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How To Install a Dual Boot Configuration: Linux Mint 13 "Maya" and Windows 7/Vista/XP

Updated on November 29, 2013

What does dual booting mean?

Dual booting is when your computer has two operating systems, and you are successfully able to boot into either one. Now, the idea is to get both OS's working properly. In my past experiences, most of the tutorials on the internet do not work, so I thought I would write an article about the method that works for me. This particular tutorial assumes you have Windows XP, Vista, or 7 installed first. Now, why would you want Linux Mint? Because its sleek, free, and hey, who doesn't have the latest-and-greatest fever? It is also one of the most popular Linux distributions out there. Did I mention it was the forth most used operating system in the world?

I assume you already have your Linux Mint installation disc. If you don't, download the ISO from here, grab your favorite image burner, and burn the image to your favorite disc.


Usually someone would tell you to partition while your installing Linux. I know this is going to sound absurd, but you're going to create the required partitions in Windows. Note that this is my preferred method, but you do not have to partition in Windows. However, this tutorial will use my method. Why do we need to partition? Partitioning your hard drive enables you to have Linux on one section of your hard drive, while Windows is on another section. We cannot have Linux and Windows on the same partition because if Windows does an update, it can mess around with your Linux installation. Note that if done improperly, you can erase your whole hard drive, so pay close attention

Windows Vista/7

First, go to Start, and type in "Disk Management" and press Enter. (Without quotes)

You should be presented with a screen showing partitions on your disk. Right click on the Windows partition (Usually labeled "Windows (C:)") and click "Shrink Volume..."

To shorten the amount of photos used in this tutorial, I am skipping unnecessary parts of the Wizard. Click Next until you see a screen prompting you for the size. It doesn't matter how much you shrink it, but since you have Windows 7/Vista, I'm assuming you have some 200 GB hard drive. Therefore, try to shrink the partition about 100 Gigs... Or 50. It really doesn't matter.

Click the Shrink button. When it's done, right click on the black spot that's labeled "Unallocated" and click "New Volume..." All the default settings are fine, except for the size. You need to subtract the size by the amount of RAM you have. (Don't know? Go to Start, right click on My Computer, and click Properties)

Once you have the right size, put a brick on the Enter button. Once formatted, make another partition with the default settings. (That means don't mess with the size.)

Windows XP:

First, you have to download a partitioning tool. I recommend downloading MiniTool Partitioning Wizard Home Edition so we are all on the same page. Google it. (I downloaded from CNET)

I assume you know how to install a program. Click the icon and put a brick on the Enter button.

Once you install it, launch the tool. You should be presented with a window showing your drives. Click on the C drive and click "Move/Resize"

You should be presented with a screen like the below image. Resize the partition to about half of its original size. (If you can't, shink as small as you can, leaving about 5 GBs of space left for the partition.) After you're done, Click OK. (WARNING: You may want to defragment your drive before doing this. Start> All Programs> Accessories> System Tools> Disk Defrag)

Just a friendly reminder.
Just a friendly reminder.

You MAY be presented with the below message. If so, close any windows that might be open, besides the partition tool (I spy a downloads window). If you can't get past it, click "Restart Now" and your computer will restart, and launch the partition tool.

Once the program is done partitioning, close it. Next, click Start, then click Run. Once the Run prompt opens, type "compmgmt.msc" without the quotes, then click OK.

When the computer management window opens, click Disk Management.

See that black spot that says "Unallocated"? Yes.... Very good.... Here is what we are going to do. We are going to create two new partitions. This is the part that some previous dual booters find absurd, but bear with me.

Right click on the rectangle that's labeled "Unallocated" and click "New Volume..."

Click "Next" until you're prompt to enter a partition size.

To make this easier, were going to start with what is called a 'swap' partition. This needs to be about the size of the amount of RAM you have. Where do we find how much RAM we have? Well, instead of opening up your computer and scratching your head, click Start, right click on "My Computer", and click properties, then a window with your system specs should open. I have 2 GB, so I am going to put 2000. (The actual size of 1 GB is 1024 MB, but who's counting?)

The next screen looks complicated. But trust me; it is not complicated. All you have to do is tick "Perform a quick format." Leave the file system as NTFS, the allocation unit size as default, and the volume label the same.

After the partition is formatted, repeat the process of creating a partition, but do not change the size. Leave it as default.

Once the partitioning is done, it is time to do the fun part! Insert your brand spankin' new Linux Mint disc into your computer and restart. Your computer should boot from the disc. No, I am not going to explain how to change your BIOS boot order, and yes, I will make a hubpage on it.

Once Linux Mint boots up, you should be presented with a log in screen.

Just let it do its thing. If you are in a rush, type mint, then press enter two times. (No password)

Once you are logged in, right click on the icon labeled "Install Linux Mint", and click open.

To shorten this article, I am only including the install screens that really matter.

I do NOT recommend being connected to the internet. Trust me, you will have plenty of opportunities to update your Linux Mint after you install it. If you are connected to the internet, the installer will do all sorts of useless things like downloading language packs, etc.

When prompt to choose the "Installation type" do NOT choose the first two. The first one seems tempting, but it doesn't work, and even if it does, one Windows update could ruin your Mint installation. We are NOT going to click the second choice... So click "Something else."

This part is a little bit tricky, so pay close attention. You could have a second Windows partition, like system, recovery, etc. So make sure that you are clicking the right partition. Most Windows 7/Vista computers have a system partition. However, this installation was done in a virtual machine, and it just happens that I had a Windows XP VM, so I only have one Windows partition. I will be using /dev/sda2 and /dev/sda3 for my Linux installation. Chances are if you have a /dev/sda4 on the list, you have another Windows partition. If so, pretend my /dev/sda2 is your /dev/sda3, etc.

Click on /dev/sda2 (or your /dev/sda3) and click "Change..."

Pay close attention.

First, we are going to change the "Use as:" property to "Ext4 journaling file system." Once that's done, tick the box that says "Format the partition." Last, change the mount point to /. Then your done. Click OK.

Now click on /dev/sda3 (Or your /dev/sda4) and click "Change..."

This one is easy. Simply change the use as property to swap area. Then click OK.

And you're pretty much done. Just select the ext4 partition and click "Install Now." Notice that we don't change the device for boot loader installation.

While Mint is installing, the installer is going to ask you a bunch of useless questions. One of the useless questions is this:

I don't really recommend that you import anything. Trust me, you will be able to access your C: drive when your done installing...AND Windows. (That's the point right?) Plus, your overprotective author here didn't test this, and therefore, doesn't know if it hurts your Windows installation. But, on the other hand, how could it?

Once Mint is done installing, you should be presented with a window like this:

Yay! Installation successful! Once you reboot, you should see the GRUB boot loader:

I recommend testing your Linux Mint installation first. Notice that Linux Mint is the default choice. If you left your computer alone, without doing anything, it would automatically boot into Linux Mint. There is a way to change it. I'll make a hub on it soon. Anyway, just wait, or click Enter, and you should be booting into Linux Mint!

It works! Tip: If you downloaded the Mint distro with the Cinnamon environment, then I recommend that, on the log in screen, click the second icon on the bottom. (The one that looks like a window) Then, click the Cinnamon environment. You won't have to do this all the time, just on the first run. Once you boot into Linux Mint, you should be thinking either one of the two things. 1. OMG H4X!!11!!! or 2. Does Windows work? Most likely it's the second one. So reboot your computer and select the Windows entry.

Windows works too! Now you have officially dual booted Linux Mint 13 "Maya" and Windows XP/Vista/7! (What a mouthful.)


This method also works for many Linux distributions. Ubuntu, Debain, Red Hat, PearOS, etc. Note though, you cannot download Windows programs on Linux. But not to worry, you still have Windows to go back to! What to do now? Experiment with Linux Mint... And install Google Chrome. It will save you a lot of hassle. I hope you are happy with your dual boot configuration. Problems? Feedback? Don't forget to leave a comment! Thanks for reading!

By the way...

Which Windows OS do you use?

See results

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