One of the most popular Linux distribution – Ubuntu, makes it easy to get things done quickly and easily due to it’s lightweight architecture, compatibility with even older hardware, and appealing & user friendly appearance. This open source operating system is freely available for worldwide users. One thing that makes the Linux-based OS unique is it’s ability to directly run from a DVD/ USB stick without needing to install on user’s machine, a major feature quite unfamiliar to Windows users.
If you’re a regular Windows user and would like to explore the new world of Linux without wiping out existing Windows installation, you’ve come at the right place! It’s quite possible to install Ubuntu while retaining your genuine copy of Windows from the techno giant. Here we’ll cover everything in detail, including the most commonly used terms during the Ubuntu installation, to make the process easy and fun.
Step # 1: Backup Everything to an External HDD
A backup is a duplicate copy of a file, an application or an entire hard drive. The sole purpose of creating a backup is to retain the data in the event of accidental data loss. A backup program compresses and reduces the size of original files, and restores the same in the case original data is rendered unusable.
A backup plays a very crucial role while making your computer dual-bootable. If you mess up something somewhere, things may go horribly wrong. Your computer will not boot, you’ll lose all of your documents and files at an instance, and not to mention, the existing Windows installation.
Where to backup?
Backing up your data on the same hard disk is strongly NOT recommended. This won’t serve the core purpose as, at worse, you might accidentally end up formatting the entire hard disk, or specifically the backup partition. Remember, Ubuntu drive system is much different than that of Windows. The Linux distribution does not show the actual drive labels (C:\, D:\ or E:\) during the partitioning stage, making it very difficult for a navvy Windows user to identify exact partition. The only ways to identify a drive are it’s size and drive format – something which is complex in nature for a non-tech savvy user.
You must backup everything from your system on to an external hard drive.
How to backup?
There are plenty of backup solutions available on the Web. I prefer the free edition of Reflect over the paid ones.
I strongly recommend you to take a complete hard drive backup – comprised of Windows installation, all documents and files, using a feature called Disk Image. You must backup everything from your system on to an external hard drive.
Additionally, you will need to burn a self-bootable recovery disk, typically a DVD-ROM, that can be a great help when your computer fails to boot. The complete instructions to create a full hard drive image backup and burn a self-bootable recovery media, can be found on their official website.
If you do not have much data on your HDD or won’t mind wiping out current Windows installation, simply copy all your important stuff on a USB Stick, DVD-ROM, External Hard Disk, or simply upload it on the Web using free cloud backup solutions out there – Google Drive and DropBox, just to name a few.
Step 2: Is Windows 10 Already Installed on your Machine?
Please be noted that all images in this article are for representation purpose only. The actual screen may vary depending on the partition table/ structure of your hard disk, and the version of operating systems you’re attempting to install.
Case 1: If Not, Partition your Hard Drive for Dual-Boot and Fresh Install Windows 10
I guess, this is not the case with majority of the readers. You can skip this step. If you wish to start from the scratch or wipe out everything on your HDD for whatever reason, here are the steps to do so:
1. Power on your computer and boot it from the Windows 10 installation media, typically a DVD-ROM consisting Windows 10 installation files. You can configure your system to boot from a DVD-ROM using the BIOS Setup. To enter into the BIOS Setup, press F2 or Delete key repeatedly, go to Boot Menu, set the First Boot Device to your DVD-ROM, and then save the changes and exit. In the case of Lenovo laptop, use the Boot Menu key next to the charging port and then select your preferred boot device.
2. Select Windows 10 Setup (64 bit) or Windows 10 Setup (32 bit) depending on your system type. A 32-bit machine cannot run a 64-bit Windows and applications while a 64-bit machine can run both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows and applications. For optimum performance, a 64-bit version is recommended.
3. The setup will start loading.
4. Select the preferred language to install, time and currency format, and keyboard/ input method, and then click Next.
5. Click Install Now.
6. Enter a product key to activate your copy of Windows, or skip the activation step for now if you would like to automatically activate it online later.
7. Read the EULA carefully, and check-up I accept the license terms if you agree with all the terms and conditions laid down in it. Click Next.
8. Choose the Custom: Install Windows Only (Advanced) option.
9. Consider creating a minimum of two partitions – first for the Windows installation and another to store your personal documents and files. Use the remaining space for the Ubuntu installation. Do NOT partition the Ubuntu space as of now.
It is recommended to store your files outside the Windows partition, just in case your compute fails to boot and you need to format and reinstall the OS.
If you’ve a 1 TB (Tera Byte) hard disk, allocate at least 150 GB for the Windows partition (C:\) for the installation of Windows, Microsoft & Non-Microsoft programs, and games. Keep around 100 GB reserved for the Ubuntu installation, do NOT partition it as of now. Allocate the remaining space for additional non-system drives (such as, D:\, E:\) to store your documents, pictures, videos and downloads.
To create a drive, click the New icon, specify a size of your choice, and then click Apply.
10. Format the drive you’re chosen to install Windows. (Select the drive > Format)
11. Once you’re done, click Next.
12. The setup will start copying files to your hard disk and install Windows. After finishing up, the installer will automatically restart your computer followed by a small countdown interval.
13. The process of setting up devices and user profile might take a couple of minutes.
14. You’ll be asked to enter the Product Key, in case you skipped it earlier. Activate your copy now, or simply click on Do this later to activate it later when you’re connected to the Internet.
15. In the subsequent prompt, click Use Express Settings.
16. Specify administrator user name and an optional password. You’ll be prompted to enter this password while logging-in to your computer, or while changing important system settings, installing apps or making major changes to your computer. Click Next.
17. Again, this may take some time. Please wait a while.
That’s it, Windows 10 is now successfully installed on your machine.
Now let’s move on to the other, most important part, of this article – installing the Ubuntu operating system.
Case 2: If Win10 is Already Installed, Re-partition your HDD (Shrink or Delete an Existing Partition to Make Space for Ubuntu)
You don’t need to follow this step if you fresh installed Windows 10 exactly as covered in this article.
Assuming Windows 10 is already installed on your computer, you need to either shrink an existing system or non-system partition, or delete a non-system partition so as to recreate it during the Ubuntu Setup.
To shrink means to cause something to contract or reduce in size. The process of shrinking divides a large-sized partition into two, freeing up the latter part for the Ubuntu installation.
A system-partition is the drive containing Windows installation. A non-system partition, on the contrary, is a drive with personal data and files, such as, documents, downloads, music and other.
After finishing up shrinking or deleting an existing partition, take a snapshot of the Disk Management window on to your smart phone. This will make it easier for you to identify drives by their sizes during the Ubuntu installation.
Opening Up Disk Management Utility
1. Boot the Windows 10 operating system.
2. Type in Disk Management in the Search Box on your Taskbar, and launch it from the Search Results.
You have two options:
Option # 1: Shrink a Large Drive
1. Right-click a large-sized partition with adequate free space, select Shrink Volume option.
2. You’ll be presented with the total size of the drive and the maximum space you can shrink. Specify a size in Megabytes (MB), usually half of the current partition size. Example: If your current drive size is 200 GB, shrink it to further 100 GB.
3. Click Shrink to proceed.
4. Exit the Disk Management utility.
Note: Some hard disks do not support more than four partitions. In such cases, Ubuntu will likely report the free space as “Unusable” during the installation stage. You’ll be forced to quit the setup and rearrange partitions, leave the free space as it is and install Ubuntu on another partition, or repartition your hard drive.
Option # 2: Delete an Existing Drive
Deleting a non-system drive is easy. However, all data stored on the partition will be permanently lost. This process cannot be undone. Make sure you backed-up everything on your system before deleting a partition. If you skipped that part, quit Disk Management utility and backup your stuff straightforward.
1. Right-click a large-sized partition with adequate disk space. Consider deleting a drive with at least 100 GB of storage space if you’ve a 1 TB HDD.
2. Select Delete Volume option.
3. Confirm the action in subsequent prompt.
4. Quit the Disk Management.
Step # 3: Install Ubuntu & Overwrite the Master Boot Record (MBR)
1. Download Ubuntu from the official website.
2. Burn the downloaded ISO on a USB Stick using a free bootable USB creator tool such as Rufus.
a. Connect a blank USB stick to your computer with sufficient storage space.
b. Launch Rufus, select the appropriate USB Stick in the Device drop-down box.
c. Check-up the box Create a bootable disk using > ISO Image.
d. Click the Locate ISO Image icon.
e. Browse and locate the ISO Image icon.
f. Click Start.
3. Configure your computer to boot from the USB Stick. (Detailed instructions are covered in the Windows Setup paragraph)
4. Ubuntu Setup will start loading automatically. Please wait a while.
5. Select a preferred language, for example, Marathi or English.
6. Click Install Ubuntu.
7. Connect to a high-speed Wi-Fi. Setup will download new updates and patches during the installation.
8. Check-up the following boxes:
- Download updates while installing Ubuntu
- Install third-party software for graphics and Wi-Fi hardware, Flash, MP3 and other media
9. Click Continue.
10. Select the option Something else.
11. Click Continue.
12. Here’s the most crucial and challenging part – setting up your Ubuntu partitions.
We’ll need to create three new partitions namely – Root, Home and SWAP Area, without altering any other partitions created during the Windows installation. If your computer came with Windows pre-installed, it’s most likely you’ll find additional recovery partition as well.
(As I wrote earlier, the above image and all other images are for representation purpose only. Since Windows is already installed on your machine, you’ll most likely find the FAT32 and NTFS partitions listed in the above screen.)
The snapshot which we generated earlier using a smart phone can be a great help to identify appropriate drives based on their sizes. A simple way to differentiate Windows and Ubuntu partitions is to look at the partition type. For example: FAT32 and NTFS are the most commonly used drive formats in Microsoft Windows, whereas Ext4 and Ext3 Journaling File Systems are widely used in the Linux distributions – Ubuntu and Kali Linux, just to name a few.
Before proceeding, let’s familiarize with the Ubuntu drive system..
- The Root partition contains Ubuntu operating system files and programs, much similar to the C:\ drive in Windows.
- The Home partition contains user files, such as, documents, downloads, images and videos.
- The SWAP Area, on the contrary, serves as a Virtual Drive. When your computer runs low on memory, Ubuntu writes data to this drive. Although the process of writing to a hard disk is slower compared to that of a physical memory (RAM), the SWAP area plays a crucial role avoiding system crashes, freezes and other performance issues.
What about the drive sizes?
As we discussed earlier during the Windows Setup stage, say, if you’ve a 1 TB hard disk and allocated a free space of 100 GB for the Ubuntu OS, consider dividing it as further:
- Root Partition: 70 GB
- Home Partition: 14 GB
- SWAP Area: Double of your RAM (For an 8 GB RAM, allocate at least 16 GB SWAP)
Important: Altering a wrong partition will result in severe data loss, overwrite the Windows operating system, and/ or wipe out everything stored on that partition or your entire HDD. If you’re unsure and did not backup your entire hard disk yet, quit the installation straight away and take a full backup.
13. To create the Root partition, select the Free Space label. Click on the Plus sign. Specify a size in MB, select Ext4 Journaling File System and “/” (without quotes) as the Mount Point. Finally, click OK.
14. To create the Home partition, select the Free Space label. Click the Plus sign again, and choose a preferred size, the same Ext4 Journaling File System. However, this time, you need to select “/home” in the Mount Point drop-down box. Click OK.
15. To create the SWAP Area, select the Free Space label, click the Plus sign, specify all the remaining size and choose SWAP Area under the Use as drop-down box. Click OK.
16. Check-up the Format box ahead of the Root and Home partitions. The SWAP Area does not required to be formatted.
17. Now, review your partition table and proceed next by clicking Install Now.
18. When you’re prompted to write changes to the disk, click Continue. If you’re unsure about the new partition structure, click Go Back and review it again.
19. Select a region, for example, India. Click Continue.
20. Select a keyboard layout, for example, English (US) and then click Continue.
21. Specify the administrator (commonly known as, Super User in the Linux), computer name, user name, and a strong password.
If you would like to automatically log-in every time without a password, select Log in automatically. Otherwise, select Require my password to log in. Click Continue.
22. The setup will start extracting, copying files to your hard disk and begin the installation.
23. After finishing up, click Restart Now.
24. Ubuntu will automatically load as soon as your computer restarts.
Step # 4: Re-build the Windows Bootloader from Scratch (Optional)
What is GRUB?
GRUB is a technology in Ubuntu that identifies and displays the list of various operating systems installed on your machine at the pre-boot interval. It allows you to select an operating system of your choice, much like the Windows Bootloader.
What is Windows Bootloader?
Microsoft relies on it’s own bootloader designed to automatically boot Windows, or display other operating systems installed on the machine.
Do I Really Need to Rebuild the Windows Bootloader?
You need not necessarily re-build the Windows Bootloader if you’re satisfied with the GRUB interface in Ubuntu. I personally found the Windows Bootloader more appealing and user friendly in nature, although Microsoft has rightly been criticized for making it’s bootloader aggressive in nature. It nukes down entries to other Non-Microsoft operating systems as soon as you install or upgrade Windows.
If you wish to rebuild the Bootloader, here are the steps for you:
Step # 1: Add an Entry to Ubuntu in the Windows Metro Bootloader
First and foremost, you need to boot Windows 10 operating system using the GRUB boot selection page.
1. Grab a tiny tool EasyBCD which is free for non-commercial purpose.
2. After the download is finished, install it. Administrative privileges are required.
3. Type in EasyBCD in the Search Box on your Taskbar, and hit ENTER.
4. Click on Add New Entry tab on the left.
5. Click the Linux/BSD tab under the Operating Systems category.
6. Select the second option namely GRUB 2 used in the Ubuntu 16 operating system.
7. Specify a name for the Dual-Boot entry, such as, Ubuntu Linux.
8. Make sure you select Automatically locate and load so that your copy of the Linux distribution will be automatically detected. This prevents serious boot interval issues.
9. Click Add Entry to immediately make changes to the Windows Master Boot Record (MBR).
Step # 2: Set Up Default OS, Change Count Down Interval
1. Click Edit Boot Menu on the left, and you’ll be greeted with the list of operating systems displayed in the Metro Bootloader Environment.
2. Make sure both Windows 10 and Ubuntu appear in the list. If not, you’ve messed up something in the Step # 1 above. Go back and make appropriate changes.
3. You can change the sequence of the OS listed before boot interval using the arrow keys on the top. Additionally, you can customize the default entry (default OS) by checking-up corresponding check-box, and select a language of your choice.
4. Select Count down from option, and specify a time interval in Seconds. Example: 10 seconds.
5. Click Save Changes to make changes to the MBR.
6. You must review all the changes you’ve made before rebooting your computer. Your computer will not boot if you missed any crucial steps. To review your new changes, go back to the View Settings tab > Overview.
Step # 3: Overwrite the Previous Bootloader
You need to follow this step only if you installed Windows 10 first and Ubuntu later, as covered in this article. You need not follow it if you installed Ubuntu first and Windows 10 later. In such cases, your Windows Setup may have already overwritten the Linux-based GRUB 2 bootloader and removed the Ubuntu entry from the boot selection (remember, when I said Windows Bootloader is quite aggressive in nature), thus there is no need to rebuild the MBR again.
1. Click the BCD Deployment tab.
2. Select Install the Vista + BCD/ bootmgr bootloader.
3. Click Write MBR button.
That’s it, folks! Your computer is now dual-boot configured. It’s time to test! Hope you’ve a backup ready, just in case.