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Here's a short explanation of my last 12 hours:

  • Needed to learn Ruby on Rails
  • Attempted to do so on my machine (factory installed windows 8 dell laptop, 7720 SE)
  • Ruby doesn't like Windows, so I figured I'd try and dual-boot Ubuntu and Windows
  • Created a 100GB partition in the disk management utility on windows 8
  • Dragged the ubuntu ISO into that partition, ran the installation
  • Rebooted my PC and was met with "No Operating System found"
  • Went into my BIOS and found no boot options in UEFI mode -- only "network".
  • Went into Legacy mode, and still had no boot options
  • Hit a "reset to defaults" option -- which added the default 5 boot options to LEGACY mode (still no options other than Network in UEFI)
  • Attempted to boot in Legacy mode, was met with "Operating system error" @ 0xc000098
  • Decided "screw it, I'll reformat" -- but I didn't have my windows 8 discs because those apparently don't come with w8 laptops now?
  • Inserted windows 7 discs, attempted to install it
  • When I attempted to select my 900GB HDD (which had windows 8), it said I couldn't install windows 7 on that partition because it was of the type "GPT"
  • I superuser searched for a way to format the HDD and to convert it back to MBR/NFTS (I'm probably saying that wrong, don't have a super strong understanding of it)
  • I ran a few commandline things when on the windows 7 installer to format and change to NTFS the 900GB partition
  • It formatted ok (apparently) and I rebooted my PC
  • I went to install windows 7 but for some reason nothing other than the 100GB partition showed up... my other 900GB have all but disappeared apparently.

I reluctantly installed windows 7 (With no licence, and because I wiped my HDD I can't do the dell restore that would get me my registered windows 8 back -- so now I have to go drop $150 on a Windows licence) and now I am running unregistered Windows 7 on a 100GB partition...

MY END GOAL is:

  • To have my full 1TB back
  • To run Linux as my primary OS, with dual-boot windows 7 for gaming purposes.

Based on my explanation of what I did above, and what my end goal, is it still possible to recover this PC and to accomplish what I'm trying to accomplish? If so: where should I start?

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Good Lord. Next time, why don't you start with VirtualBox or VMware Player? That's going to be the best way to limit the scope you have in which to shoot yourself in the foot, and it'll save you the trouble of dual booting (besides which, it's not 1997 any more). In the meantime, you can order replacement restore DVDs direct from Dell which will probably enable you to reinstall the OEM Windows 8 rather than buying a Windows 7 license. –  Aaron Miller Sep 28 '13 at 20:03
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(Oh, and the reason you didn't get restore DVDs in the box is that, for cost reasons, most manufacturers now include their contents on a hidden disk partition into which you can boot, or could've before you blew away the bootloader on your laptop and then blew away the restore partition too with the full-disk reformat.) –  Aaron Miller Sep 28 '13 at 20:05
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Relevant: xkcd.com/349 –  SlightlyCuban Sep 28 '13 at 20:20
    
Joking aside, if you have an OEM Dell machine, it has a key (found in the BIOS nowadays). You don't need to buy a new license if you're installing the same version of Windows (7/8/Pro/Home/etc). –  SlightlyCuban Sep 28 '13 at 20:41
    
@SlightlyCuban How appropriate. I discovered VMs and never looked back. Concurrent operation as opposed to "one or the other", darn it, now I have to reboot... Dual boot stinks as badly afterwards as it does while you cross your fingers and hope your MBR, partition table and data are still around due to some weird anomalous neutrino strike during preparation. –  Fiasco Labs Sep 29 '13 at 2:22

1 Answer 1

I think at this point you've done enough to hose whatever data you may have had before. I ALWAYS make a full-disk backup before installing any new OS. If you have a backup, you can just restore that full-disk image and continue as if you'd never tried anything.

Assuming you don't have a backup, here's what I'd suggest:

  1. obtain a large external disk to use for backups
  2. get at least 2 writable DVDs
  3. get some Windows install disks (you may need to purchase them)
  4. Burn that Ubuntu ISO to one of the two DVDs to make a "Live CD"
  5. Burn a disk clone or backup utility to the other DVD as another "Live CD" (I most recently used CloneZilla, but there are others and I don't know their pros and cons)
  6. Put in your Ubuntu live CD and boot from that disk
  7. Use "try without changing your computer" option
  8. Launch the partition editor (gparted I think it's called) and delete all partitions
  9. Shut down, insert windows disks, install Windows
  10. Shut down, insert clone/backup utility disk, attach external drive, make a backup
  11. Shut down, insert Ubuntu CD again
  12. Resize partitions to give yourself some space for Ubuntu
  13. Install Ubuntu using the wizard for a dual-boot system
  14. Reboot and check if both Ubuntu and Windows are bootable
  15. If yes, make another backup
  16. If not, you can try "boot repair" at https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Boot-Repair to get it working. I had a lot of trouble with my UEFI system.
  17. Once you get it working, make another backup. You can delete previous ones if you like.

Also note, Ubuntu DOES come with a "wubi" installer which you can run in Windows to get a Ubuntu system to boot from a file. That may be easier and slightly less risky. But that has slower performance and suffers from the problems of running on top of NTFS instead of ext3/ext4, compared to a "real" install.

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