Those of you who are following this series of posts where I set up a Lenovo laptop to run Linux will remember that two weeks ago I created an image of my base Windows 7 installation. I’m now at the stage of dual booting the Windows 7 installation with a Linux distro.
Which Linux distro?
One of the first challenges with switching to Linux is the vast choice of Linux distributions (or distros) available. However, for those new to Linux, Ubuntu or Linux Mint are generally highly recommended. But the choice doesn’t end there. Having settled on a distro, you now have to choose a desktop environment, or desktop for short. A desktop is just a set of programs running on a particular operating system and which share a common graphical user interface. Choosing a particular desktop isn’t critical as you can change that later without having to reinstall Linux.
So I settled on the Linux Mint 17 distro with the KDE desktop environment. Why Mint? Well I have a netbook still happily running Ubuntu and I wanted to give Linux Mint a spin. I had read a number of good reviews of Mint 17 KDE and I had already installed KDE’s Dolphin browser in Ubuntu and liked it. Having said that, I’ve just listened to a review of Mint 17 KDE on the latest Mintcast podcast and they weren’t exactly blown away by it. I think I could sum up their review up as: if you like KDE then Mint 17 KDE is worth checking out.
If you’re undecided about which distro or which desktop environment, or even whether your choice will run on your hardware and what it will look like, you can evaluate them all by downloading the isos, burning them to DVDs or your USB stick and running them from there as what’s called a live CD.
This is really straightforward. You just head over to the Mint website and download the iso file you want, then burn it to a DVD or to a USB drive. Here are the current choices for Mint:
I chose Linux Mint KDE 64-bit, downloaded the iso which took about 40 minutes and burned it to a DVD using my favourite free burner ImgBurn. I then ran the DVD as a live version first. This just means booting up Linux Mint from the DVD or USB drive without installing it first. Everything went fine – it even found my Netgear router straightaway, unlike my earlier Windows 7 reinstall which needed Lenovo utilities to be reinstalled before it would find the router and connect.
Tip: Running a live version is a great way to check out the look of a desktop environment, and whether the distro will run on your hardware and recognise your peripherals like your router, all without installing anything on your hard drive.
Partitioning the hard drive and dual booting
As this was my first time to try dual booting, I did a bit of research online to see what sort of problems people run into. A few places mentioned going into the BIOS first when Windows is booting and making sure that UEFI Secure Boot is turned off and that the UEFI/Legacy Boot Priority is set to Legacy First. I also installed the free version of the utility EasyBCD in Windows as this is required later to add an entry for Linux Mint 17 in Windows 7′s boot menu. It’s all explained in the walk-through mentioned in the next paragraph.
I won’t go into the whole partitioning and dual boot procedure because it will just duplicate what you can already find online. I found a great walk-through for dual booting Windows 7 and Linux Mint 11 at Linuxbs. Although I’m installing Mint 17, the procedure is virtually the same. The only place I found it differed was in Allocate Drive Space. The option to choose here is Manual as the other options are to use the entire disk, which I didn’t want to do as I wanted to retain Windows 7 on a partition.
Tip: I found that dual booting article so helpful that I’ve clipped it to Evernote so if I ever have to refer back to it again for any reason, and the page has been taken down or the website has gone, I have a copy!
You’ll note in that walk-through there are two ways to dual boot. 1. Install GRUB 2, the Linux Mint boot loader, in the Master Boot Record (MBR) of the disk, or 2. Install Windows 7′s boot loader in the MBR. I chose the second option and that’s the option chosen in that walk-through. When choosing partition size for my 500 GB laptop hard drive, I pretty much gave half to Windows 7 and half to Mint 17.
I found the whole partitioning and dual booting procedure went flawlessly and I can now dual boot into either Windows 7 or Linux Mint 17 KDE. The next post in this series will look at getting up and running with Mint.
Have you tried dual booting Windows and Linux? Any problems? Which distro and desktop did you choose? And what are you running now?