Because of reoccuring questions about dualboot of GNU/Linux and Microsoft Windows, an authoritative general guide is needed as a reference for users asking about dualboot/multiboot.

Necessary elements:

  1. Cover both BIOS and UEFI boot methods, using GRUB2 as the Bootloader of choice because it is commonly used in popular GNU/Linux distributions.

  2. Set up the partitioning, with examples for both MBR and GPT partition tables. Include primary/logical partition problems with MBR and shrinking Windows partitions if no space is available elsewhere. This should preferably be explained for GPartEd, as that is the most commonly used GUI partitioning tool. Include information about the special partition that may be necessary with GPT.

  3. Explain setting mount points manually. At a minimum set swap and root (/), but preferably with directions for /home and /boot as well. Add mount points for existing NTFS/FAT/other data partitions. Optionally use the Ubuntu installer as an example so users can adapt to others.

  4. Repair/Install the bootloader when not done automatically by the installer or when damaged. Include the steps potentially needed for secure boot.

The guide shouldn't walk throug all edge cases but be helpful for most users. Part 4 for example should be as easy as showing the usage of grub-mkconfig (and additional work for secure-boot).

  • 1
    What you are asking us here will make a nice and useful book, but IMHO is somewhat outside of the usual boundaries of this forum. – harrymc May 27 '13 at 18:34
  • @harrymc I think this could be done in a "scratch the surface enough to work for most users" way. Maybe I should begin trying to write a guide meeting my own requirements with the material provided by Sekhemty, if I find the time to do it as Karan suggests. My only problem is, that I know much of what I ask for, but not everything (I don't know anything about secure boot and am not that good with UEFI). The part about the bootloader for example should be as easy as showing how to use grub-mkconfig (I'll edit my answer accordingly). – FSMaxB May 27 '13 at 20:39
  • I agree with @harrymc, this question is a bit too general for us. It's a prime candidate for "not constructive" actually. This information exists in multiple sources online already and anything we write here will be obsolete quite quickly. – terdon Jun 1 '13 at 18:05
  • I tried writing an answer myself but deleted it because I suddenly realised that I have misunderstood how UEFI works. – FSMaxB Aug 31 '13 at 18:39

Whoa there, you're trying to cover way too much ground. Perhaps you're looking for a master document linking to all the various vendors' methods? Or simply a guide on how to Google for your solution?

Yes, this is a complex subject. There are many BIOS implementations, each with their own hotkeys and standards.

The problem with Grub2 is that it is still fairly new, even in 2013. Each distribution has its own way of coping with the tools provided by Grub2, so no universal documentation will suffice - in that regard Grub is much simpler and more universal.

I'd unpack the problems to something simple, like:

I can't boot my OS. How do I fix my bootloader?

Generally, all you need to know is this:

You can probably still boot your OS if you press the right hotkeys. Also, each OS has its own bootloader - and pecking order. Windows is allergic to Linux and will gladly overwrite your Linux bootloader in most circumstances.

Multiple Harddrives

The simplest solution by far is to have multiple harddrives connected to your machine. When you install a new OS, give it it's own harddrive. Power off, disconnect all the other drives, and install the new OS. After installation, reconnect the other drives and choose your boot drive from the BIOS, usually by pressing ESC, F8 or F10.

Single Harddrive

Install Windows first, starting from the older versions and then BSD's and then Linuxes. Windows generally hijacks the boot process and after any Windows install you'll likely need a USB Boot stick to get your Linux bootloader back. Installing Linux after Windows usually works much better as Linux gracefully creates boot-shortcuts to Windows for you.

When in trouble

Go to another PC and download a USB Boot stick for your OS; or get a good universal bootloader such as Grub or GRUB4DOS. (Eg. http://www.supergrubdisk.org/). On Windows, write it to your flash disc with: Universal USB Installer (http://www.pendrivelinux.com/universal-usb-installer-easy-as-1-2-3/) or look for your linux distro specific Bootable USB creator, eg. Startup Disk Creator in Ubuntu.

All PC's made since 2007 will boot off the same USB sticks, if you enable it in the BIOS, insert the disc early enough, and press the appropriate hotkey for your BIOS.


You can find a good dualboot guide on Ubuntu documentation site; some more informations can be found also on Arch and Fedora (the former also links a good full guide found here, while the latter, especially in the Appendixes, covers topics like partitioning, GRUB, and so on). Usually, the documentation projects of major Linux distributions are very good sources of tech information, often valuable also if not using that particular distro.

Another guide, maybe a bit outdated but essentially valid and covering various scenarios (installing windows in a machine with linux already present or the other way around), is found here

Each one fo these guides has a different focus or purpose, so you can get different kinds of informations from them, so if you are looking for articles to link, you can choose one of them based on the situation. If you want to build your personal guide, these articles should provide you a handy starting base.

  • "If you want to build your personal guide, these articles should provide you a handy starting base." - That was basically what I said as well in the comments section of the linked meta post. It's nice that a 150 rep bounty has been placed, but IMO that doesn't help if some non-detailed non-canonical answer ends up getting rewarded by default after a week. – Karan May 25 '13 at 23:39
  • 2
    Writing a full and comprehensive guide with a canonical scope is beyond my abilities and available time. I only had these resources to share, and I'm sure that at the end of the bounty the reward will go to a more detailed answer. – Sekhemty May 26 '13 at 7:15
  • I'll wait what happens. – FSMaxB May 26 '13 at 14:53

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