Linux

The Ultimate Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux Dual Boot Guide

Person dual-booting Windows and Linux on the same computer

Dual-boot Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux by shrinking your Windows installation, installing Ubuntu, then modifying your computer’s default bootloader.

As of January 2020, Microsoft no longer supports Windows 7. We recommend upgrading to Windows 10 to continue receiving security updates and technical support.

Person dual-booting Windows and Linux on the same computer
Lifewire / Jiaqi Zhou 

This procedure works for Windows 7 and Ubuntu 14.10. However, the procedures are similar for Ubuntu through version 19.10.

Create a Bootable USB or DVD

Download Ubuntu. If you have a 64-bit computer choose the 64-bit version otherwise download the 32-bit version.

With the ISO on your computer, create a bootable DVD:

  1. Right-click the downloaded ISO file and choose Burn Disc Image.
  2. Insert a blank DVD into the drive and click Burn.

If your computer doesn’t have a DVD drive you must create a bootable USB drive. The easiest way to create a bootable USB drive for non-UEFI drives is to download the Universal USB Installer

The download icon is halfway down the page.

  1. Run the Universal USB Installer by double-clicking on the icon. Ignore any security message and accept the license agreement.
  2. From the dropdown list at the top choose Ubuntu.
  3. Click Browse and find the downloaded Ubuntu ISO.
  4. Click the dropdown menu at the bottom to select your flash drive. If the list is blank place a check in the Now Showing All Drives checkbox.
  5. Choose your USB drive from the dropdown list and check the format drive box. 
  6. If you have any data on the USB drive that you want to keep copy it somewhere safe first.
  7. Click Create to create the bootable Ubuntu USB drive.

If your computer uses UEFI instead of BIOS, the instructions differ in important ways.

Troubleshooting

To change the boot order restart the computer and look for the key that you need to press to load the BIOS setup screen. Generally, the key will be a function key that you press when the computer is booting up, such as F2, F8, F10 or F12.

After you have entered the BIOS setup screen, look for the tab that shows the boot order and switch the order so that the method you are using to boot Ubuntu appears above the hard drive.

Save the settings and reboot. The Try Ubuntu option should now appear. Go back to Boot Into Live Ubuntu Session and repeat that step.

Create Partitions Manually

If you selected the option to install alongside Windows 7, skip this step. This step only applies to those who elected manual partition changes by selecting Something Else.

Some people prefer separate root, home, and swap partitions as it makes it easier for replacing the version of Linux and when upgrading your system

To create your first partition:

  1. Choose the free space and click the plus symbol.
  2. Choose the logical partition type and set the amount of space that you wish to give to Ubuntu. The size you give to the partition will depend on how much space you have to start with.
  3. The Use As dropdown lets you set the file system used. There are lots of different file systems available for Linux but in this instance stick with ext4.
  4. Choose / as the mount point and click OK.
  5. When you are back at the partitioning screen, find the remaining free space and click on the plus symbol again to create a new partition. The home partition is used to store documents, music, videos, photos and other files. It is also used to store user-specific settings. Generally, you should give the rest of the space to the home partition minus a small amount for a swap partition.

Swap partitions are a contentious subject and everybody has their own opinion as to how much space they should take up. 

Make your home partition use the rest of the space minus the amount of memory that your computer has.

For example, if you have 300 GB of disk space and you have 8 GB of memory, enter 292000 into the box, to represent the space in megabytes.

  1. Choose a logical partition as the type.
  2. Choose the beginning of this space as the location and select ext4 as the filesystem unless you’ve got a good reason to the contrary.
  3. Select /home as the mount point.
  4. Click OK.

The final partition to create is the swap partition.

Some experts say you don’t need a swap partition at all, others say that it should be the same size as memory and some people say it should be 1.5 times the amount of memory. 

The swap partition stores idle processes when memory is running low. The swap partition was important in the past when computers used to frequently run out of memory but nowadays unless you are doing some serious number crunching or video editing it is unlikely that you will run out of memory.

  1. Leave the size as the rest of the disk and change the use as box to Swap Area.
  2. Click OK to continue.
  3. The final step is to choose where to install the bootloader. There is a dropdown list on the installation type screen which lets you choose where to install the bootloader. Set this to the hard drive where you are installing Ubuntu. Generally speaking, leave the default option of /dev/sda.
  4. Click Install Now.

Do not choose /dev/sda1 or any other number (i.e. /dev/sda5). It has to be /dev/sda or /dev/sdb depending where Ubuntu is installed.

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