General Question

SamandMax's avatar

Can any experienced techie minded person walk me through setting up a dual boot system?

Asked by SamandMax (1722points) March 13th, 2013

For decades I have been using Windows, and in 99% of the different shades of shit it comes in – and I’m kind of okay with Windows 8, but I really want to try Linux and see if I can get my system to give me the option of running one or t’other.

I have experience in installing an OS (Windows obviously), from scratch, but no experience whatsoever in setting up a dual boot system. Or even in installing Linux.

Right now I have a terrible hard drive of woefully inadequate size (90Gb – don’t laugh), which replaced a 500Gb HD in a bit of a hurry to get it up and running again. However, I do have a 2TB external HDD, and was wondering if it would be possible to have Linux installed on a partition on the ExHD, or do I have to clear out my 90Gb HD to install both on the same hard drive in different partitions…..or what?

I really have no experience in setting up partitions, dual booting setups, none of that stuff, so I really need someone who knows what they’re talking about to get me through this. I don’t mind having to come back and spill any extra information if it’s needed, but I do need to find out how to get this done safely without entirely borking up my only system.

I’m not a complete beginner, I can work my way round services and stuff, just not setting up a computer in this way.
Anyone could help here that would be great.

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6 Answers

mrentropy's avatar

There are a number of distros that will figure out you’re keeping Windows and set up Grub (1 or 2) to dual boot. I think Ubuntu is one of them. I don’t know if any will let you install to an external drive, though. It would be an interesting experiment.

If you’re thinking of installing to the external drive then you wouldn’t even need to worry about a dual boot setup. Just set the BIOS to boot off the USB when you start up the system (if your BIOS supports that).

SamandMax's avatar

Thanks folks.

jerv's avatar

If your PC is capable of seeing the external devices at boot time, and the BIOS can be configured to boot from an external HD, then Linux won’t care so long as GRUB or LILO points it to the correct place. In fact, if you set your BIOS to boot from an external drive first (if available) and look to the hard drive second or third, then you can get all of the benefits of dual-booting without all of the mucking about with boot blocks and repartitioning.

If you do decide to install both on one drive, when installing your OSs, ALWAYS install Windows first. Windows won’t acknowledge the existence of any other OS while Linux generally assumes that you might already have Windows and be looking for a dual-boot system.

SamandMax's avatar

My only concern is – won’t it take AGES to boot up from a 2TB external? I’m more than certain I can adjust the BIOS to change boot order though.

jerv's avatar

If your computer is recent enough to have USB 2.0 then no; the USB 2.0 bus has up to 60 MB/sec bandwidth. While that is only half of what IDE/PATA has, most drives don’t saturate the bus anyways, so in real-world use, you won’t notice much of a difference. A little, but not onerous unless you are one of those people who thinks RAID arrays of SATA3 SSDs are too slow.

If your computer still uses USB 1.x, then it’s time to upgrade from your Pentium III to something from within the last 12 years.

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