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Install Linux Ubuntu 8.04 on a Windows Vista computer (Vista installed first and Vista still controlling startup after Linux installation)

Last reviewed: July 2009

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This page shows how to create a native (natural) dual-boot of Windows Vista and Linux Ubuntu 8.04 on a computer with Windows Vista already installed on NTFS. The Windows boot loader will stay in control (not Linux's GRUB). You can then run either by selecting one from a Vista menu during bootup. No data loss will occur and a third-party boot utility is not used.

If you wish GRUB to be in control of the dual-boot, go to Dual-boot Vista + Linux Ubuntu 9 / 8 (Linux/GRUB control) (Vista installed first)

The example shown here uses one hard disk. In this procedure you need to shrink the Windows drive to make room for Linux.

Windows Vista Home Premium, installed on a single NTFS partition, was used in testing. The operating system added was Ubuntu version 8.04. The computer used was a 32-bit Dell Optiplex with Pentium 4 (2.26GHz), 1.25 GB RAM, 160 GB ATA hard disk.

The procedure used is suitable for moderately experienced users.

Important Installation Notes

Shrinking the Windows Vista drive
You should avoid resizing a Windows 7 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 altering a Windows partition outside of Windows control could sometimes make Windows unbootable.

It's recommended you use Shrink in Disk Management to resize the Windows 7 or Vista partition and not a third-party utility - play safe and let Windows do it. If the free space achieved is inadequate, you can read Shrink the Windows 7 or Windows Vista Partition for instructions on completing this task successfully. The very popular and free GParted Live CD cannot be recommended in this situation - read Use GParted to Resize the Windows 7 or Vista Partition to learn why.

The highly-acclaimed EasyBCD is a free boot menu editing utility for Win7 or Vista. It allows users to easily edit the BCD (Boot Configuration Data). The BCD is an integral part of Windows 7's and Vista's new boot manager/loader that replaces the NTLDR/Boot.ini method used in Windows XP, 2000, and NT. Manually editing the BCD is quite difficult. However EasyBCD has plenty of useful options including the addition of any Windows, DOS, Linux and others to the new boot loader with just a few clicks in a user-friendly GUI. You can also, at your leisure, use EasyBCD to alter the Default OS, the Bootloader Timeout, the Name that appears in the boot menu, and the Boot order in the boot menu.

SUMMARY of Procedure (Advanced users)

  1. Backup.
  2. Create Unallocated space for Linux at end of Windows disk (use Shrink in Disk Management).
  3. Install Linux on this free space at end of disk
    (install GRUB on Linux partition). Only Windows boots now.
  4. Use the free EasyBCD utility to add Linux partition to Windows boot loader
    (if using version 2.0 (beta) of EasyBCD, enable the "GRUB isn't installed to MBR/bootsector" box).

That's it! The Windows boot loader menu will boot Ubuntu and Windows Vista.

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STEP-BY-STEP: Install Linux Ubuntu 8.04 when Windows Vista was installed first

Installing other operating systems on your Windows Vista computer may invalidate your warrantee.

It's very important to follow the instructions exactly as stated and that includes any restarts!


  • Installation CD/DVD for Linux and preferably Vista's DVD.
  • 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 the 700 MB Ubuntu, standard or 64-bit version from (or request the totally free CD). You can use the excellent free GetRight download manager to help with the large download. Create the Ubuntu Live CD from the downloaded .ISO file.
  3. Download Neosmart's EasyBCD v 1.7.2 or later (free - simplifies editing the Win7/Vista boot loader).
    • Copy EasyBCD to a new EasyBCD folder on the Windows Vista drive.
    Optional: Download NeoSmart's free Vista Recovery Disk only 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: Windows Vista (150 GB, Primary, NTFS). The Windows Vista drive was shrunk leaving about 40 GB Unallocated space at the end of the disk (to the right). After repartitioning it had: Vista (110 GB, Primary, NTFS), Linux (40 GB, Unallocated).

  1. Restart computer correctly (close all programs/software before you Restart computer).
  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 Shrink the Windows 7 or Windows Vista Partition for instructions on how to complete this task successfully. Then return here.
  3. Restart to Windows Vista two times.
    • Open Disk Management and check that the change made is correct.

C. Install Ubuntu 8.04

  1. Bootup from the Linux Ubuntu installation CD/DVD.
    Select your Language, and then select Install now.
    • In the Welcome screen, select your Language again, and click Forward.
    • In Where are you, select your Time Zone, and click Forward.
    • In Keyboard layout, select your Country, and click Forward.
    • In Prepare disk space, select Manual, and click Forward.
      The Prepare partitions screen will open (it's GParted).
  2. In Prepare partitions, right-click Free space, and select New Partition.
    The Create partition window will open. First create the Ubuntu partition.
    • In Type for the new partition, select Primary or Logical if you prefer/must.
    • In New partition size ..., select all available space (for Ubuntu), except 1 GB (for the Swap File)
    • In Location for the new partition, select Beginning.
    • In Use as:, select EXT3 journaling file system.
    • In Mount Point, select / (a forward slash).
    • Click the OK button.
    Make sure the Format box is ticked for the new EXT3 partition and make sure the Mount Point is / (if not, right-click the EXT3 partition, select Edit, and correct it).
    Make a note of the Device name allocated to the ext3 partition, like /dev/hda2 or /dev/sda2.
  3. Now right-click the remaining Free space (about 1 GB), and select New Partition.
    The Create partition window will open again. Now create the Swap partition.
    • In Type for the new partition, select Logical or Primary if it's available and you prefer it.
    • In New partition size ..., use all available space.
    • In Location for the new partition, select Beginning.
    • In Use as:, select Swap area.
      A Mount Point is not set for Linux's swap file partition.
    • Click the OK button.
    Click Forward when ready, or click Undo changes to partitions to remake them.
  4. In Who are you? enter and remember your username and password, and click Forward.
    Deal with the Migrate Documents and Settings as suits you, and click Forward.

    Read the contents of the Ready to install window but do not click Install yet.
    • Click the Advanced button and the Advanced Options windows will open.
    • Make sure the Install boot loader box is ticked.
    • You'll see the boot loader (GRUB) will be installed, by default, at the start of the first hard disk (hd0) replacing the Windows loader. We do not want that. We need to install GRUB to the Ubuntu partition.
      • In the drop-down, select the partition where Ubuntu will be installed, like /dev/sda2 or /dev/hda2
    • Click OK to exit Advanced Options.
  5. Click Back if you're not happy with your selections.
    Click Install when you're ready to install Ubuntu.
    Linux Ubuntu will now install itself on the new EXT3 partition and will place GRUB at the start of the Ubuntu partition.
  6. Restart computer when installation is complete. Window Vista will boot normally.
    We can now use EasyBCD to add Linux to the Windows Vista boot loader.

D. Place Linux Ubuntu boot option in Windows boot loader

  1. Restart Windows Vista.
  2. Install and run EasyBCD from EasyBCD folder on the Vista drive.
    • Click Add/Remove Entries.
      • Click the Linux tab under Add an Entry.
      • In Type, select Grub in the drop-down.
      • In name, use a name like Linux Ubuntu 8.04.
      • In Device or Drive, select Partition . (Linux ...) from the drive drop-down list
        (it's the larger Linux partition - check the size shown).
      • * If using version 2 (beta) of EasyBCD, tick (to enable) the GRUB isn't installed to MBR/bootsector check box.
        * If using version 1.7.2 of EasyBCD, don't tick the GRUB isn't installed ... check box.
      • Press Add Entry.
        If the new entry does not immediately appear under Manage Existing Entries, click View Settings, and click Add/Remove Entries again. Now you'll see it.
      • Click the Save button.
    • Exit EasyBCD.
  3. Restart computer. Select Linux Ubuntu from the Vista boot menu.

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

EasyBCD creates an NST folder on the root of the Active 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. Be sure you do not accidentally delete this folder.

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Uninstall/Remove 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.

  1. Run EasyBCD in Windows Vista.
    • Click Add/Remove Entries.
      • Highlight the Linux entry.
      • Click the Delete button.
      • Click the Save 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.

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 procedure.

  1. Bootup from a Windows Vista installation DVD.
    • 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.
  2. Bootup from a 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 totally stuck for a solution, boot again from the Vista 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:
x:\boot\bootsect.exe /nt60 C:
(where x: is your DVD drive letter, and C: is the installation drive for Vista).
Type 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 can be recovered relatively easily.

How to reinstall/recover the Windows 7/Vista boot loader (BCD)

  1. Bootup from any Windows 7/Vista installation DVD or even from NeoSmart's free Vista Recovery Disk.
    • 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
        (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.

You can now reinstall Linux Ubuntu. When you get to the Install Now window, click the Advanced button and select the Linux Ubuntu partition as the location for installing GRUB. When installation is complete, continue at section D above.

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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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