There are two ways to run several operating systems on your computer. You can run them with virtualization inside one another, or you can install them alongside each other and boot each individually, this is the easiest method for most users.

You don’t even have to create a dual boot system with Linux, in this case, Ubuntu. It can be installed by itself without Vista or any other operating installed first. Most users purchasing a new computer will find Vista installed so this is the route I will take for this tutorial.

Let’s take a look at installing Ubuntu alongside Vista on a computer, assuming Vista is installed first as this will cover most instances.

1. You need to boot into Vista and set some hard drive space aside for your Ubuntu installation. Right click “Computer” and go to “Manage.”

vista-ubuntu

From there go to “Disk Management.” Right click the drive you want to partition for dual booting and select “Shrink Volume.” In most cases you will be working with the C: drive. How much space you set aside will depend on the size of your drive but 20GB should be sufficient. Choose more space if you have it.

vista-ubuntu-2

An optional step is to create another partition, in the same manner as above for the purposes of shared storage for Vista and Ubuntu if you want to share files between the two operating systems. Again, choose as much space as you think you’ll need or as much as you can spare. You may have to use a third party utility to format the optional partition as FAT32, Ubuntu has limited support for NTFS volumes, the default for Windows 2000, 2003 and Vista.

vista-ubuntu-3

Once the settings are to your liking, click “Shrink.” Note, do not format the newly created partition, leave it as is. Ubuntu will later format and size it as necessary.

2. Obtain Ubuntu by downloading the ISO and burning it to a CD. You will need an image burner to do so, Nero, DeepBurner or CDBurnerXP Pro all have this capability. Once you have downloaded and burned the Ubuntu image you are ready to start the installation process.

3. Insert the CD you just burned into your optical drive and wait for it to boot. Note, if it does not boot, you will need to change the boot drive settings in your BIOS which vary between manufacturers but in general, are similar. Consult your motherboard or PC manufacturer documentation on how to change boot drive order if you are not sure.

4. Once the CD boots, select the “Start or Install” option. Ubuntu will boot to a live version of the operating system that runs off the CD. Once it has loaded, you will be able to check out the features of the operating system and compatibility with your hardware. Double click the “Install” icon on the desktop to begin the installation process.

5. The first steps of the installation process will be to select your language and location to set the appropriate time zone, after doing so, click “Forward.”

6. Set up partition for installation of Ubuntu. Remember that hard drive space you set aside in the first step, Ubuntu is now going to make use of it. The Partition Manager will now start. Its default action is to use the largest unpartioned space present on the hard drive. Do so. Advanced users are welcome to configure it manually but I cannot recommend doing so if all you want is to get it installed. Click “Forward.”

vista-ubuntu-4

7. (Mostly optional.) Migrate settings, I usually skip this step but if you have settings you want to import into Ubuntu, do so, don’t let me stop you but I skipped over this step.

8. Enter your account information. Here you will need to select a username and password to login into your Ubuntu installation. Click forward and you will be ready to install.

9. Install. This is the last screen before the installation begins, here you will be able to review and change settings if you are not happy with them. Assuming everything is to your liking, click the “Install” button.

10. Grab a soda, make a snack and wait for the installer to finish. This shouldn’t take more than 40 minutes to an hour on the outside. On sufficiently faster systems, it may finish in as little as 20 minutes. The last phase of the installation process will be to install and configure GRUB (the bootloader). Once that is complete, you will be able to select which operating system you wish to boot, Ubuntu will be selected by default.

These settings can be changed within Ubuntu itself should you want Vista to boot first instead. This is optional, if you’ve made it this far, Ubuntu is installed and ready to use, for the most part.

There may be some lingering hardware compatibility namely with your graphics card, wireless card or some other nonsense like that. If you need help with that, any competent search engine should be able to point you towards a tutorial to fix the particular problem. But, it’s almost guaranteed it will be a graphics card or wireless hardware issue.

It’s also been a problem where users haven’t been able to set the correct output resolution for their monitor. Solutions for that depend, well, just depend, you’ll have to search online and may have to try several fixes before it’s corrected.

8 Comments

  1. spieler says:

    bullshit!!
    windows wouldn’t boot up after GRUB was installed, because of broken MBR!

  2. Hamid says:

    I wish i had read spieler’s comment a little bit earlier. Ubuntu’s working fine but vista is not booting up and i’m getting BSOD! shit

  3. chace says:

    yay it works! ubuntu is a little slow though :/ any tips to speed it up a bit?

  4. Jake says:

    so i’ve set up the dual boot with vista and ubuntu and i haven’t used vista since! however, i still have a majority of my memory with the vista partition. is there any way i could increase the size of my ubuntu partition without reinstalling it?

  5. [...] you installed Windows and Ubuntu in dual boot? If yes, you might have installed Windows First and the Ubuntu, which is a good way of doing [...]

  6. Pieter says:

    For some reason when I tried this method the install of ubuntu does not recognize the shrunken 3gb unallocated disk space that I created from step 1. When I get to the partition section of the install, I get this message: “No root file system — no root file system is defined” at install Please correct this from the partitioning menu.”

    Any help would be appreciated as the only thing I have been able to see at the install step is a usb drive that I accidently left plugged into the computer.

    Thanks in advance.

  7. THANKS says:

    THANX
    great tut
    i got vista and ubuntu working great
    thanks again!

  8. josep says:

    Hello, thanks for your explanation, but I have still one question… hopes you can help me…

    Actually I have removed the first disk and installed Ubuntu in a new one, and now I will install back Vista’s hard drive. I am wondering if I can setup the boot manually on the other disk with Vista to choose wich operating system shall run…

    I have installed red hat or Susse for many years ago and the installation destroyed the boot.ini of the xp and I was forced to re-install everything.

    That is the reason to I have choosen to install it in a clean disk.

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