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Install Dual-Boot of Linux Ubuntu 9.04 or 8 on a Windows Vista computer (Vista installed first and GRUB controlling startup after Linux installation)

Last reviewed: June 2009


This guide shows how to correctly and safely create a natural dual-boot of Windows Vista and Linux Ubuntu 9.04 or 8.x on a computer with Windows Vista already installed. Linux's boot loader, GRUB, will be in control after the Linux installation. You can then run either by selecting that OS from a menu during bootup. If you already have a Windows-controlled dual or multi-boot, they will be retained and will be accessed from a sub-menu when Windows Vista is selected. 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.

32 and 64-bit versions of Windows Vista were used in testing The operating system added was Linux Ubuntu 9.04 or 8.04. 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 moderately experienced computer users

Do not use these instruction to dual-boot with Ubuntu 9.10 or later. For later versions of Ubuntu you must select it on this page

Where do you install the Linux boot loader (GRUB) ?

1. To the Linux partition.
In this case the Linux partition must be a Primary on the first hard disk because it has to be made Active during installation. However the original MBR and boot loader remains intact and you can easily restore the Windows-controlled boot by just making the originally active partition Active again.
2. To the MBR (Master Boot Record) at the start of the first partition.
Doing this overwrites the existing Windows MBR and boot loader (BCD) and makes it difficult to restore Windows as a single entity should you wish to do so at a later time. It has the advantage that you can install Linux itself on a Logical partition.

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 disk (use Shrink).
  3. Install Linux Ubuntu 9.04 or 8.04 on the free space at end of disk
    (allow GRUB install on (hd0) - the Default in Advanced).

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

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STEP-BY-STEP: Install Linux Ubuntu when Windows Vista is 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.


  • Installation CD for Linux and preferably Windows 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 the 700 MB Ubuntu 9.04, standard or 64-bit version from (or request the totally free CD). You can use the free and excellent GetRight download manager to help with the large download. Create the Ubuntu Live CD from the downloaded .ISO file.
    Optional: Download NeoSmart's free Windows Vista System Recovery Disk if your Vista DVD is missing!
  3. Disconnect all external devices before you start.

B. Make free space (Unallocated) for Linux Ubuntu

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 (110 GB, Primary, NTFS), Linux (20 GB, Unallocated).

  1. Restart computer correctly (close all programs 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 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 Linux Ubuntu 9.04 or 8.04

  1. Bootup from the Linux Ubuntu installation CD.
    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 Specify Partitions manually (advanced), 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 1000 MB (for 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).
    • Tick the Format box.
    • 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).
  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
    (optionally, tick the automatic logon).
    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. That's what we want so do not change it if it's correctly set.
    • 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 first hard disk.
  6. Restart computer when installation is complete. At the bottom of GRUB's boot menu you'll see the Windows Vista boot option.

    If you installed Ubuntu on a natural dual-booted Windows Vista computer, then selecting the Windows Vista boot option brings up the original dual-boot menu so you can select which Windows to boot.
Congratulations! You have created a GRUB-controlled dual-boot of Windows Vista and Linux Ubuntu when Windows Vista was installed first.

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Repair Windows Vista Startup or Remove/Uninstall Linux and reclaim space

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. 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 nearly painless.

  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 the System Recovery Options dialog box
      • Type in (and press ENTER)
        Bootrec.exe /fixmbr
        (GRUB will be overwritten and the Windows boot loader reinstalled).
    • Now click Startup Repair in the System Recovery Options dialog box.
    • Restart computer.
      Windows Vista should boot as originally.

    Now that GRUB has been removed you can use Shrink in Disk management to reclaim the space used by the two Linux partitions.

  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 Vista partition, select Extend Volume....
      Click Next to use the maximum space for Windows Vista, and then Finish.

In another a few seconds you will have all the Linux space back in Windows Vista.

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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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