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Install Dual-Boot of Linux Fedora 13 on a Windows Vista computer (Vista installed first and GRUB controlling startup from the Fedora drive)

Last reviewed: July 2010

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 Vista and Linux Fedora 13 on a computer with Windows Vista already installed. Linux's boot loader (GRUB) will be on the Fedora partition and in control of startup. The current MBR will remain unchanged. You can then run either operating system by selecting one from a Linux menu during bootup. No data loss will occur and a third-party boot utility is not used.

In this procedure Fedora must be installed on a Primary partition so it can be marked as Active. This means the hard disk must not currently contain more than two Primary partitions (including any hidden Primary). The Linux Swap partition can still be a Logical partition.

You will need to shrink the Windows Vista drive to make room for Linux if you use a single hard.

32 and 64-bit versions of Windows Vista were used in testing 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's GRUB to be on the MBR and be in control of the dual-boot then go to this pagel

If you wish Windows to be in control of the dual-boot, go to this page


Important Installation Notes

Shrinking a Windows Vista or Vista drive
If possible, you should avoid resizing a Windows Vista 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.


SUMMARY of Procedure (Advanced Users)

  1. Backup.
  2. Create Unallocated space for Linux at end of Windows NTFS disk (use Shrink in Disk Management).
  3. Install Linux Fedora 13 on the free space (must be a Primary partition).
    - select "Create custom layout" and create partitions yourself.
    - install GRUB on the Linux partition (in "Install boot loader on ...", select "First sector of boot partition").
  4. Mark the Linux Fedora partition as Active.
  5. Restart computer and select which OS you wish to use from the GRUB menu.

That's it! The GRUB boot loader menu will boot Linux Fedora 13 or Windows Vista and the original MBR has not been changed.

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STEP-BY-STEP: Install Linux Fedora 13 and GRUB when Windows Vista was installed first

Installing other operating systems on your Windows Vista 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 Vista's DVD.
  • 1 download.
  • A first hard disk that uses only NTFS and contains a working Windows Vista.

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 13, 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. Optional: Download NeoSmart's free Windows Vista System Recovery Disk if your Vista DVD is missing!
  4. Disconnect all 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 Vista (150 GB, Primary, NTFS). The Windows Vista drive was shrunk leaving about 20 GB Unallocated space at the end of the disk (to the right). After repartitioning it had: System Reserved (100 MB, Primary, Hidden, NTFS), Vista (130 GB, Primary, NTFS), Linux (20 GB, Unallocated).

  1. Restart computer correctly (close all programs/software before Restart).
  2. Open Disk Management in Windows Vista (right-click Computer, select Manage, click Disk Management).
    • Note which partition is marked Active.
    • Right-click the Vista 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 Vista.
    • Open Disk Management and check that the change made is correct.

C. Install Fedora 13

Raid/LVM was not an issue when testing so partitions were created manually during installation. Grub was put on the Linux EXT4 partition during the Fedora installation setup. The EXT4 partition was marked as Active when installation was complete. The dual-boot was created automatically by Fedora. Finished.

  1. Bootup from the Linux Fedora 13 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).
    • 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 Size (MB):, enter all available space (for Fedora) except 1 GB (for the Swap File)
      • Leave Fixed size checked.
      • Click the OK button.
    • 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.
      • 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.
      • If you do not wish to overwrite the Windows MBR and boot loader, click Change device.
        • Select First sector of boot partition and click OK.
      • Using a boot loader password is optional.
      • Under Boot loader operating system list,
        highlight the Device labelled Other and click the Edit button.
        • In Label, enter a name like "Windows Vista".
          Leave Default Boot Target unchecked unless you want Windows Vista to be the default.
        • Click OK.
    • Click Next and the install process will start.
      Click Close when installation is complete.
      Restart your computer (System > Shut Down > Restart).
       
  4. Ony Windows Vista boots for the moment.
    You must now mark the Fedora EXT partition as Active - you cannot do this from Windows Vista.
    Read Make. Mark, or Set a partition/drive Active or Boot if you need further help with this.
     
  5. Restart the computer when the Fedora parttition has been made Active.
    Linux Fedora 13 will boot automatically and quickly finalize its setup.
    Restart again and press the required key (within three seconds!) when you see Press ... key to enter the menu to access the Linux boot menu which will allow you to select Windows Vista or Fedora.
Congratulations! You have created a GRUB-controlled natural dual-boot of Windows Vista and Linux Fedora 13 when Windows Vista was installed first and the MBR has not been altered.

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Remove/Uninstall 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. Boot to Windows Vista
    and open Disk Management (right-click Computer, select Manage, click Disk Management).
  2. To change the location of the Active flag marker.
    • Right-click the partition that was originally marked Active
      • If you have a System Reserved partition then that's it.
      • Otherwise it's probably the partition containing the C:\Windows folders & files.
    • Click Mark Partition as Active and click Yes to the caution.
  3. Now reclaim hard disk space.
    • 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 just a few second you will have all the Linux space back in Vista. Restart computer.

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Repair Windows Vista 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 Vista 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 Vista partition) - read Make NTFS Partition Active.
  2. Bootup any Windows 8, 7 or Vista installation DVD or even from NeoSmart's free Windows Vista 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 Vista should boot normally (very likely). If not, continue here.
  3. Bootup from the Windows Vista installation DVD again
    • Select Repair your computer again.
    • In System Recovery Options, select Windows Vista, and click Next.
    • Click Startup Repair.
    • Click Finish when it's complete, and then Restart.
    • You must let CheckDisk run if requested.
      Windows Vista should boot normally.

If still stuck for a solution, boot again from the installation DVD, select Repair your computer, highlight Windows Vista, 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 Vista).
EXIT, and click Restart. Remove the DVD.

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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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