Windows may well be the most popular operating system in the world, but there are plenty of reasons to look further afield and consider trying out some of the alternatives. If you have ever considered the idea of trying out Linux, but are not comfortable with wiping Windows completely from your computer, here is how you can dual-boot Windows 8 and Linux so that every time you switch on your computer, you can choose between Linux and Windows.
Partition Your Drive
Assuming that your computer comes with Windows installed, the first thing to do is to prepare your hard drive so Linux can occupy a partition of its own.
There are various partitioning tools you could use to divide up your hard drive, but you need nothing more than Windows’ own Disk Management utility. Press the Windows key + R simultaneously, type “
diskmgmt.msc” and press Enter.
In the lower portion of the window, right click the drive you’d like to install Linux to – this will be your C: drive – and select Shrink Volume. When the details of the drive are displayed, use the arrow buttons to choose the size of the partition you would like to create and then click “Shrink”.
Of course, if you have a spare hard drive, there is no need to go through partition resizing and you can continue with the rest of the rest of the process.
There are many, many different versions of Linux to choose from, but here we are going to work with Ubuntu. You can download a free copy from the Ubuntu website – take care to choose correctly between the 32- and 64-bit version.
The download is provided in ISO format which you will need to burn to CD or DVD, or extract to a USB drive.
In Windows 8, creating an installation CD or DVD is very simple; just right click on the ISO you have downloaded and select “Burn disk image” before choosing the disk burner you want to use and clicking Burn.
To create your own USB installer, you can download a free copy of Universal USB Installer. Download and run the program and then use the drop down menu to select the version of Linux you are going to install.
Click the Browse button and select the ISO file you have downloaded before clicking Open. Insert a USB drive and select its drive letter from the drop down menu. Tick the box to indicate that the contents of the USB drive should be wiped, and then click Create followed by Yes to confirm.
The actual installation process is now very simple. You’ll need to start by ensuring that your computer is configured to boot from either the optical or USB drive depending on how you plan to install Linux and then restart your machine with the installation media inserted.
Click the Install Ubuntu button and you’ll be guided through the rest of the installation process. As we’re looking to create dual-boot system, be sure to select the option to install alongside Windows rather than opting to replacing it.
The installer will automatically detect the partition you have already created, so select it before clicking OK.
You can then run through the remainder of the installation process, configuring options and settings as required.
Restart your computer and you’ll be asked whether you’d like to boot into Windows or Ubuntu. If you don’t select anything, Ubuntu will load after a short delay, but otherwise the choice will be yours every time you switch on your PC.
There is a possibility that your computer has an UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) which could interfere with dual-booting. This is a security feature designed to prevent unwanted changes to a computer’s bootloader, but there is also the chance that it will prevent legitimate changes – this is something we have looked at before.
If you do run into problems dual-booting between Windows and Ubuntu, you’ll be pleased to hear that it is possible to disable the Secure Boot feature of UEFI. For something that should be quick and easy, there is a surprisingly long-winded process to follow.
If you’re not quite ready to bite the bullet and install Ubuntu, you could always try running it in “live” mode for a while. LinuxLive USB Maker is one great tool for you to create your own bootable live media. Working in this mode means you have no commitment and can switch back to Windows whenever you want.