So just how difficult is it to install Linux alongside Windows 8? I spent some time over the weekend installing Ubuntu alongside Windows 8 on this computer and the following is a guide showing the steps I performed to achieve this task.If you have Windows 8.1 and you wish to install Ubuntu 14.04 I have created a new guide showing how to install Ubuntu 14.04 alongside Windows 8.1.
For those of you who already have Ubuntu installed alongside Windows 8 I have written a new guide showing how to upgrade Ubuntu to the latest version without harming Windows 8.
If you are using Windows Vista then read this guide to installing Linux alongside Windows Vista
If you are using Windows XP then read this guide to installing Linux alongside Windows XP
A review of Ubuntu 14.04
Before you start it might be worth reading the latest review of Ubuntu 14.04 to make sure dual booting with Windows 8.1 is something you want to do.
The hardware that I used to compile this guide is the Dell Inspiron 3521 laptop which you can pick up for around £400 at Argos.
- Backup your Windows partitions
- Shrink the Windows partition
- Create a bootable USB drive with Ubuntu on it
- Turn off fast boot and Disable secure boot
- Run the Ubuntu installer
- Partition the empty space (created after shrinking Windows partition)
- Complete the installation
- Reboot into the Ubuntu Live image
- Run the boot repair
- Test that everything works.
1. Backup your Windows partition
Create recovery media using Dell’s recovery tools
- Factory Backup
- Apps & Drivers
Creating recovery media using Window’s 7 tools
Now the first backup section was a little bit specific to Dell computers. Allowing for the fact that you may not be using a Dell computer this section shows how to create a system image using the Windows 7 File Recovery tools. (I wonder why I couldn’t find a Windows 8 one?).
To get to the Windows 7 recovery tools move the mouse to the top right corner and then select the search icon again.
Click on the “settings” option and then type “recovery”. The option for “Windows 7 Recovery” will appear. Clicking on this option will display the above window.
There are 2 options here:
- Create a system repair disc
- Create a system image
When you have finished creating the system image you are asked once again if you want to create a system repair disc.
I don’t want to sound like your mum but you really should do this.
2. Shrink the Windows partition
3. Create a bootable USB drive with Ubuntu on it
As you can see there are two versions available.Version 12.04 is a long term support release which means you can install it now and it will still receive updates in 4 years time. This is great if you are the sort of person who likes stability and you aren’t too bothered about getting the new features early.
Version 13.04 has only 9 months worth of support and then you will be expected to upgrade to a newer version of Ubuntu. This may sound like a very short period of time (and it is) but 13.04 already feels slick compared to 12.04.
If you become comfortable with the installation process then moving up to the latest versions keeps you in the now club.
The long term support releases are great but consider that the last LTS version was back at version 10 which pre-dates Unity. To quote Ferris Bueller:
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
The one thing you do have to do though to be able to run Ubuntu alongside Windows 8 is to choose the 64-bit version.Note that if you have a Dell Inspiron 3521 and you wish to install version 12.04 there is a dedicated version especially for you at http://www.ubuntu.com/certification/hardware/201208-11539/.
The Dell Inspiron 3521 can be purchased pre-installed with Ubuntu and therefore there is already an image available which has all the necessary drivers set up.
I can confirm however that I installed Ubuntu 13.04 and I used the stock 64-bit download and I have had no issues with Ubuntu whatsoever.
If you live in the city then downloading Ubuntu will be a quick process. If you live in the countryside and your internet connection sucks as much as mine then there is always the option of buying a DVD pre-installed within Ubuntu Linux.
Click on the “Download (for Windows” link. The download is fairly small and even on my meagre internet connection takes under a minute.
To run Unetbootin press the “Start” button and click on “Files”. Now type “Unetbootin” into the search box and Unetbootin will be the first option. Click on the icon to run Unetbootin.
To create a bootable USB drive you need to insert a blank USB drive into a USB port and then select the disk image option.
Clicking on the button with 3 dots brings up a file browser and you should be able to find the downloaded Ubuntu ISO.
Make sure that the USB Drive is indeed in the drive letter specified and when you are happy that you aren’t about to install somewhere you shouldn’t click OK.
It takes a few minutes for Unetbootin to do it’s stuff but ultimately you will end up with a bootable USB drive.
4. Turn off fast boot and disable secure boot
Turn off fast boot
Turn off secure boot
5. Run the Ubuntu Installer
It is a beautiful sight seeing Windows disappear and Ubuntu appear in its place even if it is the live USB version.
Let’s get started.
Clicking on the “Install Ubuntu 13.04” (or 12.04 if you are going LTS) brings up the Ubuntu installer.
The first step lets you choose the language for the installer.
If you speak English I recommend choosing English (unless you feel you need an extra challenge) and indeed if you aren’t a native English speaker then choose the language you feel most comfortable using.
The preparation screen shows you whether you are fully prepared for installing Ubuntu.
As you can see from the screen image I had plenties of disk space and I was fully plugged in to the power but I didn’t have an internet connection.
Having the internet connection set up lets you download updates on the go. I prefer to do it afterwards.
You will also notice the “install this third party software” checkbox which will make Flash and MP3s work straight away after the install.
If you aren’t already connected to the internet now is your chance to get connected.
You can choose any one of your broadband connections.
I have 2 available to me and neither of them are any good.
I prefer to install first and update later so I leave the internet disconnected.
6. Partition the empty space
This bit is going to amend your hard drive partitions and if you didn’t do a backup at the beginning this is the point of no return.
I highly recommend making sure you have created the correct recovery media before continuing.
I could have made the install process one big step but the partitioning takes a bit of explaining so I put this in a separate section.
There are 2 options available to you from the partitioning screen.
- Erase disk and install Ubuntu
- Something else
If you just want to install Ubuntu and forget Windows ever existed (and if you have tried Windows 8 nobody is going to blame you for making this decision) you can simply press continue .
This guide is about installing alongside Windows 8 and therefore to do this choose “Something Else”.
The disk layout on the Dell Inspiron 3521 is quite involved.
What you should do is look for the large amount of unpartitioned space by scrolling down. (For the Dell it was /dev/sda7).
When you find the unpartitioned space click on the plus symbol and create a logical partition. Mount the partition to / and set the size to 50 gigabytes. Set the partition type to EXT4.
Now find the unpartitioned space again and click on the plus symbol and create another logical partition. Mount this one to /HOME and set the type to EXT4. The size should be virtually all the unpartitioned space minus about 16 gigabytes.
There is a lot said about how much swap space you need but as disk space isn’t exactly expensive anymore I always just choosing 16 gigabytes which is way more than is actually required. (By quite some distance). You will therefore need to create a third partition in the unpartitioned space and choose SWAP as the type.
When it comes to choosing where to install the bootloader don’t change a thing. Leave it pointing to “/dev/sda”. Whatever you do don’t choose one of the other partitions like “/dev/sda1” or “/dev/sda2” etc. This is one of the most common mistakes people make.
For the / and Home partitions that you just created make sure the format checkbox is checked. You cannot format the swap partition.
Do not continue unless you are really satisfied that you have done everything correctly and that you have a backup available in case of bad times.
Press Install to continue.
7. Complete the installation
The installation will now continue and you will see files copied across and the installation taking place.
At this point you will be able to choose keyboard layouts, timezone and you will be asked to add a new user.
At the end of the install process you will asked if you want to restart the system or continue using the live version.
8. Reboot into the live image
At this point it is worth rebooting the computer to see what has happened.
When the computer has started to reboot remove the USB drive and let the bootup process begin as normal.
If you are lucky everything has worked perfectly well and you have a GRUB menu showing options for Windows and Ubuntu.
The reality is that you will be very lucky if that really has happened.
One of three things will have happened:
- Ubuntu will have loaded
- Windows will have loaded
- Nothing loads
If either Ubuntu or Windows loads then you just have a bootloader issue, if nothing loads it is likely that you didn’t turn off secure boot and probably have messages on the screen saying so.
Unless you have a perfectly running dual boot system plug your USB drive back in and reboot so that the live version of Ubuntu runs again.
9. Run the boot repair
For the next part you will venture into the terminal. Press the super key on your keyboard (that is the one that looks like the Windows icon).
Type “term” into the search box that appears. Click on the “Terminal” icon.
From within the terminal window type the following:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:yannubuntu/boot-repair && sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install -y boot-repair && (boot-repair &)
The information I am providing here comes straight from the following page: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Boot-Repair (Just in case you thought I was making all this up as I went along).
A message will appear saying that boot repair is scanning your partitions.
At this point I clicked the “Recommended repair” button as it does say it fixes the most frequent problems.
After a few minutes the application will tell you if it needs you to run extra commands in the terminal and it gives you the commands to copy and paste.
By following the instructions provided my boot loader was fixed and I could move on to the final step.
10. Test that everything works
Reboot your computer and remove the USB drive.
You should now have a menu with various options on it. The first one will be Ubuntu and somewhere down the list is Windows EFI.
Try Ubuntu and make sure that it loads correctly, then reboot and try the Windows EFI option. Windows 8 should now load.
This article has been up for a number of months now and there have been a large number of comments added. Some of the comments provide nuggets of information that will be useful to others.
If either Windows or Ubuntu won’t load or nothing loads at all it is worth checking over the above steps to make sure you turned off fast boot and secure boot.
I hope this article helps some of you install Ubuntu alongside Windows.
It will probably take you less time to install Ubuntu than it has to read the article down to this far.
Don’t be afraid. Give it a go. You will be glad you did. Let’s face it. Windows 8 sucks.
Thankyou for reading.
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- Lubuntu 13.10 Review
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- Linux Mint 15 XFCE Review
- SolydX Review
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