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One Hard Disk: Dual-Boot Linux Fedora 14 ('Laughlin') on a Windows 7 computer (Win7 installed first and Win7 still controlling startup after Linux installation)

Last reviewed: May 2011

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

Introduction

If you have one hard disk, this guide shows how to leave Windows 7 unaltered when you create a natural dual-boot of Windows 7 and Fedora 14 if Windows 7 is installed first. The Windows 7 boot loader will stay in control (not Linux's GRUB). You can then run either by selecting one from a Windows 7 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.

If you have two or more hard disks, you must use the instructions on Two(+) Hard Disks: Dual-Boot Linux Fedora 14 on a Windows 7 computer even if installing Fedora on the first disk.

If you wish Linux Fedora's GRUB to be in control of the dual-boot, go to Dual-boot 7 + Linux Fedora 14 (Linux/GRUB control) (Win7 installed first)

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.



Important Installation Notes

Hidden Active Partition
Many Windows 7 users will have a small primary disk partition that's marked active and is hidden (but is visible under Disk Management in Windows 7). This Active partition is the first partition used during bootup and it contains the boot files that start the operating system (which must be on a different partition when the Active drive is hidden).

  • When the Active partition is not hidden, EasyBCD 2.0 puts new boot file(s) in an NST folder on that Active partition.
  • When the Active partition is hidden, EasyBCD 2.0 creates the NST folder on the visible Windows 7 partition and uses the file(s) from there. With EasyBCD 2.0+, it's no longer necessary to unhide the hidden System Reserved!

Shrinking a Windows 7 or Vista drive
If possible, you should avoid resizing a Windows 7 or Vista partition with a third-party partitioning utility like GParted. Windows partition editors often use different disk geometry than that used in Linux. Therefore resizing a Windows partition outside of Windows control could sometimes make Windows unbootable.

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.

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). The BCD is an integral part of Windows 7's and Vista's new boot manager/loader that replaces the NTLDR/Boot.ini method used in Windows XP, 2000, and NT.

EasyBCD has plenty of useful options including the addition of any Windows, DOS, Linux and others to the new boot loader with just a few clicks in a user-friendly GUI. You can also, at your leisure, use EasyBCD to alter the Default OS, the Bootloader Timeout, the Name that appears in the boot menu, and the Boot order in the boot menu. It's a dual-booters dream!


Make Partition Active

Repeated tests with Fedora 14 have shown it does not alter the location of the Active partition in creating this dual-boot. However previous version(s) sometimes incorrectly placed the Active marker on the Fedora drive and this had then to be changed back to the original location.

It is unlikely you will encounter this situation but should be prepared in advance - just in case! For information on how to change the Active partition, read here.


SUMMARY of Procedure with one hard disk(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 14 on the free space
    - select "Create custom layout", and create EXT4 and Swap partitions
    - in "Install boot loader on ...", select "First sector of boot partition - /dev/sda*".
  4. If Win7 fails to boot, make the originally active partition Active again.
  5. Use the free EasyBCD 2.0 utility to add Linux to Windows boot loader - select "GRUB (legacy)".

That's it! The Windows boot loader menu will boot Linux Fedora 14 and Windows 7.

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STEP-BY-STEP: Install Linux Fedora 14 when Windows 7 was installed first - 1 hard disk

It's the nature of a step-by-step that it appears long and difficult. Not so!

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.


Requirements

  • Installation CD/DVD for Linux and preferably Win7's DVD.
  • 2 downloads.
  • A first hard disk that uses only NTFS and contains a correctly working Windows 7.

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 14 Live CD, 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 v 2.0.2 or later (free - simplifies editing the Win7/Vista boot loader).
    • Copy EasyBCD to a new EasyBCD folder on the Windows 7 drive.
    Optional: Download NeoSmart's free Windows 7 System Recovery Disk if your Win7 DVD is missing!
  4. Disconnect all external devices before you start.

B. Make free space (Unallocated) for Linux

You must create disk space and leave it as Unallocated or Free (not formatted). Decide first on how much disk space you wish to allocate to Linux and if you will create an extra partition (/home) for your Linux data. This data partition can be left intact should you wish wish to reinstall Linux at a later time. The Swap area size should be about twice your RAM size but you should allow less than twice if you have a lot of RAM.

Make a note of the size of the Free/Unallocated space.

  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 14

Raid/LVM was not an issue when testing so partitions were created manually during installation. Grub was installed to a Linux EXT4 partition. The System Reserved partition did remain Active after Fedora 14 installation but be prepared for a change just in case. Finally EasyBCD created a Linux Fedora entry in Win7's boot manager thereby creating the dual-boot.

  1. Bootup from the Linux Fedora 14 Live CD.
    Double-click the Install to Hard Drive Desktop icon.
     
  2. Click Next and then select the appropriate keyboard.
    Then select Basic Storage Devices (unless you have a non-standard setup).
    Now tick the check-box for the hard disk drive where Fedora will be installed.
    Enter a name for indentification.
    Select the correct city for your time-zone.
    Create a Root Password of your choice (and remember it!).
     
  3. Select Create Custom Layout in the next screen (that's VERY important).
    • In Please Select A Device, highlight the Free space you created for Fedora, and click the Create button.
    • In Create Storage, select Standard Partition, and click Create.
      The Add Partition window will open. First create the Linux EXT4 partition.
      • In Mount Point:, select / (a forward slash).
      • In File System Type:, select ext4
      • In Allowable Drives, all drives can be enabled
      • In Size (MB):, enter all available space (for Fedora) except 2 GB (for the Swap File)
      • Leave Fixed size checked.
      • Click the OK button.

    • Back in Please Select A Device, note the name allocated to the new Device (like sda2, sda3, sda5).
    • Now highlight the remaining Free space, and click the Create button.
    • In Create Storage, select Standard Partition, and click Create.
      The Add Partition will open. Now create the Swap partition.
      • In Mount Point:, leave it blank.
      • In File System Type:, select swap.
      • In Allowable Drives, enable ONLY the drive used by Fedora (like sda or sdb or sdc).
      • Tick to enable Fill to maximum allowable size
      • Click the OK button

      Take a moment to look at the partitions to be created and Formatted.
      They're marked with a tick and no other partition should be ticked.

      Click NEXT when ready, or click Back to recreate partitions.

      Then click Go back if unhappy with the proposed changes.
      Click Write changes to disk when ready and now the new partitions will be created & 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 - /dev/sda* and click OK
        (/dev/sd** is the Device name you noted above).
      • 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 - highlight it and use Delete to remove it (strongly recommended).
      • Click Next.
    • The install process will start now.
       
  4. Restart your computer when installation is completed (remove the Fedora Live CD). Windows 7 will boot automatically (if not, make the originally active NTFS partition Active again - read above).

    We can now use EasyBCD 2.0 to add Linux Fedora 14 to the Windows 7 boot loader menu.

D. Place Linux Fedora 14 boot option in Windows boot loader

  1. Restart to Windows 7
  2. Install and run EasyBCD 2.0 from the EasyBCD folder on the Windows 7 drive.
    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 14.
      • In Device, select the Fedora Partition ... from the drive drop-down list
        (it's the partition containing Fedora - check the size shown - a GiB approximates to a GB).
      • You can leave the GRUB isn't installed to bootsector/MBR check box unchecked.
      • Click Add Entry.
    • Exit EasyBCD.
  3. Restart computer. Select Linux Fedora 14 from the Windows 7 boot menu.

Congratulations! You have created a natural dual-boot of Windows 7 and Linux Fedora 14 with Windows in control when Windows 7 was installed first.

Footnote: EasyBCD 2.0 creates an NST folder on the root of the Windows 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 it.

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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 from this dual-boot, and regaining its disk space, is quick and painless.

  1. Run EasyBCD in Windows 7.
    • Click Edit Boot Menu.
      • Highlight the Linux entry.
      • Click the Delete button.
      • Click the Save Settings 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 Vista. Restart computer.

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.
  2. 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.
  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.exe /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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