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Install Windows-controlled Dual-Boot of Fedora 17 on a Windows Vista computer (Vista installed first and Vista still controlling startup after Fedora installation)

Last reviewed: October 2012

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 Vista unaltered after you create a natural dual-boot of Windows Vista and Fedora 17 when Windows Vista is installed first. The Windows Vista boot loader will stay in control (not Linux's GRUB). You can then run either operating system by selecting one from a Windows Vista menu during bootup. No data loss will occur and a third-party boot utility is not used.

In this procedure you probably need to shrink the Windows Vista drive to make room for Linux Fedora.

If you prefer Linux Fedora's GRUB to control the dual-boot, go to this page.

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 you have a rescue plan. This guide also contains that rescue plan - just in case!

The procedure used is suitable for experienced home computer users.


Important Installation Notes

EasyBCD. The highly-acclaimed EasyBCD is a free editing utility that allows any user to easily edit the Windows 8, 7 or Vista boot menu (the BCD or Boot Configuration Data). EasyBCD runs in Windows Vista or Vista, but also in Windows XP if you first install Microsoft's .NET 2.0 Framework.

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 with one hard disk(Advanced Users)

  1. Backup.
  2. Create Unallocated space for Linux at end of Windows disk (use Shrink in Disk Management).
  3. Install Linux Fedora 17 on the Unallocated space (called 'Free' in Linux)
    - select "Create custom layout", and create EXT4 and Swap partitions in Free space
    - in "Install boot loader on ...", select "First sector of boot partition - /dev/sda*".
  4. Use the free EasyBCD 2.2(+) utility to add Linux to Windows boot loader - select "GRUB2".

That's it! The Windows boot loader menu will boot Linux Fedora 17 and Windows Vista.

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STEP-BY-STEP: Install Linux Fedora 17 when Windows Vista was installed first -and you have 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 Vista computer may invalidate your warrantee.

It's important to follow the instructions exactly as stated and you should have a properly working Windows.


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 17 Live CD, standard or 64-bit version from http://fedoraproject.org/. Create the Fedora Live DVD from the downloaded .ISO file.
  3. Download Neosmart's EasyBCD v 2.2 or later (free - it simplifies editing the Win8/7/Vista boot loader).
    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 Fedora 17

You must create disk space and leave it as Unallocated. Decide first on how much disk space you need. Linux requires a minimum of two partitions - (1) Swap (Swap) and (2) Root (/) for Fedora files + boot files + all your data.

The size of the Swap partition depends on the size of your memory (RAM). Recommended sizes (from Fedora) are:
      4GB of RAM or less = a minimum of 2GB of Swap space
      4GB to 16GB of RAM = a minimum of 4GB of Swap space
      16GB to 64GB of RAM = a minimum of 8GB of Swap space
      64GB to 256GB of RAM = a minimum of 16GB of Swap space
      256GB to 512GB of RAM = a minimum of 32GB of Swap space

Some users create an extra EXT4 partition (/home) for Linux data. Use a minimum of 100MB (10-30GB may be more reasonable). This data partition can be left intact should you wish to upgrade or reinstall Linux at a later time.
[Experienced Linux users may also want a /boot partition - a 256MB EXT3 partition is sufficient for most users]

  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).
    • 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. Always note of the size of the Unallocated space (called 'Free' in Linux). With two hard disks containing two Unallocated areas, you should temporarily format the unrequired Unallocated area before installing Fedora.
  4. Restart to Windows Vista.
    • Open Disk Management and check that the change made is correct.

C. Install Fedora 17

No Raid or LVM was used when testing. Partitions were created manually during the installation. Fedora was installed with its boot loader placed on the Linux EXT4 / partition. The originally Active partition always remained Active after Fedora 17 installation so Windows then booted automatically. Finally EasyBCD created the Linux Fedora 17 entry in Windows Vista's boot manager thereby creating the Windows-controlled dual-boot.

  1. Bootup from the Linux Fedora 17 Live CD and select Try Fedora
  2. When you're ready, click the Install to Hard Drive icon (in Activities > lowest icon).
    • Select the appropriate keyboard and then click Next.
    • Select Basic Storage Devices (unless you have a non-standard setup).
    • Enter a name for identification.
    • 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)
    • With more than one hard disk, select the Fedora disk in the right pane and click Next.
    • In Please Select A Device, highlight the Free space (check the Size), and click the Create button.
      • In Create Storage, select Standard Partition, and click Create.
        A new window will open. First create the Swap partition.
        • In Mount Point:, leave it blank.
        • In File System Type: drop-down, select swap.
        • In Allowable Drives, if you have a choice, select ONLY the Fedora disk.
        • In Size (MB):, enter about 2000 for the Swap File (but read above).
        • Leave Fixed size checked.
        • Click the OK button
    • Back in Please Select A Device, highlight the remaining Free space, and click the Create button.
      • In Create Storage, select Standard Partition, and click Create.
        A new window will open. Now 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
        • Tick to enable Fill to maximum allowable size
        • Click the OK button.

    • Still in Please Select A Device, note the name allocated to the new EXT4 / Device (like sda3 or sda5).
      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.
      Click Write changes to disk 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/sda* is the Device name you noted above for EXT4 /).
      • Using a boot loader password is optional.
    • The install process will start now. Click Close when it's completed.
       
  4. Reboot your computer (Ctrl+Alt+Del) when installation is completed (remove the Fedora Live CD).
    Windows Vista will boot automatically.

    We can now use EasyBCD 2.2(+) to add Linux Fedora 17 to the Windows Vista boot loader menu.


D. Put a Linux Fedora 17 boot option in Windows boot loader

  1. Restart to Windows Vista
  2. Install and run EasyBCD 2.2(+).
    Click Add New Entry in the left pane.
    • Click the Linux/BSD tab under Operating Systems in the upper right pane.
      • In Type, select Grub2 in the drop-down.
      • In Name, use a name like Linux Fedora 17.
      • In Device, it will be Automatically configured - that's correct for GRUB 2.
      • Click Add Entry in the same pane and wait a moment while EasyBCD locates Fedora.
    • Optionally, you can now modify the timeout of the boot loader menu
      - click the Edit Boot Menu (left pane) and set the Boot default OS after to about 5 seconds.
    • Exit EasyBCD.
  3. Restart computer. Select Fedora 17 from the Windows Vista boot menu and complete its installation.

Congratulations! You have created a natural Windows-controlled dual-boot of Windows Vista and Linux Fedora 17 when Windows Vista was installed first.

Footnote: EasyBCD creates an NST folder on the root of the Windows partition when it adds an operating system to the Windows Vista boot loader. This NST folder contains one or two files vital to booting the added OS. 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 Vista.
    • 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 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.

  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 /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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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 8, 7 or Vista boot loader (BCD)

  1. 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 but will not identify GRUB control!
    • In System Recovery Options, highlight Windows Vista, 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 Vista 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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