disk Management (right-click Computer, select Manage, click Disk Management).
    • Right-click the Swap 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 Volume..., click Yes.
    • 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 just a few second you will have all the Linux space back in Win7.

Note: EasyBCD has an Uninstall shortcut in Start > All Programs > NeoSmart Technologies.

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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 should always boot again if you execute the following procedure.

  1. First check that the originally active partition is marked Active (it's probably the Win7 partition)
    - read Make NTFS Partition Active above.
  2. Bootup from a Windows 7 installation DVD.
    • 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.
  3. Bootup from the Windows 7 installation DVD again
    • Select Repair your computer again.
    • In System Recovery Options, select 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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Help! I get only the GRUB boot menu!

If you only get a GRUB boot menu on bootup, then GRUB was mistakenly installed to the Active partition, (hd0) - probably the Windows partition. The Windows boot loader has been overwritten by the Linux version but it's easily recovered.

How to reinstall/recover the Windows 7/Vista boot loader (BCD)

  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 but will not identify GRUB control!
    • In System Recovery Options, highlight Windows 7, and click Next.
    • Click Command Prompt in System Recovery Options.
      • Type in (and press ENTER)
        Bootrec.exe /fixmbr
        exit
        (GRUB will be overwritten and the Windows boot loader reinstalled).
    • Now click Startup Repair in System Recovery Options.
    • Restart computer.
      Windows 7 should boot as originally.

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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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