Dualbooting Windows 7 and Ubuntu

So, I decided to take another stab at the Ubuntu/Linux Operating System and this time around, i decided that it would be best to have separate physical hard disks as opposed to partitioning ONE hard disk. The process has become less frightening for me because I’m learning to read the prompts & not be scared of hitting the “cancel” button. 🙂 I installed Windows 7 first because it’s much easier to do the dualboot when Windows is on the disk already. Installing Ubuntu 9.10 was painless particularly because I had separate hard disks. BUT I ran into an issue when I decided to switch my installations of Ubuntu and Windows 7 around i.e. moving Windows 7 to the larger hard disk.

I assumed that since the larger hard disk had been wiped clean, Windows 7 would take care of the NTFS formatting that was needed and whatnots. Well, Windows 7 refused to install because it detected the presence of a “System” partition on the computer. Based on what I’ve since learned, the system partition holds the files needed to boot up Windows and this partition needed to be removed. Thankfully, this was an easy fix although I had began to panic slightly. Simply firing up your Disk Management tool (by going to “Adminstrator Tools” and clicking on “Computer management”) and reformatting the disk that holds the system volume. Again, please make sure you don’t have data residing on this disk or that you have backed up any data you care to retain. Once I got rid of the old system partition created by a previous Ubuntu installation, the installation of Windows 7 was able to proceed seamlessly.

Be aware that GRUB (GNU Grand Unified Bootloader) will replace the boot manager for Windows 7 and you will need to be physically present at your computer to select your Windows 7 operating system if you want to boot up into Windows 7. Otherwise, Ubuntu will automatically load. Cheers!

Recommendations for a seamless migration to Windows 7

I’ve been using Windows 7 for over a week now and it feels very familiar, but much faster and more stable than Windows Vista SP2. Some have opined that Windows 7 is what Windows Vista should have been and I have to agree reluctantly. Without knowing all the facts, it appears that they had to ship something and Vista was it. Their slogan for Vista was “The WOW starts NOW” and if you’ve read several screeds about Vista’s failures, you can appreciate the irony of that slogan.

However, I can appreciate the fact that Microsoft has a difficult task of ensuring that their operating systems are operable with a wide variety of devices that are on the market. I respect a company that fosters an ecosystem where several mini-industries can prosper (e.g. for pretty much any computer part, there is a company that makes a replacement item). In any case, here’s what I did to ensure that I didn’t suffer any data loss or traumatic events:

  1. Step 1: Decide if you’re going to do an in-place upgrade versus a clean installation. I agonized over this decision because
    • I didn’t want to waste time reinstalling all my precious applications and
    • I wasn’t sure I would be able to re-download the installation files for my programs.

    . So, I made sure that the most important applications were accounted for i.e. I had either the install disks or the executable files. If you rely on “warez”, I can’t help you with that. I would recommend a clean installation because I believe in pouring new wine into a new bag or so that bible verse goes. 🙂

  2. Step 2: Create a disc image of your computer using either Acronis True Image 2010 or Norton Ghost (those are the two heavyweights in the field of computer backups). If you can’t afford either, consider using the built-in Windows Complete PC backup. Don’t forget there’s a different between doing a complete PC backup versus backing up files (when using the free Windows PC backup software for Vista). You will NOT be able to retrieve individual files/folders if you do a complete PC backup through Windows Complete PC backup. With disc images created by Acronis, you can extract individual files/folders from whole disk images if you wish to do so. I went slightly overboard by having my entire computer backed up via
    • Carbonite (or Mozy or whatever online backup service you use. It can even be a simple file/folder sharing utility like Dropbox)
    • on 2 external hard drives plus
    • having my work-related files on my thumbdrive as well

    . It pays to be slightly paranoid sometimes.*side note* Carbonite is planning on releasing a final Windows 7 compatible version once Windows 7 is out in stores.

  3. Step 3: don’t do this at 11pm at night. Allow
    • ~ 2hrs for backing up your files or your entire computer
    • ~ 2hrs for installing the new operating system and any updates (which, depending on your internet speed, may take longer than budgeted)
    • <li.~ 2 hrs re-installing your must-have programs. I recommend checking online to make sure you have the most recent version of whatever favorite program you have

    • Reboot your computer after each major installation e.g. after installing programs like Microsoft Office 2007, Visual Studio 2008 or Express, antivirus programs, internet security suites, firewall programs and pretty much any programs that explicitly inform you that you need to reboot for changes to take place, or utlities that integrate with Windows Explorer or the shell.
  4. Step 4: please make sure your computer has enough battery juice AND is plugged into an AC outlet or UPS. More often than note, your computer will install updates from Microsoft during the course of your upgrade. Please don’t leave your computer alone because you will need to help your computer through prompts or license acceptance check points. You must NOT let your computer ‘die’ on you (for lack of power) while upgrading your computer otherwise you’re in for a day or so of lost man hours. Have your system restore disks beside you just incase. In case you were wondering, I DID have my system restore disks beside me in the event that things went south.

That’s all for part one of getting a ‘bare-bones’ install of Windows 7 going successfully. Cheers!