You might have heard of people installing Linux or another operating system besides Windows on their computers. In this article, I am going to show you how you can dual boot your traditional Windows computer with a Linux based operating system, called by the “techies” as Linux distributions or Linux distros. If you just want to try out Linux on your PC, you can install it within Windows using a VM software or by Live Booting the Linux distro using a USB Flash Drive.
How to dual boot Linux
DISCLAIMER: You have to understand before proceeding with this, that there is fair bit of risk involved in the below steps. Please proceed only if you truly understand what you are doing. I shall not be responsible for any software crisis, physical or data loss, should you decide to continue with the below steps.
Coming straight to the point, there are 3 basic steps which you have to follow:
- Preparing a bootable USB Flash Drive, with the installation image of the Linux distro you want to install.
- Boot the Linux installer using the USB drive on your computer.
- Installing and configuring the newly installed OS.
You can use this article as a basic guide to dual boot Windows and Linux on your computer. The above steps are the same, if you want to install another OS on your PC besides Linux. For example, you can also triple boot your system with Android OS if you want. You can read more on installing Android OS on PC here.
You need to keep in mind that, modern computer systems which usually come with Windows preinstalled, use UEFI based bootloaders. So you have to make sure that your Linux distro has support for UEFI based systems. You might have to switch to legacy mode in your BIOS settings, if your Linux OS doesn’t support UEFI. So before doing anything, you have to search on the web, how you can enter the BIOS settings of your computer.
In our case, we are going to dual boot my computer running Windows 10 with Ubuntu 17.04. You can grab the latest Ubuntu iso from here if you wish to try it out.
Preparing a bootable USB Flash Drive
To prepare a bootable USB drive you can use software like Rufus or YUMI. Unless you don’t want to use the USB drive for any other purpose, I suggest you use YUMI. YUMI is a nice piece of software which allows you to make a multi-boot USB drive on which you can install multiple Linux distros and even some other operating systems.
When you boot your USB drive, you should see the following screen :
Rufus is also an excellent software since it supports most of the known operating systems.
Boot the Linux Installer
The main aim of preparing a bootable USB drive in the first place, is to boot the Linux Installer. If you used YUMI, then you must switch to Legacy boot mode on your system. In the BIOS settings, you need to locate “boot priorities”. And set your USB drive with the highest priority.
Many Linux distros also have an option to Live-boot the Linux operating system. This means that you can directly load the entire operating system from the USB drive itself. You can use this option to try out the Linux distro without any changes to your computer. Live booting in persistence mode also offers to save your settings and your data. So you could be carrying an entire operating system in your pocket, and using it to continue your work on any computer system that you come across.
Installing and configuring the Linux distro
Once the USB drive is booted, you need to install the distro on your system. Usually the installer provides the option to partition your hard drive to create a new partition where you can install Linux. A new partition is needed, so as to not mix the system files of various operating systems and also because Linux based OSes usually need an ext3 or ext4 based file systems rather than the usual FAT32 or NTFS file systems.
After installation when you reboot, you will find that a different screen appears with options to boot into your newly installed Linux OS or Windows. You may also find some entries in the menu, which you just need to ignore. Usually Linux distros use the GRUB bootloader (the screen which appears during boot showing the boot entries). So if want to customize your GRUB menu, you can do it at a later stage using a tool called grub customizer. It is available on some Linux distros like Ubuntu, Mint etc. For others, there’s no choice but to ignore the other GRUB entries.