Dual-booting all versions of Windows and Linux
Install Windows-controlled Dual-Boot of Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) on a Windows Vista computer (Vista installed first and Vista still controlling startup after Linux installation)
Last reviewed: May 2011
This guide shows how to leave Windows Vista unaltered when you create a natural dual-boot of Windows Vista and Linux Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) if Windows Vista is installed first. The Windows Vista boot loader will stay in control (not Linux's GRUB). You can then select either OS 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 need to shrink the Windows Vista drive to make room for Linux unless you install Ubuntu of a second hard disk. Using a second disk is a little easier but far from essential.
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), 1.5 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 a rescue plan is available. This guide also contains that rescue plan - just in case!
The procedure used is suitable for experienced 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). Some settings, not used here, are very advanced. EasyBCD works in Windows 8, 7 and Vista, but also in Windows XP if you first install Microsoft's .NET 2.0 Framework.
Hidden Active Partition. Many Windows Vista users will have a small Primary disk partition(s) that's marked active and is hidden (but is visible under Disk Management in Windows Vista). 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.
SUMMARY (Advanced Users): How to Dual-Boot Ubuntu 11.04 on a Windows Vista Computer
That's it! The Windows boot loader menu will boot either Linux Ubuntu 11.04 or Windows Vista.
Details: Install Linux Ubuntu 11.04 on first or other disk when Windows Vista was installed on 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.
Make your preparations
Make disk space available for Linux Ubuntu
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 Ubuntu 11.04 on a 2nd or 3rd hard disk:
If installing Ubuntu 11.04 on the first hard disk:
Install Linux Ubuntu 11.04
Raid/LVM was not an issue when testing and partitions were created manually during installation. Ubuntu was installed on previously created Unallocated space with its boot loader installed to the Linux EXT4 partition. Windows still booted automatically after Ubuntu installation. Finally EasyBCD was run in Windows to create the Ubuntu 11.04 entry in Vista's boot manager thereby creating the Windows-controlled dual-boot.
Place a Linux Ubuntu 11.04 boot option in Windows boot loader
Congratulations! You have created a natural dual-boot of Windows Vista and Linux Ubuntu 11.04 when Windows Vista was installed first, the original MBR is unchanged, and the Windows Boot Loader menu is shown on bootup.
Footnote: EasyBCD 2.1 creates an NST folder on the root of the Windows Vista partition when it adds an operating system to the Windows Vista boot loader. This NST folder contains boot sector file(s) vital to booting added OSs. It must not be deleted.
Older Computers with low maximum Screen Resolution
Ubuntu 11.04 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 Ubuntu 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. THPC did not investigate this any further. Feedback appreciated.
Remove/Uninstall Linux and reclaim space
Linux Ubuntu is wonderful, regularly updated, and it's free! Nevertheless you may wish to remove it at some stage. Removing Ubuntu and regaining its disk space is quick and painless.
In another a few seconds you will have all the Linux space back in Windows Vista.
EasyBCD has an Uninstall shortcut in Start > All Programs > NeoSmart Technologies.
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 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 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:
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)
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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