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Install Windows-controlled Dual-Boot of Linux Mint 14.1 (Nadia) on a Windows 7 computer
(Win7 installed first and Win7 still controlling startup after Linux installation)

Last reviewed: 2013

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 leave Windows 7 unaltered when you create a natural dual-boot of Windows 7 and Linux Mint 14.1 (Nadia) if Windows 7 is installed first. The Windows 7 boot loader stays in control (not Linux's GRUB). You can then select either OS 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 unless you install Mint 14.1 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 64-bit Dell Studio XPS 8100 (2.93 GHz), Core i7, 8 GB RAM DDR3, NVidia GeForce GTX 460, 1 TB SATA hard disk. (2) a 32-bit Dell Optiplex with Pentium 4 (2.26GHz), 1.5 GB RAM, 160 GB ATA hard disk, and (3) 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. The guide is for the Gnome version of Mint 14.1. Installation details for the Debian version are a little different but the overall process is similar. 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!

If you prefer to have a Linux-controlled boot menu on bootup, you should go to this page
If you just want a simple method to try Linux Mint for a period, you should go to this page


Important Installation Notes

EasyBCD. The highly-acclaimed EasyBCD is a free editing utility that allows any user to easily edit the Windows 8/7/Vista boot menu (the BCD or Boot Configuration Data).

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.


SUMMARY (Advanced users): How to Dual-Boot Linux Mint 14.1 on a Windows 7 Computer without interfering with Windows 7

  1. Backup.
  2. Create sufficient Unallocated space for Linux Mint 14.1 at end of first hard disk or on a second disk.
  3. Boot from the Gnome Linux Mint 14.1 Live DVD 32-bit or 64-bit.
    • In "Allocate drive space", select Something else.
    • Create an EXT4 partition for Mint (it can be a Logical partition) - use / for Mount Point.
    • Create the Swap partition - use swap area in "Use as:"
    • Optionally, create another EXT4 partition for your data - use /home for Mount Point.
    • In "Device for boot loader installation", select the Mint EXT4 partition, like /dev/sda3 or /dev/sdb1.
    Install Mint.
  4. Only Windows boots for now.
  5. Use the free EasyBCD utility to add "Linux/BSD" (select GRUB2) to the Windows boot loader menu.

That's it! The Windows boot loader menu will boot either Linux Mint 14.1 or Windows 7.

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Details: Install Linux Mint 14.1 on first or other disk when Windows 7 was installed on first and leave Windows 7 in control of the dual-boot

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

  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 Gnome Linux Mint 14.1 Live DVD 32-bit or 64-bit.
    Create the Mint installation DVD (right-click the downloaded .ISO file & select Burn disc image).
  3. Download NeoSmart's EasyBCD (free for private use - it edits the Win7/Vista boot loader).
  4. Disconnect all unnecessary external devices before you start.

Make disk space available for Linux Mint 14.1

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.

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

If installing Linux Mint 14.1 on a 2nd or 3rd hard disk:

  • You should have no trouble using Win7's Shrink in Disk Management to create Unallocated space for Mint.
  • Restart to Windows when finished.
  • Then skip from here to Install Linux Mint 14.1

If installing Linux Mint 14.1 on the first hard disk:

  1. Restart computer correctly (that means 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 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!).
      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.

Use the GParted partition utility, available during Mint installation, to gain adequate disk space only if you must.


Install Linux Mint 14.1

Raid/LVM was not an issue when testing and partitions were created manually during installation. Mint was installed on the previously created Unallocated space with its boot loader installed to the Linux Mint EXT4 / partition. Windows still booted automatically after Mint 14.1 installation. Finally EasyBCD was run in Windows to create the Linux Mint 14.1 entry in Win7's boot manager thereby creating the Windows-controlled dual-boot.

  1. Bootup from the Linux Mint 14.1 live DVD.
    Select Start Linux Mint and let it start.
    Double-click Install Linux Mint on the desktop.
    Select your language, click Continue,
    Optional: Setup ypour wireless connection.
    Read Preparing to install ... and click Continue if ready.
     
  2. In Installation type, select Something else (that's IMPORTANT), and click Continue.

  3. In the new Installation type, do not click 'Install Now' until instructed.
    This window has been designed by the development team with dual-booters in mind. Thanks team!

    Highlight the free space you created earlier on the correct hard disk (sda=1st disk = disk0) (sdb=2nd = disk1)
    and click the + button.
    • The Create partition window will open.
      • In Type for the ..., Logical is fine if 2 Primaries already exist on that disk.
        - if in any doubt, select Logical.
      • In New partition size ..., enter all available minus about 2000 MB for the Swap.
      • In Location for the ..., select Beginning.
      • In Use as:, select Ext4 journaling system (the default) in the drop-down.
      • In Mount point:, select / (forward slash) in the drop-down.
      • Click OK.
    Back in Installation type, highlight the now smaller free space (scroll down if necessary)
    and again click +.
    • The Create partition window will open again.
      • In Type for the ..., select Logical.
      • In New partition size ..., use all available space (unless creating a data partition).
      • In Location for the ..., select Beginning.
      • In Use as:, select swap area in the drop-down.
      • In Mount point:, no change is allowed.
      • 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 in Use as:
    The next part is VITAL for the correct location for Mint's boot loader (GRUB2).
    The default is for /dev/sda and you must not accept it.
    You are still in Allocate drive space.
    • Note the Device name allocated to the EXT4 / partition, like /dev/sda5 or /dev/sdb1.
    • In the drop-down under Device for boot loader installation:,
      select the /dev/sd** name you just identified for the EXT4 / partition.


    Make sure you are happy with what's displayed on-screen - especially what's entered in Device for boot loader installation:.
    When you are ready click 'Install Now', or click Back or Quit.

    Linux Mint 14.1 will now install itself on the new Mint EXT4 partition and will place Mint's boot loader (GRUB2) at the start of the EXT4 / partition (leaving the Windows 7 boot loader intact).
     
  4. During the installation, you can attend to location, keyboard, password, imports, etc.
    (Log in automatically, under Password, is useful for many home users).

    Click Restart Now when installation is finished, remove the DVD when requested and press the Enter key.
    Window 7 will boot normally.

    Next we use the free EasyBCD utility to add Linux Mint 14.1 to the Windows 7 boot loader.

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Place a Linux Mint 14.1 boot option in Windows boot loader menu

  1. Restart to Windows 7
  2. Install and run EasyBCD
    Click Add New Entry in the left pane.
    • Click the Linux BSD tab under Operating Systems in upper right pane.
      • In Type, select Grub2 in the drop-down.
      • In Name, enter a name like Linux Mint 14.1
      • In Device, it will be Automatically configured - we used GRUB2, not GRUB(legacy).
      • Click Add Entry in the same pane.
    • Optionally, you can now modify the timeout of the boot loader menu - click the Edit Boot Menu (left pane), set the Boot default OS after to about 5 seconds, and click Save Settings.
    • Exit EasyBCD.
  3. Restart computer. Select Linux Mint 14.1 from the Windows 7 boot menu.
  4. Optional: To eliminate the (annoying) second boot menu, read how to Edit GRUB Menu (new window)

Congratulations! You have created a natural dual-boot of Windows 7 and Linux Mint 14.1 (Nadia) when Windows 7 was installed first, the original MBR is unchanged, and the Windows Boot Loader menu is shown on bootup.

Footnote: EasyBCD creates an NST folder on the root of the Windows 7 partition when it adds an operating system to the Windows 7 boot loader. This NST folder contains boot sector file(s) vital to booting added OSs. It must not be deleted.

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Remove/Uninstall Linux and reclaim space

Linux Mint 14.1 is wonderful, regularly updated, and it's free! Nevertheless you may wish to remove it at some stage. Removing Mint 14.1 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 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.

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 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.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 a Windows 7 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) - it's not case-sensitive
        bootrec /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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