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I've read that, when configuring a dual-boot system, you should install Windows first to avoid any issues. However, I have not read an explanation that makes sense to me. Some questions:

  1. I'm assuming this has to do with the boot loader so: How is Windows boot loader so different that this matters? If I'm totally off, please explain.

  2. Is this the same case with Windows 7 and Windows XP?

  3. Depending on question 1 of course: Will installing Windows later on mean that it will definitely not work or just that you might encounter issues later on? Some tutorials are kind of ambiguous about that point.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

There are 2 main reasons for installing Windows first:

1 - The boot loader

Configuring the Windows boot loader to load Linux is a royal pain in the butt. It completely overwrites any boot loader that is already there, so if you have Linux installed already you can no longer boot Linux without playing around for hours or reinstalling Grub from a boot CD.

Most Linux distributions, however, will automatically configure Grub to include your Windows installation giving you easy access to Windows without any messing around.

2 - Distro tricks

Some Linux distributions will automatically detect that you have Windows installed and give you the option to import user accounts, settings and files into your new Linux installation.

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  1. The Windows installer has no provisions in place for handling grub, whereas Linux installers usually detect a Windows installation and add an entry in grub for it.

  2. Newer Windows versions usually can detect older Windows installations and add an entry in their bootloader for it.

  3. If you have installed the grub boot code to a primary partition then all that is needed is to switch that back to being the active partition. If you have installed the grub boot code to the MBR then you will need to instruct grub to reinstall it.

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If you install Windows after Linux then Windows almost always overwrites the MBR (Master Boot Record). You can just use a Live CD though to get back onto the system and repair the MBR.

I think these days it doesn't really matter which order you install. I can remember an older version of Windows had a particularly nasty installer and basically wiped the entire drive (including Linux) - hopefully it doesn't do that in recent versions of Windows, but I always install Windows first anyway so I can't confirm.

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From Win98 onwards, at the least, it allowed you to partition drives and install Windows in a specific partition. –  apoorv020 Apr 5 '11 at 6:53

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