Sunday, January 6, 2013

Dual-booting Vista and Linux

I found these notes from a while back on re-partitioning (and then reverting) a dual-boot Linux install on Windows. After working this out I now prefer to install on physically separate disks (due to the problem of reverting it if you ever want to). However, someone might find the following process of use.

Installation is easy; reverting back to a single boot, single partition is much more difficult.

If you're thinking of installing Linux as an alternative to the wonderland of Windows, consider these things:

  • Run Linux from a Live DVD (basically the .iso image of the distribution burnt to a CD/DVD) to test device drivers for all your hardware. This way you don't have to change disk partitions until you're happy that it's going to work. Consider the software you want to run as well.
  • Decide what is a showstopper, hardware compatibility-wise.
  • If you want to go ahead and dual-boot Linux and Windows on the same drive, be really sure because you will need to repartition the hard drive. Repartitioning isn't hard -- the Linux installer takes care of it -- but if you want to reverse the process and remote the partition, it is a pain in the arse.
  • Backup everything first.
If you install and then decide you want to revert, these are the steps I found worked (note: this was done in Vista. Process may be different for Windows 7):
  1. Download mbrfix to restore the Master Boot Record (MBR). Run the following from a command prompt:
    mbrfix /drive 0 fixmbr /vista
    Important: To start the command prompt, right click on the shortcut and choose "Run as administrator" (even if you're logged in as administrator), otherwise you will get the following error:
    System error 5 has occurred. Access is denied
  2. Check that Windows boots normally.
  3. Delete and reallocate the partitions. Avoid Vista's partition management -- it doesn't work. I burnt a GParted Live CD (iso image) and used that. It takes a long time, but it works.
  4. After re-partitioning the drive, I had a problem with a missing winboot.exe. Inserting the Vista installation DVD and choosing the "Repair your computer" option fixed this problem.

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