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Install Linux-controlled Dual-Boot of Linux Mint 14.1 (Nadia) on a Windows 7 computer
(Win7 installed first and Linux Mint's GRUB2 on Windows partition controlling startup)

Last reviewed: Feb 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 correctly and safely create a natural dual-boot of Windows 7 and Linux Mint 14.1 (Nadia) 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 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. This 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

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 and put Linux Mint in control

  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 /dev/sda (the default).
    Install Mint 14.1.

That's it! Linux's GRUB2 boot loader menu will boot either Linux Mint 14.1 or Windows 7 and the original MBR has been overwritten.

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Details: Install Linux Mint 14.1 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

  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 CD/DVD (right-click the downloaded .ISO file & select Burn disc image).
  3. 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.

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 Shrink the Windows 7 or Windows Vista Partition for instructions on how to complete this task successfully. Then return here.
  3. Restart to Windows 7.
    • Open Disk Management and check that the change made is correct.

Make a note of the size of the Free/Unallocated space.
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 default /dev/sda partition overwriting the Windows created MBR/boot sector.

  1. Bootup from the Linux Mint 14.1 live CD/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 when 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. Note: the vertical scroll bar appears only when you mouseover it.
    • The Create partition window will open.
      • In Type for the ..., select Primary (but Logical if 3 Primaries already exist on that disk)
      • 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).
    You are still in Installation type.
    Look under Device for boot loader installation:
    • The default is for /dev/sda ... and that should be accepted even if installing Mint on a 2nd disk. However if your Windows happens to boot from a second hard disk (very unlikely) you must change this to /dev/sdb ...
      (the Windows-created MBR and boot loader will be overwritten by the Mint version).


    Make sure you are happy with what's displayed on-screen.
    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 Windows partition. The Windows-created boot loader will be overwritten.
     
  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.
    You will be presented with a Linux Boot Loader menu containing both operating systems.
  5. Optional: To eliminate the (annoying) second boot menu, use the free EasyBCD utility to set the Timeout to 1. (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 Linux GRUB2 Boot Loader is now in control, and the original boot loader has been overwritten.

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Older Computers with low maximum Screen Resolution

Linux Mint 14.1 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.

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Remove/Uninstall Linux Mint 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.

Return boot control to Windows 7 if you can boot to it

  1. Bootup to Windows 7 and download/install NeoSmart's EasyBCD
  2. Run EasyBCD.
    • Click on the BCD Deployment tab (in the left pane).
    • Under MBR Configuration Options (in the right tab),
      • make sure Install the Windows Vista/7 bootloader to the MBR is checked (enabled),
      • and click the Write MBR button.
    Windows 7 will boot normally and without any boot menu if none existed initially.
    If you wish to continue using Mint, use EasyBCD to add Mint to the Windows 7 boot menu (select GRUB2).

Return boot control to Windows 7 if it will not boot

  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 Time... and click Next.
    • Select Repair your computer (bottom left of the Install now screen).
      An automatic check of your system may run.
    • In System Recovery Options, select Next and then click Command Prompt.
      Type in (and press ENTER) - it's not case-sensitive
      bootrec /FixMbr
      EXIT
  2. Now click Restart and remove the DVD or CD.
    Windows 7 will boot normally and without any boot menu if none existed initially.

Now, if you wish, reclaim the hard disk space used by Linux

  1. First make sure Windows controls the startup (see previous items).
  2. Boot to Windows 7
    and 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 available to Windows 7.

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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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