Windows 7-Ubuntu dual boot without using wubi

Last week I finally managed to set up a windows 7 - Ubuntu dual boot system on my home computer after spending substantial amount of time on the ubuntuforums. So i thought, why not note down the process while all the new concepts, problems and workarounds are fresh in the mind. And what would be a better way to do this than writing a blog post. I am sure this guide will help any one looking to set up a windows-ubuntu dual boot.

Before I start, let me be very clear that I am not a Ubuntu expert let alone a Linux expert. But I won't call myself a beginner either. I have been using Jaunty Jackalope (9.04) at work for some 3-4 months and am very comfortable at it. The only problem I have is that, well, its wubi installed.

Why is 'wubi-installed' a problem?

wubi is the name of the installer that comes with the ubuntu iso. It installs ubuntu on windows (and can later uninstall it) just like any other program and thus saving us the effort of formatting and partitioning of disks. And its very very easy, infact it can't get any more easier than this. But there are problems. My limited knowledge allows me to have only two of them.

  1. The maximum memory available for use in wubi installed ubuntu is 30gb which i feel is very less. Only 3 months and its already reduced to just 10gb.

  2. I am not able to figure out if and how i can recover data stored under ubuntu if any thing goes wrong. Thankfully, all the code is safe with svn in place.

So, in order to fight these two problems, i was really looking forward to doing a live cd installation with partitioning of disks and everything as soon as I get my hard disk upgraded so that I could do it in office with some experience.

Okay, so lets get started.


  1. Ubuntu 10.04 iso downloaded from here.
  2. An already running windows OS.
  3. A decently fast internet connection.
  4. All data backed up if at all anything goes wrong at any stage.
  5. A blank cd to write the iso to.

Step 1: The ubuntu image file.

The ubuntu image file is an iso file which can either be burnt into a cd or can be extracted using winrar. The later method is recommended if you want to do a wubi installation. If you are trying Ubuntu for the first time there is absolutely no harm in going for the wubi installation. In fact it will help you familiarize yourself with Linux OS and decide if you want to switch to it full time. In case you do, just make sure you don't keep using wubi the way I did.

We are interested in the first method, so burn the image into a CD. With the live CD, we can still try Ubuntu without installation which is what we are going to do now.

Insert the CD into your CD-ROM and restart the machine. Make sure 'boot from CD/DVD' option is selected in the BIOS as priority so that the system starts Ubuntu instead of loading windows. Now I don't know how to explain this without a screen-shot but when you see a purple background with two weird icons (one that looks like vitruvian man and the other like a window or may be a keyboard) at the bottom, press any key. It will now show a menu and the good old memories of doom and quake will come to your mind. Select the option 'Try Ubuntu without installation'. At this stage you may want to go ahead with the installation if partitioning is done. But I would strongly advise against it as it showed me some error. The install option is available later as well.

Step 2: Connecting to the INTERNET

Running Ubuntu w/o installation is also an opportunity of preparing for the installation. An important part of that is connecting to the Internet. Actually, it is not absolutely necessary but only if you don't mind the Linux clock a few hours ahead of (or behind) your windows clock. Trust me its really annoying. Good news is that there is a way to fix that too. The second reason for this is that it gives you something to do while the system installs itself.

Step 3: Partition the disks.

Yes we will be using Linux for partitioning. But before that its time to understand some partitioning basics. In windows we have our hard disk organized in more than one drives which have alphabetical names like C,D,E etc. In Linux however the naming convention is different. The drives C,D,E in windows will be called something like sda1, sda2, sda3 etc. To check this, open up the terminal and type,

    $ sudo fdisk -l

With some knowledge about the space in each drive and a little guess work, it is quite easy to map the drives in these two systems.

Now I am assuming that you already have windows running where all available hard disk memory has been allocated to different drives. In this case we need to free up some memory for Ubuntu. That is by shrinking the drives. I prefer to do this in windows. So restart your machine after ejecting the Ubuntu CD allowing windows to load this time. Inside windows 7, click on start and search for 'Computer Management'. When the window opens, go to Storage > Disk Management and all the disks will appear there. Right click on the disk you don't mind shrinking, and say shrink volume. Then simply follow the instructions. When shrinking is complete you will see some part of memory shown as 'Unallocated'. This is where Ubuntu will reside.

For installing Ubuntu, we will need 3 partitions. We will get to that in a bit. For now, lets continue with some more partitioning concepts.

Primary, Extended and Logical Partitions

Any hard drive can have a maximum of 4 primary partitions. But more partitions are possible by defining one of the partitions as 'Extended' and then partitioning it further into any number of 'Logical' partitions. More info here.

With this much knowledge we go back to Ubuntu and again say, 'try without installation' when prompted and connect to the Internet. Now start GParted (or Disk Utility) from system > administration and create 3 partitions. First create a primary partition of the entire unallocated space and mark it as 'Extended'. Then divide this into 3 logical partitions as follows,

Say we have 150 GB for Ubuntu in total

  • 1st partition will be around 20gb. choose the EXT Journaling file system. I selected EXT3.
  • 2nd partition will be around twice the size of your RAM. I selected 8gb. This will be used as swap space which will kind of support the RAM if required when running multiple applications on Ubuntu. Under files system, choose 'Linux swap' option for this.
  • Now allocate all the remaining space to the 3rd partition which will also be a logical partition and EXT3.

Why do we need 3 partitions?

Lets call the above partitions A, B, C for understanding convenience. During installation we will select such a configuration that Ubuntu is installed on A and we have the bigger C for storage while B will be used as swap. This will make sure the data is safe if we need to reinstall or upgrade Ubuntu at any time.

Step 4: Proceeding with installation

With this much knowledge we can start the installation. Click on the 'install Ubuntu' icon on desktop.

I don't think detailed procedure is required after this as it is a very straight forward process. Just keep following the instructions until you reach the disk partitioning stage.

Here select 'manually partition disks'. In the next screen, you can see the three partitions we just created along with the windows partitions. Now is the moment we tell the installer where to install what by specifying the mount point for each disk. For our disk A above, we select '/' (root) as the mount point and for the disk C we select '/home'. The mount point field for swap area will be rightly disabled.

Then proceed to follow some more instructions until it the actual coying of files and installation starts. Open up Firefox to surf the Internet or just sit back and relax. After the installation is complete restart the machine and the system will prompt you to choose the OS to load at boot. Congrats you just installed Ubuntu aside windows 7.

I hope this helped. Now you might want to read my post on my company's blog about setting up PHP development environment on Ubuntu and a few other tricks.

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