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Dual boot, Linux with Windows (already installed)

Saurabh Pillai
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 12, 2008
Posts: 509
I have a Windows machine and want to install Linux.

1) What flavor of Linux do you recommend? I am newbie to Linux and my goal is to learn Linux and use it daily with all possible usages but NO gaming.

2) How should I proceed with the installation? I have only one partition.

2.1) Should I create a new partition first? or I can install it from within Windows?
2.2) Do I need to burn a new CD/DVD of Linux for this?

Martin Vajsar
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 22, 2010
Posts: 3610
    
  60

Consider installing Linux in a virtual machine. I'm personally using VMWare Workstation, but there should be some free alternatives around. I'd say it should be a lot easier than setting up dual boot, especially if you're just learning it. Also, perhaps there would be an already installed image of Linux available. The big advantage of this is that you don't have to quit Windows to run Linux, and you can set up networking between the two to share files.

(I'm a Linux noob, but I was able to install CentOS into VMWare. VMWare recognized the CentOS DVD and automated the setup, so I haven't actually learned much this way.)
Campbell Ritchie
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
Posts: 39478
    
  28
Which version of Windows®?
It is easiest to burn the OS onto a CD or DVD, but not absolutely necessary.
Yes, you need to repartition your disc. Probably best to defragment your Windows® partition first, and check how much space you have left.
You need at least two new partitions, probably three, and a swap partition. More details here and here. You may want to format all the partitions as ext4 rather than ext3.

I won’t try to recommend a distro; you ought to tell us what you you plan to use it for, and how adventurous you want the OS to be. Yes, there are some which use the newest versions of programs.
Campbell Ritchie
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
Posts: 39478
    
  28
You can download “live” versions of Linux and run them from CDs to try them before you install anything.
Amit Ghorpade
Bartender

Joined: Jun 06, 2007
Posts: 2716
    
    6

For the virtual machine, I have used Sun virtual box, now Oracle virtual box which is free and worked well. You can find it here.
As Campbell suggested using live version is also a good option to try out if you don't want to get into partitioning and installing.
The best live distro I used was Knoppix. The best part of Knoppix is it has all the stuff you need already in the package, so there was no need to download anything, at least I never felt a need. It also auto mounts your existing Windows partitions /drives. Something needed for a newbie.
Again, using which flavor is a personal take. I have used Ubuntu, Knoppix, RHL 9.0 and my favorite is Fedora (just because it had RAID drivers of my system in built into it ).


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Saurabh Pillai
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 12, 2008
Posts: 509
Martin Vajsar wrote:Consider installing Linux in a virtual machine.

Is there any performance trade-off between having it in virtual machine vs dual boot?

Martin Vajsar wrote:Also, perhaps there would be an already installed image of Linux available.

Would it get along with MY hardware configuration out of the box?

Campbell Ritchie wrote:Which version of Windows®?

Windows 7

Campbell Ritchie wrote:I won’t try to recommend a distro; you ought to tell us what you you plan to use it for, and how adventurous you want the OS to be. Yes, there are some which use the newest versions of programs.

As I said earlier, I want to start learning Linux to use it on daily basis and may want to become pro down the road. I would prefer the flavor which is well established and stable, so that I don't need to spend lot of time tinkering with it. So that I can focus more on learning Linux commands and networking.

Martin Vajsar
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 22, 2010
Posts: 3610
    
  60

There probably will be a performance penalty for running it in a VM. But if it is for learning purposes, then it might be tolerable. Plus, you always have the environment you know at your disposal; whereas if you dual-boot into Linux, you obviously don't have Windows at hand.

I have only some knowledge about images for virtual machines. These can be tailored to the VM's (virtual) hardware, because it is the VM's hardware, not your own computer's, which the OS that runs in the VM sees.

I assume that the "live", CD bootable Linux versions which Campbell mentions support a wide variety of common HW configurations.
chris webster
Bartender

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 1784
    
  16

Good advice from Martin and Campbell above.

If you install Linux inside a virtual machine (VM), e.g. using the free VirtualBox then your Linux VM is effectively running inside your Windows machine, which uses more RAM and processor cycles than just having Windows or Linux running on their own, so you may notice a drop in performance. I've installed Ubuntu inside VirtualBox using these instructions fairly easily in the past and it all worked fine, although I never got my Linux VM to talk to my printer. One advantage of the VM approach is that you can try out several different Linux distributions by installing them as separate VMs inside VirtualBox.

You will get better performance (and may find fewer other problems) if you install Linux dual-boot. I installed the Ubuntu-based Linux Mint v.14 very easily as a dual-boot OS on my Windows 7 laptop, and so far I really like it. In fact, Linux will usually give you a performance boost on any machine, as most Linux distributions seem to demand fewer resources than comparable versions of Windows.

Many Linux distributions are based on Ubuntu (or its parent Debian), and they are generally nice for beginners: easy to install and get started with, lots of pre-installed packages, very easy to install new software using the apt package installer (there is also a user-friendly GUI-based software manager if you're not yet comfortable with the command-line). You can often find copies of Ubuntu-based distributions (and others) on Linux magazine cover-discs.

If you don't have much RAM or if you have a slow processor, you could look at some of the lighter Linux distributions e.g. Xubuntu is designed for less powerful machines (I run it on an old Samsung netbook), which may not include all the same pre-installed packages but which run fine on low-spec hardware.

One problem you may find - especially on an older PC - is that some hardware such as network cards doesn't work well with Linux. This is one reason why it might be a good idea to try booting Linux from a CD/DVD first to see if it works with your hardware. This won't be a problem if you're using a VM, because Linux talks to your hardware via the VM anyway.

But Linux is great fun to explore, with a huge range of software tools to try out, so good luck with setting up your own Linux machine!


No more Blub for me, thank you, Vicar.
Campbell Ritchie
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
Posts: 39478
    
  28
Yes, the “live” CDs will run on any hardware. You need to specify i386 or x86_64 (32 bit or 64 bit architecture). There is a division into rpm versions of Linux and deb versions of Linux. The rpm versions use the rpm package manager (e.g. RHEL, CentOS, Fedora [which are all versions of the old RedHat], OpenSUSE, etc), and the deb versions use the deb package managers (eg Debian, Ubuntu).
You can get cut‑down versions which will run on old PCs with as little as 32MB of RAM.
I have installed the MATE desktop because I found the default of Gnome3 so awkward to use. You can use different desktops by setting an option when logging on, and it only takes a few minutes to install a different desktop.
chris webster
Bartender

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 1784
    
  16

Campbell Ritchie wrote:I have installed the MATE desktop because I found the default of Gnome3 so awkward to use. You can use different desktops by setting an option when logging on, and it only takes a few minutes to install a different desktop.

+1 for MATE from me. You can choose to download a MATE version of Linux Mint which gives you this desktop out-of-the-box. Or change the desktop after you've installed your preferred Linux distribution.
Campbell Ritchie
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
Posts: 39478
    
  28
There are ways of making Win7 reduce its size on the hard drive, leaving vacant space for Linux partitions, but I can’t remember how to do it. You will find a Win7 installation with 800GB free space in its partition will happily surrender 78GB for installing something else!!
And you can install two (or more) versions of Linux in those 78GB, as long as you don’t mind loading additional partitions whenever you want to acess old work.
chris webster
Bartender

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 1784
    
  16

You can easily reduce the size of your existing Windows partition to create space for a dual-boot Linux installation e.g. shrink your current Windows partition by 100GB. It's probably a good idea to de-fragment your drive first, though.

And you don't need to worry about creating new partitions for Linux. If you install Ubuntu or Linux Mint , the installation program will set up your Linux partitions for you, in the free space you created by shrinking your Windows partition. Of course, you can choose to set up your own Linux partitions instead, but it's much easier to use the default when you're just starting out. I've installed Linux several times over the last couple of years and it's really easy with the Ubuntu-based distributions.
 
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