How to install Ubuntu alongside Windows

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Dual boot the easy way

Windows can stay on your computer, when you install Ubuntu! It's handy to turn your computer into a dual boot machine. That way you can choose each time you turn on your computer, what operating system you want to boot: Ubuntu or Windows.

Note: it's also possible to install Ubuntu within Windows, basically as an application. This is done with an installer called Wubi. I advise against this method, because it's technically inferior to a normal dual boot on a separate partition on the hard disk.

With a Wubi installation of Ubuntu, you have lesser performance, dependance on Windows and its bootloader, less reliable file recovery and some security issues. In short: a separate partition for Ubuntu is much better.

Do you already have a Wubi installation of Ubuntu? Then remove it first, within Windows, using Windows' own Add/Remove Software feature.

It's easy to turn your computer into a dual boot:

1. Backup all your documents, pictures, music et cetera, on an external storage medium (DVD-RW, external USB hard disk, flash memory stick).

2. Make Windows perform an error check on the hard disk. In Windows XP, you can do that as follows:
My computer - click the C-drive - right-click: properties - tab Tools

Check only the first option box:
Automatically fix file system errors

See this screenshot (click on it to enlarge it):

in Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, this picture looks a little different. But it's basically the same.

Now Windows will ask for a reboot, in order to perform the error check. So reboot. During the reboot, Windows will do an error check with CHKDSK.

Note: defragmentation is unnecessary! That saves a lot of time....

3. Shut down your computer.

4. Simplify your hardware: temporarily unplug all peripherals from your computer, except for display, mouse, keyboard and printer. Do you use an USB hub? Then remove that temporarily as well, and connect mouse, keyboard and printer directly to the USB ports in your computer.

After the installation you can reconnect all your peripherals again; they'll probably work out of the box then.

5. Wire your computer: temporarily establish internet connection with an ethernet cable, wired internet therefore. If you have a laptop, connect the power cord as well: you definitely don't want to run the risk of an empty battery during the installation of an operating system.

6. Windows 8: change some settings: for Windows 8, you have to do some settings changes before you can install Ubuntu next to it.

7. Boot your computer from the Ubuntu DVD (are the BIOS settings OK for booting from a DVD?), hit the space bar and choose "Check disc for defects", thus performing an integrity check on the DVD.

The DVD has to be completely error free. If it's not, burn a new DVD at low speed (4 x).

8. Then choose "Try Ubuntu" in the boot menu of the Ubuntu DVD. In the trial (live) session you can find out if all the hardware works like it should. Note: in the live session Ubuntu functions much slower than usual!

9. You can start the installation by clicking the special desktop shortcut. The installer will start by asking you a couple of questions. Only after you have made a choice for partitioning, installation will begin.

You'll be presented with this window (click on the picture to enlarge it):

Tick "Install this third party software". Then click "Continue".

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Then choose the "alongside Windows" option, so that your Windows will be safe. Click on the picture to enlarge it:

Note: when you don't have much experience with Linux yet, then do not select the LVM option! Because that drastic option is only meant for advanced Linux users. This option can cause a lot of trouble for people with little Linux experience....

The Encrypt option is also potentially risky; only use it when it has a clear security advantage. For example on a computer that sometimes leaves your house and which contains sensitive information (like a laptop that you take with you to your work).

But don't apply the Encrypt option on a computer that's always in your house, like a desktop computer which is only in use by you and your family.

The disadvantage of encryption is, that your important data will be forever unreachable when you, for example, forget your password. Encryption is a very powerful tool; like all powerful tools, it should be handled with care.

Potential problem: no option to preserve Windows

Doesn't the installer offer you the option to preserve Windows and install Ubuntu alongside Windows? Then cancel the installation and have a look at this potential solution.

10. One of the last questions will be a disk partitioning proposal. The installer will namely propose to free up some space on the hard disk. Thus leaving somewhat less space for Windows, and allowing Ubuntu to be put on the cleared space.

Don't worry: the installer respects the disk space that's already in use by Windows files, and only proposes to divide the remaining unused space on the hard drive.

This proposal looks approximately like this (click on the picture to enlarge it):

The mouse pointer is at the divider: move the divider at will. Ubuntu is on the right.

Click Install now.

In principle, you could simply agree with this proposal of the installer. However, on small hard drives the installer tends to underestimate the disk space (the surplus empty "breathing space") needed by Windows or Ubuntu. So you may want to increase the disk space for Windows or Ubuntu, by moving the slider with your mouse.

Note: give Ubuntu preferably no less than 20 GB. Ubuntu is the block on the right.

In other words: the installer assumes automatically (by default) that you don't want to wipe Windows and that you want a dual boot computer. Ubuntu is user friendly!

11. Now the installation of Ubuntu takes place and in the end you have a dual boot computer.

12. The first time you start Windows in the dual boot configuration, Windows will discover that its disk space has shrunk. Windows has to adjust itself to that.

During the first Windows boot you'll therefore probably see a blue screen with white letters, informing you that Windows is checking the hard disk and "repairing" it. Simply let it do its job.

14. Afterwards Windows will want to reboot. Go along with it. Then Windows will be used to its new disk space and will function normally.

15. That's it! You're done. Now you can reboot into Ubuntu and start polishing your new operating system.

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