Although Windows is the most widely used operating system in the world, Linux generates a lot of interest among the most advanced users. The free operating system offers superior performance, security and privacy than Microsoft offers by default. However, many users depend on Windows to play or work with certain programs, which prevents them from turning their backs on Microsoft’s operating system. Luckily, there is a type of configuration known as Dual Boot that allows users to have both operating systems, such as Windows and Ubuntu, installed at the same time, being able to choose the one they need in each situation.
Dual Boot, as its name suggests, is a configuration through which we can install two (or more) operating systems at the same time on the computer. When we turn on the computer, a boot manager will appear asking us what operating system we want to boot. If we do not choose any, it will load, either the last one that we have previously loaded, or the one that we have configured as the default operating system.
Each operating system is installed on a separate partition on our computer. In this way, everything that happens in one of them does not affect the others at all. Of course, with the appropriate software we can access the hard drives and the data of all of them from any of the installed systems.
Dangers of a Dual-Boot Windows + Linux
Although we cannot deny the usefulness of this type of configuration, it is necessary to be very clear about the dangers that we can run. Not physically, but at a logical level (i.e. our data).
The first thing that we must take special care of is our data. Both operating systems will be able to access all hard drives so that we can always have our files at hand. It is very important to make sure that you do not install the operating system, or format by mistake, any of the data partitions. What’s more, we recommend having a separate data hard drive, regardless of operating systems, in order to isolate our most important information.
The boot loader must be well configured, and let us clearly indicate the system that we are going to boot. There are times when, after a system update, the bootloader can be overwritten, and we would lose the possibility of accessing one of the systems (probably Linux).
And productivity may not be as fast as we think. Switching from one system to another takes a while, since we are forced to restart the PC. Therefore, if we need to use both operating systems at the same time, it is much better and faster to opt for the Windows Subsystem for Linux, WSL, or a virtual machine rather than a Dual-Boot.
Everything we need to do Dual Boot
The first thing to think about is what operating systems we want to install. There are Dual Boot configurations with Windows 10 and Windows 7, other configurations that mix Ubuntu and Windows, and others more complex with other operating systems
We are going to suppose that we are going to install Windows 10 and Ubuntu on the same computer with Dual Boot. So what we need are either two hard drives to install each operating system on one, or a hard drive with at least two partitions. Doing it with two hard drives is more comfortable and simple, but if we are going to do it in two partitions later we will explain how to do them.
We will also need the installation media for the two operating systems. USBs are the most comfortable for this task. Therefore, we recommend creating a Windows 10 installation USB, and also creating an Ubuntu Live USB.
Finally, we are going to see the computer requirements. Do we need something special to be able to install these two operating systems on the same PC? The truth is that the only thing we will need is to have enough space on the hard disk to accommodate both systems. In addition, each of them must go on a separate hard drive, or partition. If we comply with this, and our PC can run both Ubuntu and Windows, we will not need more. Contrary to what many people think, a Dual Boot does not require more RAM to mount.
Which bootloader to use to boot Windows and Ubuntu
Windows has its own bootloader, just like Ubuntu also comes with GRUB by default . In addition, if we want, we can also use a third-party boot loader to be able to choose between the operating systems that we want to boot.
The Windows bootloader recognizes most Linux distros, and the Linux bootloader generally recognizes Windows well. The difference is that Windows, with updates to the operating system, tends to crash.
For this reason, we recommend that you use the Linux one better, which is surely GRUB. And for this, it is best to leave this second operating system for last.
Can I install other Linux than Ubuntu?
We have used Ubuntu as an example since it is one of the best known and most used distros in the world. However, if you want to install any other Linux distribution other than Ubuntu, the process will be the same. The only thing that will change will be the screenshots that we have put in this article, since they will be different.
Even if we have a lot of space or many hard drives, we can install three or more different operating systems following the same process, one after the other. The one that we install last will be the one that will be in charge of updating the boot loader (GRUB) and allowing us to run the operating systems that we want to use.
Start installing Windows and Linux on the same PC
If we already have all of the above, we can start to mount our own Dual Boot operating system. The first thing we are going to do is install Windows 10 from scratch. The installation process of this operating system does not hide any mystery. The only thing we need to pay attention to is when choosing the partitions.
In our case, for example, two hard drives will appear . If we select one of them, the wizard will directly create the necessary partitions to install Windows on it. And if we create a new partition manually, the same, we can see the necessary system partitions to be able to install and use Windows 10.
If what we want is to install the operating system on a partition, what we must do is create a new partition from this installation wizard choosing the space we want to leave to Windows 10, and making sure to leave enough space for Ubuntu. The Windows installation wizard itself will create your system sub-partitions and begin the installation.
When the installation process is finished, we will have Windows 10 installed on the computer. The next step will be to remove the Windows 10 installation USB, insert the Ubuntu USB, restart the PC and start over.
Now that we have Windows 10 installed on the computer, the next step will be to install Ubuntu. We will start Ubuntu in Live mode (from RAM) and execute the installation wizard of the operating system.
We simply have to follow this system to the section where we have to choose the hard drive or the partitions where we will install this Linux.
Ubuntu will detect that we already have Windows installed on the computer and will allow us to install it together with the Microsoft system very quickly and without configuration. It will also allow us to erase the entire disk and install Ubuntu on it from scratch (not recommended) and access the “more options” panel to create our own partitions. We will choose this last option.
As we can see, the two hard drives will appear. On the one hand we will have the first hard drive with Windows 10 and all the necessary partitions for this operating system to work. And on the other hand we will have our second hard drive, which will be empty and without partitions.
The first thing we will do is create a new partition table to turn the hard drive into empty space without partitioning. Once this is done, we will select the empty space and create the partitions that we want to use according to the knowledge of Linux that we have.
The essential thing is to create a partition with the mount point /, since that is where the entire system will be installed. But we can also create mount points for boot, for home, and for other directories on the Linux system. But this is already for advanced users. If we do not have much experience with Linux, it will be enough to create a single partition with the root (/) mount point. Regarding the file system, we must choose EXT4.
In the event that instead of two hard drives we are trying to install it in one, in a partition, what we must do is create a new partition with the free space, in EXT4 format, and assign the mount point / to said partition. This way we will have the Ubuntu partition between the Windows partition without problems.
Finally, we must indicate that we want to install the bootloader on this second hard drive. Thus each disk will have its own boot manager, something useful so that, if one of them fails, we can boot at least one of the operating systems from the other.
In case of only having a hard disk (for being installing the two systems in different partitions), then the device for the boot will be the only hard disk that we have.
Clever. Now we will see a notice that will indicate all the changes that are going to be made on our hard drives, which, if they are correct, we must accept. And the Ubuntu installation process will begin.
When the whole process is finished, we restart the computer and, when booting, we will be able to see the Ubuntu boot manager (GRUB) that will ask us what operating system we want to boot.
And this screen will appear every time we turn on the computer, thus being able to choose the system we need each time according to what we are going to do on the computer. Then, from Ubuntu, we can use programs or terminal commands to order it, customize its appearance and much more.
Problems that we must take into account of Dual Boot Windows and Ubuntu
One of the most common problems that we will encounter when using this configuration is that Ubuntu may not start after shutting down Windows. Even Windows can fail to return to it after using Ubuntu. This failure is due to the fast boot, or Fast Boot, of Windows 10.
Fast Boot is like a kind of hibernation of the operating system that causes the kernel to be dumped on the hard disk instead of completely shutting down so that, when it starts up, it is returned directly to memory. This greatly speeds up the startup of Windows 10.
When switching between operating systems, this kernel is loaded and configured to load. Therefore, when using a different operating system, problems are generated, and even disappear.
If we are going to have our computer with dual boot, the best we can do is deactivate the Fast Boot from the Windows 10 power options. In this way we will solve more than 80% of the problems that we can find when changing from an operating system to other.
Another problem that can occur is that, instead of GRUB appearing, the Windows 10 bootloader appears . This is probably due to the fact that, after an update, Microsoft has changed the configuration of our UEFI to place the Windows hard drive as the main one and boot from it.
In that case, what we need to do is go into the BIOS or UEFI settings again and change the boot order so that the Linux hard drive reboots first with GRUB.
Finally, in case of not being able to start any operating system, it may be that we have a hard disk connected to the computer , or a USB memory, from which we try to boot. We must make sure that we have disconnected the USB memory of Windows 10 and Ubuntu to avoid startup problems.