Configuring A Dual-Boot Drive

In order to make the best use of this recipe, you will already need to know the following:

  1. How to burn an .iso copy of Ubuntu to a CD
  2. How to f-disk and partition your hard drive using a Window$ installation CD
  3. The difference between FAT32 and NTFS

Step One:

Download and burn a copy of the Ubuntu Live CD, and have both it and your Window$ installation CD handy.

Step Two:

Using your Window$ installation CD, f-disk your hard drive and prepare two partitions. The first partition should be formatted as FAT32 and be large enough to hold your Window$ operating system plus installed programs.

Note: Window$ installation CDs will not prepare FAT32 partitions larger than 30 gigabytes. However, most Window$ installations do not require more than a few gigabytes, and most installed programs will not take up more than a few gigabytes beyond that. I recommend a 10-20 gigabyte partition for this step, depending on the size of your hard drive.

The second partition should constitute most of the remaining space on your hard drive and should be left unformatted. This will be a shared partition between the two operating systems that you can use for file storage.

The final 10-20 gigabytes of your hard drive should be left unpartitioned.

My final configuration after partitioning an 80 gigabyte hard drive looked something like this:

  • 20G Window$ Partition: ¼ of my hard drive, formatted as FAT32

  • 40G Shared Partition: ½ of my hard drive, partitioned but not formatted

  • 20G Unpartitioned Space: ¼ of my hard drive was not partitioned

Note: My husband suggests a different approach to partitioning that involves using the Ubuntu Live/Installation CD to partition and format all of the logical drives at once. However, I’m offering this recipe because I know it better and am gearing it to Window$ power users who know very little about Linux.

Step Three:

Once you’ve completed partitioning and formatted the first logical drive as FAT32, continue with your Window$ installation on the first logical drive and complete it.

Step Four:

Restart your computer with the Ubuntu Live CD inserted. A live version of Ubuntu will load. This live version will not harm your Window$ installation. When it has loaded, go to System ->Administration->GNOME Partition Editor (GParted). This interface will show you all of the logical drives and unpartitioned space on your hard drive.

Select the large, unformatted partition on your hard drive and instruct GParted to format it as FAT32. GParted will format large partitions as FAT32, so using this tool circumvents similar Window$ limitations. This formatting will also happen much faster than similar formatting happens in Window$. Follow GParted’s instructions for completing the formatting process.

Step Five:

When you have finished formatting your large partition, locate the “Install” icon on the Ubuntu Live CD desktop. Click that icon to begin installing Ubuntu on your computer. Follow the instructions for installation until you are asked to specify the location for Ubuntu files. One of the options will say something like “install to largest contiguous space.” Select that option, which will instruct Ubuntu to install at the end of the drive in the space you previously left unpartitioned. Thereafter, continue following the instructions for installation to their completion.

When Ubuntu has finished installing, reboot your computer. When your computer restarts, you will see a menu that allows you to select which of the two operating systems you want to use. This is called the GRUB Boot Loader and will launch every time you boot the computer. Handy, eh?

Final Thoughts:

There is more than one school of thought regarding the use of FAT32 vs. NTFS for Window$ and the shared partition. I like FAT32 because it runs faster and allows Ubuntu more liberal access to the other partitions on the system. This is especially handy if you intend to mount the Window$ partition in Ubuntu and/or use a Window$ emulator in Ubuntu for your favorite Window$ programs (which I don’t recommend, but that’s another topic entirely).

You should also know that if you ever have to reinstall Window$, you will likely lose your GRUB menu, which means that you’ll have to reinstall Ubuntu as well. So if you’re going to reinstall one OS, just back everything up from both of them and your shared partition, and start from scratch.

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