Dual-booting all versions of Windows and Linux
Install Linux-controlled Dual-Boot of Linux Mint 12 (Lisa) on a Windows 7 computer
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This guide shows how to correctly and safely create a natural dual-boot of Windows 7 and Linux Mint 12 (Lisa) 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 (overwriting Windows' BCD). You can then select either OS from Linux's GRUB2 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 unless you install Mint 12 on a second hard disk. Using a second disk is a little easier but far from essential.
All versions of 32 and 64-bit Windows 7 were used in testing. The computers used were (1) a 32-bit Dell Optiplex with Pentium 4 (2.26GHz), 1.5 GB RAM, 160 GB ATA hard disk, and (2) AMD Athlon 64-bit (2.4GHz), 2.0 GB RAM, 1 TB SATA disk.
A 64-bit version of Mint can be installed only on a 64-bit computer. This guide is for the Gnome version of Mint 12. Installation details for the Debian version are a little different but the overall process is similar. Installation of DVD and CD versions is identical. The procedure used is suitable for experienced computer users.
Following these instructions correctly should always succeed. However, any change to your computer should not even be considered unless a rescue plan is available. This guide also contains that rescue plan - just in case!
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.
That's it! Linux's GRUB2 boot loader menu will boot either Linux Mint 12 or Windows 7 and the original MBR has been overwritten.
Details: Install Linux Mint 12 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 start with a properly working Windows.
Make your preparations
Make disk space available for Linux Mint 12
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 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.
If installing Linux Mint 12 on a 2nd or 3rd hard disk:
If installing Linux Mint 12 on the first hard disk:
Make a note of the size of the Free/Unallocated space.
Install Linux Mint 12
Raid/LVM was not an issue when testing and partitions were created manually during installation. Mint was installed on previously created Unallocated space with its boot loader installed to the default /dev/sda partition overwriting the Windows created MBR/boot sector.
Congratulations! You have created a natural dual-boot of Windows 7 and Linux Mint 12 (Lisa) when Windows 7 was installed first, the Linux GRUB2 Boot Loader is now in control, and the original boot loader has been overwritten.
Older Computers with low maximum Screen Resolution
Linux Mint 12 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 Mint 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.
Remove/Uninstall Linux Mint and reclaim space
Linux Mint 12 is wonderful, regularly updated, and it's free! Nevertheless you may wish to remove it at some stage. Removing Mint 12 and regaining its disk space is quick and painless.
Return boot control to Windows 7 if you can boot to it
Return boot control to Windows 7 if it will not boot
Now, if you wish, reclaim the hard disk space used by Linux
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.
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:
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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