Setting up a Linux-Windows dual boot

Linux has been an operating system in vogue lately, and with good reason. It offers a very viable alternative to proprietary operating systems, chief among them being Microsoft Corporation’s Windows OS, and Apple Inc.’s Macintosh OS. It has moved on from a nascent stage of catering to only open source enthusiasts to a more generalized category of people. Distributions such as Ubuntu are geared towards a demanding audience that comprises of more than tech geeks. However, it can be a big ask of a novice (to the world of Linux) to completely move on from the proprietary operating system he/she has been using always. The only viable alternative left is to find a sort of middle ground, and that is, to have the old and the new operating systems to run together at the same time. This will ensure that the individual has enough time to have trial runs and a sufficient teething period in the new environment (while he/she learns how to use Linux in general), while also leaving the option of falling back to the old operating system for general tasks. Thus, this article deals with how to use Linux in a dual boot system.

For the sake of convenience, let us assume that your system already has a copy of Microsoft Windows 7 running on it, and you are trying to install a copy of the Ubuntu Linux distribution on it. What you need to do is to download the ISO image of Ubuntu from the Canonical website, and burn it on a CD/DVD. You can also order a disk from Canonical, who deliver it to you in a few weeks. When that is done, you need to enter the disk during the boot of the Windows system. It will bring up a black window with a menu and Ubuntu based designs. The menu will have 5 options, of which the first two are actually relevant. The first one will ask if you want to try Ubuntu without any change to your computer – this means that it will be a Live CD installation where the Linux operating system runs from your RAM. You can actually get to learn how to use Linux without it being installed permanently through the Live CD method, but note that you cannot save any file or do any permanent actions in that state. The second option is to install Ubuntu. To get started with the dual boot, you need to select that option.

You will eventually come to a window that asks you to ‘prepare disk space’. You will see the OS you are currently using (that is, Windows 7), along with the total space available in your hard disk. Below that are options to install the operating systems side by side, erase and use the entire disk and to manually edit the partitions. For a beginner wanting to learn how to use Linux, choosing the first option is the most judicious way to proceed. You will need to decide exactly how much disk space you want to allocate to Ubuntu in the meanwhile as well. The following window will require the entry of the login credentials needed for Linux. Choose your password especially carefully – not only as a safety measure, but also as something that you can type effortlessly, as you will need to enter it rather often in Linux, even after you are logged in. While you continue to learn how to use Linux, you will come across plenty of instances where your actions will be restricted by the Linux system, so as to protect the system files from incurring any damage. This will be an interesting, though occasionally annoying version of the User Account Control privilege system that had been so roundly criticized by Windows Vista users. It needs a certain level of getting used to, but beyond that, it becomes second nature to a regular Linux user.

After the setup is complete, the system will restart with a new, ‘GRUB’ bootloader, that will ask you to choose between Ubuntu, Windows 7 and memory diagnostic tests. All that remains is for you to choose between them, depending on whether you’re in the mood for learning more of how to use Linux, or prefer a familiar environment. All in all, that is all it takes to set up a Linux and Windows dual boot system as a beginner to the world of Linux.

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