Archive: ‘Installing Linux’

Dual-boot Linux


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What do we mean by “Dual boot” anyway?

Dual boot means that our computer has 2 (two) Operating Systems.  We choose which one to “Boot” into when the computer starts.

Many Linux users dual-boot as a way of sharing a computer.  This saves you money.  Why? Because you keep the computer you already own and install Linux on it.  I have dual booted with Windows XP and more recently, Mac OS-X Snow Leopard.  Since I don’t have a PC running Vista or Windows 7, this post will only discuss Win XP & Snow Leopard dual booting with Linux.

How to dual boot with Linux and Windows (or Mac)

There are many online tutorials available.  I won’t post a tutorial here because that would be  “reinventing the wheel”.  I will only describe the fine points.  If I’ve done my job, then the process might be less intimidating when it’s time to set up your dual-boot environment.

Dual booting with Windows and Linux

  • First things first.  If your computer already has Windows or Mac OS-X on it, then backup your documents.  While the process of dual-booting is better than it was years ago, things can still go wrong.  Don’t lose your files.  Be safe, not sorry.
  • If you’re running Windows XP (yes, I know this post may be outdated as we are already within the era of Windows 7) clean up your hard drive (junk files, temporary files) and then defragment.  It’s very important to defragment.  You don’t want documents and Windows Operating system files scattered all about the hard drive.
  • Open a web browser and get a cup of coffee or tea.  Why?  Because I think it’s a good idea now to view some online tutorial (with screenshots) about dual-booting.  You may even want to print out the pages of the tutorial so you can refer to them while performing the various steps involved with dual-booting.  The tutorial is easy to follow.

Dual booting with Mac OS-X and Linux

I recently purchased a MacBook and I wanted to dual-boot this machine.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the Mac OS-X.  There are just things that I needed to set up quickly that I’m still learning how to do under Mac OS-X.  Under Linux there are things that I’ve done enough times that it’s become second nature.  Here are some notes and suggestions.

  • To dual-boot Mac OS-X and Linux, you will be creating at least one partition on your hard drive.  It’s not hard to do.  Here’s a link to the tutorial that I used.
  • I suggest following the instructions in the tutorial.  It helped me set up my Mac OS-X and Linux dual boot machine very quickly.  Same approach as before; backup your documents, do a cleanup if necessary, and read the tutorial completely before performing the steps.
  • Pay extra attention to the bootloader installation step at tutorial’s end.  If you install the bootloader in the wrong place, things can break—badly.
  • Even though my MacBook is a 64-bit machine, I installed a 32-bit Linux distro.  I would recommend a 32-bit distro as it’s likely to be more stable for uses such as these.
  • The tutorial assumes that you’re running an Intel-based system (also called “mactel”).  Be sure that this is the case before following any tutorial.

Partitioning for Linux


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Partitioning is a drive-setup process where you designate areas of your hard drive as “mount points”.

Depending on the situation, you can partition the drive as you’re installing Linux, or set up the drive first, (using a utility CD such as GParted or other).  For a single-boot setup, I suggest using the Install CD’s partitioning tool if you’re wiping out the old operating system or replacing one Linux distro with another.   If you’re adding Linux (to create a dual-boot machine with MS Windows or Mac OS-X) then you should attend to the partitioning chores first.  More on dual booting later.

Partitioning can intimidate newcomers, but fear not.  The Linux install process is flexible, and you don’t have to manually create partitions for single boot setup.  The install CD may offer suggestions (depends on distro) or at the very least have an “automatic partitioning” feature that works fine.

Manual partitioning, on the other hand, is worth learning.  Even the basic “3 partition” scheme (/, swap, and /home) offers the advantage of not losing your documents if you replace your distro.  While you should make frequent backups of your files anyway, common advice from the Linux community suggests keeping /home on its own partition for that very reason.  Find a partitioning tutorial here.

Single-boot Linux


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Single-boot or “single boot” is when only one (1) operating system will be installed to your hard drive.  A single boot machine is a simple way install Linux. The single boot scenario typically consists of either

  • Completely wiping out the current Operating system and installing Linux, or
  • Installing Linux on a new and blank hard drive

I’ve performed both, and as stated, the process is simple.  You put in your Linux Live or Install CD and follow the prompts.  Many distros offer graphical installers which take you step-by-step, and typically asking you to confirm all the choices (default or custom) before any changes are written to the hard drive.  Some distros offer text-based installers which can be a bit too challenging to the new Linux user.

More on this topic later, but a word on partitions.  A partition is a “chunk” or “area” of your hard drive.  If you plan on trying other distros and still want a single-boot setup, you should definitely consider creating a minimum of 3 partitions where the swap area, root partition and “/home” are the 3 separate partitions.  A separate /home partition allows you to keep all of your documents when installing the next distro.  For more detail about partitioning follow this link.