How to create a dual boot when preserving Windows seems impossible

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Sometimes the installer from Ubuntu or Linux Mint, doesn't recognize Windows in the "Install type" window. Or the installer doesn't offer you the option in that window, to install Ubuntu or Mint alongside Windows.

In both situations: first cancel the installation, if you want to preserve Windows!

There are two common causes of this problem, each of which requires a different fix. Below I'll describe those fixes. After the fix you should be able to create a dual boot after all.

Windows 7, 8.x or 10: the installer from Ubuntu or Linux Mint doesn't recognize Windows at all

1. Sometimes the installer from Ubuntu or Linux Mint doesn't recognize an existing Windows 7, 8.x or 10 at all, on a computer with Windows. You can then do the following to create a dual boot with preservation of Windows, after all:

a. First create some unallocated space, by shrinking the Windows partition by means of the application GParted.

Gparted is present in both the Ubuntu DVD and in the Mint DVD. So in the "Try Ubuntu (without installing)" session you can launch Gparted from the Dash, on the upper left of the sidebar. Simply type gparted as query.
In the tryout session of the Linux Mint DVD you can use the search box in the menu to find it.

Note: an operation in GParted will only take place after you have confirmed it, by clicking on the "Apply" button (sometimes shown as a "green tick") in the panel of GParted.

After the shrinking of the Windows partition your hard disk should look approximately like this, in GParted (the screenshot is from a computer which has Windows 8 on it; click on the image to enlarge it):

b. Now close GParted and launch the installer of Ubuntu or Linux Mint again. Select Something else in the "Installation type" window. Click on the image below to enlarge it:

c. In the ensuing window, click on the largest "free space" (usually at the bottom of the row. Click on the screenshot below to enlarge it:

(continued in the column on the right)

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d. Click on the + sign to create a new partition, and give it mount point  /  (root). Leave some space for the swap partition you'll create in the next step. The swap should be a little bigger than the size of your RAM memory. See the screenshot below (click on the image to enlarge it):

e. Now click on the remaining free space (again at the bottom of the row), click the plus sign again and create a swap partition in the remaining unallocated space. See the screenshot below (click on the image to enlarge it):

f. Finally, click "Install now" to continue the installation. The rest is a piece of cake.

Windows XP, Vista and 7: maximum of four primary partitions has been reached

2. On a computer with Windows XP, Vista and 7 you can sometimes only choose to give the entire hard disk to Ubuntu or Mint, in the installer from Ubuntu or Linux Mint.

In that case you probably already have the maximum of four primary partitions on the hard disk. Logical partitions have no maximum; primary partitions do. At least in the old fashioned BIOS, because modern Windows 8 computers running on UEFI (provided that the UEFI is in UEFI mode!), don't have this limitation.

The solution is to destroy one of the primary partitions, for example by means of the application GParted on the Ubuntu or Mint DVD. This can be a tiny partition, because size doesn't matter: the installer can afterwards retrieve enough space by shrinking another, existing partition. It's simply a matter of reducing the number of the primary partitions.

Note: don't destroy the separate boot partition of Windows 7 (sometimes called BOOT or SYSTEM), nor the actual Windows partition!

After this operation you can close GParted and restart the Ubuntu or Mint installer.

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